Zeynep Tufekci, Ph.D.@techsocwww.technosociology.org Personal Democracy Forum NYC 2011 “Agents of Change”
The power of strong ties, the power of weak ties Understanding Social Media & Social Change
Challenges to Collective Action under Autocracies • Information diffusion • “Hidden Preferences” -what do others think? • Synchronization • Shaping the public sphere • Organizing mass / political action • Publicity / visibility / solidarity
So What Does Social Media Add to Dissent under Autocracies? • Nothing? • Same thing, maybe faster? • Negative because of surveillance / censorship?
Social Media Alters: • Ability to connect • Shape of the Network • Speed of Information Diffusion
Thus… • Reshaping the public(s) • Changing the mood
Lessons from Epidemiology • Shape of network + speed of transmission Key to success of quarantines • Autocracies play “whack-a-protest” • Isolate/Supress/Crush/Censor/Wait • Worked for decades!
Altered Dynamics • State is a resource-constrained actor • Social media, by allowing mass coordination and rapid information diffusion, complicates “whack-a-protest” • Attention economy is key to politics – speed of information diffusion matters!
Example: Tunisia • Gafsa: 2008. • Mining town, protests over corrupt hiring • Isolated, crushed (quarantined) • 28,000 Facebook users in Tunisia • Sidi Bouzid: 2010 • Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation • Protests spread (viral) • Almost 2,000,000 Facebook users in Tunisia
The Tunisian Blogosphere(by: Dominique Lahaix ecairn) Perso with some politics Marketing/pub Personal Diaries Aggregators
The Claim: Social Media Unsuitable for Dissent • Social Media only about weak ties • Protest only moves through strong ties • Weak ties don’t matter to success of protest
In Reality • Social media ties include both weak and strong ones • Tie strength is dynamic! • Weak ties create publics! • Bridge ties (which can be weak ties) crucial for avoiding censorship and isolation
Agents of Change • Tools *do* matter because they alter: • Shape of networks – many-to-many • Possibility for/speed of information diffusion • Creation of counterpublic(s) • Fighting with camels in the Internet age • But tools do not create the courage and dignity we are witnessing
Thank you! Zeynep Tufekci firstname.lastname@example.org @techsoc www.technosociology.org