Have e-mail, blogs, Twitter and Facebook helped social activism in this country and abroad?
It's such a wonderful question. For good or for bad, Malcolm Gladwell helped make this question the topic du jour among the chattering class. For this post, I'll just sum up some of the discussion.
Alex Madrigal discusses a talk by Michelle Fine at the Berkman Center. Fine said that social networking has been a great tool for existing activist organizations. She said that after Planned Parenthood began using social media, they became a different organization. They were more in touch with their consituency. She said that Gladwell's article was nonsense because social activism is more than just those huge, rare moments in history like the sit-ins in Montgomery. Also, she thought that the social media brought real connections between individuals. More from Fine here.
Henry Farrell says that Gladwell's piece is very frustrating, because it is really just a collection of anecdotes. In contrast, he and other serious researchers have come to the conclusion that we just don't know whether social media has helped fuel social activism. We need more research on this topic — more than just a collection of anecdotes in a New Yorker article. Love his blogginghead discussion on this topic. And Gladwell even comments on the blog.