Posts Tagged ‘clay shirky’

Sex, Lies, and the Social Media Revolution

Recent events have led a number of commentators to question whether social media has grown so anarchic and disruptive that it needs, somehow, to be regulated. One of the more bizarre catalysts has been not the extraordinary role of social media in Egypt and Libya- the revelation of its truly revolutionary potential- but the role of twitter in unveiling the sexual predelictions of a premiership footballer.  It seems we are comfortable with twitter undermining the rule of law, as long as it is not our law, comfortable with transparency as long as they are not our secrets.

There are legal, ethical and logistical questions to debate here. As with the furious polemic that greeted the release of the Wikileaks Iraq files, these are complex questions without easy answers as our desire for transparency meets our need for privacy and security (personal and national).  As Clay Shirky pointed out in a recent edition of the New York Times, freedom of speech comes with implications we must acknowledge-put more simply “Free speech is not a pony”.

I realise as well that comparing the situation in Egypt with our fascination with the Giggs family drama is comparing the sublime (truly sublime if we consider this extraodinary shot from Nevine Zaki) to the faintly ridiculous. What’s best in us with what’s grubbiest. Yet perhaps that’s what the behaviour of the crowd reveals-sometimes vox populi is vox Dei, other times it’s a angry mob. Social media doesn’t change the crowd’s behaviour, it simply (and radically) amplifies and accelerates it, the superinjunctions giving us a Spartacus moment for the 21st century that’s somehow appropriate in its absurdity.

So, the situation is complex. I think complexity is okay. I like nuance. I think we’ll get somewhere as long as we recognise that there are grey areas and we’re willing to discuss them.

I’m not a lawyer though, or even much of a philosopher and I don’t propose to go there in much detail.  The questions I want to tackle here are:

  • What do uprisings and superinjunctions tell us about how social media drives change?

  • Is social media truly beyond regulation-or are the superpowers within social networks sowing the seeds of a more centralised (and therefore more easily regulated) web?  Read the rest of this entry »