social media and revolution

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“Social media are media designed to be disseminated through social
interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing
techniques.” wikipedia

Revolutionaries in the past have used new media technologies to gain
advantage in their struggles, in 1916 in Dublin, Morse code was used
to communicate prior to and during the easter rising. In France in
1968 the mintel system was used to relay messages between
universities. Social Media has the potential to link the mass of the
working class to real time information about struggles where the state
or private medias fail.

In recent times Social Media has hit the headlines of the capitalist
press in the story of how the US Administration influenced Twitter who
were due to shut down, to stay on in the vital hours after the
disputed Iranian elections, allowing communication between those who
opposed the result. Social Media as it is known today has its origins
in the US military from the Arpanet system a wired network between
military installations, myth has it that it was for the aftermath of a
nuclear war, the Arpanet turned into the Internet through educational
facilities adoption of USENET bulletin boards and then the World Wide
Web in the early 1990’s.

Modern Social Media sites such as facebook twitter and youtube are
simple to use for any basic computer user and mask all the technology
in easy to use widgets and applications. This simplification of
complex underlying technologies has allowed for millions of users
world wide to take part in this new media, facebook has a active user
base of 300 million with others like twitter and youtube some where
behind that, to put those figures into context the population of the
worlds third biggest country is the USA at 307 million.

Although the primary function of social media is to socialise with
peers, there is an increasing trend towards other uses such as citizen
journalism, this is where the general public can report on events with
the same equality as state or private media journalists.

Wikipedia is a great example of how in social media we can trust each
other to create a knowledge base that is free from bias or commercial
influence, simply funded by user donation the foundation runs with a
small full time staff and thousands of voluntary contributors.

In struggles past such as the water charges in the 1990’s,
communications was a vital tool in the days when disconnections were
taking place, mobile phone use was still a luxury of the yuppies. We
adapted old CB radio technology with FM pirate radio to chase council
vans around south county Dublin, by the time of the Bin Tax struggles
mobile phones were common among the working class and this helped
track waste disposal trucks around the city. In future struggles the
technology of social media will help us build better comunications
amonst the working class, imagine a scenario where a truck is spotted
and a single press of a button a phone application sends the GPS
coordinates to a web based application that maps all the recorded
sightings giving a better picture of what is going on. The is not
science fiction these technologies are available today on most middle
range phones.

The other benefits we can leverage from social media is its power to
bring people together in groups where they can discuss and organise
without having to be physically being present at a meeting. In the
past year at public meetings the Socialist Party in Ireland has
adopted the use of live video streaming on the web from a mobile
phone, the has allowed between 5 and 10 percent of the audience to not
have to be psychically present at the meeting. The use of new social
media tools during the election of Joe Higgins was a great step
forward and no doubt this new media helped the Socialist Party reach
new voters they had never reached in the past with more traditional
styled electioneering.

In the same European election a new party in Sweden the Pirate Party
won two seats, this party was born out of a social media peer to peer
file sharing site “the pirate bay” this organisation has grown to be
the second biggest party in Sweden based on membership and collects
subs from member via premium SMS messages.

Social media is not the next internet fad it has already shaped the
way we watch TV via sites like youtube, how listen to music through
sites like and where old school values like the DJ or
the ad break have given way to user driven content selection. The
models of these two huge pillars in the media industry which have been
static for the last 50 years, are seeing revolutionary change, its
time for socialists to follow the lead that James Connolly gave back
in 1916 embracing new technologies that helps communicate the ideas of
socialism in the workers movement.

text by Dónal Greene .2009 published with permission. copying is ok.

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