Discussion of the political impact of social media has focused on the power of mass protests to topple governments. For example, see this short video, Technology’s Role In the Arab Spring Protests, of Jared Cohen, Director of Google Ideas, elaborating on the role Twitter and other social media tools have played in the Arab Spring demonstrations and protests. “Technology accelerates everything,” says Cohen.
[Technology’s Role In the Arab Spring Protests]
Another example can be read in People Power 2.0– Technology Review about how civilians helped win the Libyan information war. But in fact, social media’s real potential lies in supporting civil society and the social sphere as Paul Hepburn suggest in Unlocking the Civic Potential in the Local, Online, Networked Public Realm (page 12). See also, Clay Shriky in The Political Power of Social Media (as the original article is under paywall, please go here for the whole article.)
But not only that, social media has also been moving steadily into the business world. David Kirkpatrick, advising Forbes’ readers (Social Power-and the Coming-Corporate Revolution), warns them: “This social might is now moving toward your company. We have entered the age of empowered individuals, who use potent new technologies and harness social media to organize themselves. ……. most are ordinary people with new tools to force you to listen to what they care about and to demand respect. Both your customers and your employees have started marching in this burgeoning social media multitude, and you’d better get out of their way–or learn to embrace them.”
Educators have been somewhat slow to adopt social media in their professional activities (even when they themselves might be users of social media tools for personal purposes), but that is also slowly changing, at least for the case of higher education, as shown in this Mashable infographic. Teachers, in primary and middle schools, are now considering how to take advantage of social media services and tools.
Social media is here to stay, so be better learn how to use these tools well and effectively. Social media is, I believe, part of a new culture of openness, transparency and cooperation. In this new emerging culture, there is a tension between what is public and private as Jeff Jarvis explains in his book, Public Parts, where he coins a new word for this new era: publicness*.
pub·lic·ness:1. The act or condition of sharing information, thoughts, or actions. 2. Gathering people or gathering around people, ideas, causes, needs:“Making a public.” 3. Opening a process so as to make it collaborative. 4. An ethic of openness.