Well, after all of last week’s ruffle about our new enemy Information Technology, what can I write to make an approach to answer the initial question (Friend or foe?) from a different approach?
It is to some extent unfair to denounce this whole stuff as worthless and evil as it has its benefits.
Let us first think of the Arab spring that was supported to such an enormous extend by modern means of communication.
After the self-immolation of Tunisia’s martyr Mohamed Boauzizi, protest arose – in and around his hometown. However, videos of police violence and injured demonstrators on Youtube, Twitter and Facebook spread with a speed to which official security authorities could not catch up. Resistance spread. First among Tunisia, then among the whole Arab region.
Uncontested, the words of the prominent Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas, are true: “Social media is a tool. But revolution is the decision of many people. Once we decided to have a revolution, once people decided to stay in the square, social media was a helpful tool to call for support.”
Uncontested, that successful social movements long pre-dated social media. In his “The Revolution Will Not be Tweeted”, Malcolm Gladwell notes how East Germany overturned a government when only 13% had landline phones.
Uncontested, “it is far too easy to simply “Friend” or “Like” a movement on Facebook and a retweet is never enough. The challenge is to put boots on the street.” Even more cynical the words of the Lebanese journalist Anthony Shadid on the situatio in Syria: “It’s not a Twitter or Facebook revolution. The revolution is in the streets, and it smells of blood.”
However, information technology is fast and makes us fast. The world can’t close its eyes anymore to some stuff happening around the globe; there are smart people everywhere making use of what technology offers them to get attention for what they have to say.
Increasing access to the internet has changed and still is changing a lot in so many developing countries. Having the possibility to connect to the world, makes you aware of your opportunities. The other way round, people from those countries pipe up and let the world know what it looks like in their lives.
Talking about spreading the word, a word with weight and content, there is one other facet of information technology, one great group I immediately think of when it comes to making inspiring use of modern means of technology.
The What Took You So Long Foundation is on the move throughout the whole world to film “grassroot NGOs, untold stories and unsung heroes in some of the more remote corners of the globe”. Their pictures showing the bright sides of Africa are amazing.
Their participation in independently organized Tedx Talks in Athens, Doha and Mogadishu inspiring. Their video clips on camel milk from all over the world astonishing. Liking them on facebook was one of the more gratifying decisions. The internet, their video and photo cameras enable them to share their journeys, insights and encounters with the most interesting people with others all among the globe.
So, bits of it are true, of that slogan that is so easy to say but in most cases so meaningless and empty in content: Modern technology connects us to the world. I guess there are a hundred more examples of benefit that I do not know and do not mention here.
I do not want to let go on this topic yet, so also this time you’ll be left without a conclusion from my side… Stay connected, dig deeper! Till next week!