Malcolm Gladwell’s piece in The New Yorker, "Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted," stayed with me long after I put the carefully folded pages scribbled with my musings into the read pile on my floor. The piece deserves greater attention, meditation, rumination, which I intend to do in future blogs but for today’s blog, I want to explore his take on divide and conquer. Gladwell explores the difference between strong and weak ties in organizing and it is something that should be of the upmost importance to our readers. Decisions on organization, process, and the tools reformers engage to reach their ends are critical. "The medium, after all, is the message" - Marshall McLuhan. But it could also be that the medium signals something about the thoughtfulness of organizers and the level of commitment of participants.
Have you put on weight lately? Are you dating someone who knows a friend or two of yours? Are you a little happier or sadder and cannot figure out why? According to authors Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD and James H. Fowler, PhD, it may be your network stupid. In Connected, Christakis and Fowler set out to overturn the notion of the “primacy of the individual.” They suggest that people we do not even see can influence us in ways previously unimagined. Life many not be solely based on me, myself and my decisions. The beginning and end to all of our problems might be our networks.
- Information and Communication Technologies
- University of California San Diego
- The suprising power of our social networks and how they shape our lives
- Social Capital Blog; disease
- rational seller
- rational buyer
- Nicholas A. Christakis
- little Brown and Company
- James H. Fowler
- Harvard University
- Colbert Report
- Christakis lab
- Center for Wireless and Population health Systems
In the 16 years since a 1994 ceasefire agreement put the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed mainly-Armenian populated territory of Nagorno Karabakh on hold, peace remains as elusive as ever. The war fought in the early 1990s left over 25,000 dead and forced a million to flee their homes, leaving ethnic Armenian forces, backed by Armenia proper, in control of over 16 percent of what the international community considers sovereign Azerbaijani territory.
The situation, perhaps, is typical for many frozen conflicts, but what makes this dispute even more complicated is the almost constant rhetoric of hatred from both sides. Nearly two decades after the troubles broke out, new generations of Armenians and Azerbaijanis are unable to remember the time when both lived side by side together in peace. Armenia's last president, Robert Kocharian, for example, declared that the two were 'ethnically incompatible' while his Azerbaijani counterpart, still incumbent Ilham Aliyev, regularly threatens a new war.
"If you are in a senior position in politics or at the very top in business, it is probably as well to assume that life is on the record. When the organisers of any event you are speaking at tell you it is being held under “Chatham House rules”, and that everyone in the room is utterly discreet and trustworthy, it is best to nod and smile. Make a mental note that it is difficult for Chatham House rules to co-exist with Twitter, Facebook and the 24/7 media culture."
American college students today show no significant loyalty to a news program, news personality or even news platform. Students have only a casual relationship to the originators of news, and in fact don’t make fine distinctions between news and more personal information. Yet student after student, in a new ICMPA study, demonstrated knowledge of specific news stories.
How did they get the information? In a disaggregated way, and not typically from the news outlet that broke or committed resources to a story.
The founders of a microfinance website I came across a few months ago are giving an interesting, benevolent twist to social networking. At least, that’s one way of looking at Wokai.org, a non-profit organization benefiting entrepreneurs in rural China.
Wokai has been dubbed by some as a “Facebook for farmers,” yet it may be more comparable to well-known microfinance sites like Kiva, which allow people with an Internet connection to give loans directly to entrepreneurs in developing countries. Wokai, however, focuses solely on impoverished people living in rural China.
I came across a small, but interesting online effort to raise donations for an organization that works to improve child literacy in Laos. Called Library for Laos, the effort aims to raise $5,000 by May 1– just five days after it started. The money raised is intended to go to Big Brother Mouse, a neat, Laos-based project that publishes, teaches and distributes books to children in a country they say desperately needs it.
It's a nice concept for a good cause, but what sticks out to me are the coordinators' clear attempts to use social media to spread the word about their effort. On their website, they bank on the ease of PayPal for donating money and the viral nature of social media: "How many people follow you on Twitter? How many friends do you have on Facebook? Let's see how valuable they are!" It's early to tell if they're succeeding. After the first day, they had apparently raised $500 dollars.
Either way, the endeavor highlights how social sites like Facebook, which permeates everyday life for many of us, can serve the world's poor. For example, you have the option to join various "causes" on Facebook. And on Twitter, information can spread like wildfire through retweets (rebroadcasting content to your own set of followers). What do you think? Would you ask your online friends and/or followers to donate money to a good cause?
(Found via: Escape the Cube). Image credit: rustystewart at Flickr under a Creative Commons license.
Despite concerns of the Chinese government about its recently recognized Internet Addiction Disorder, there is little doubt that the web is now part of life for the country's 298 million netizens, as well as an evident piece of the government's communications strategy.
I always find puzzling how easily techno-enthusiasts believe that new information software and gizmos can successfully address many problems for democratic communication. I guess it’s part of the perennial search for quick magic bullets to solve the miseries of the world.
The World Bank office in Sydney has established a Facebook group called "Young People for Change" for youth in the Pacific, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea to air their thoughts and ideas on how they could help spur change.
I love this innovative approach that seeks young people where you find them these days: on social network sites. One could argue that the respective cultures of the Pacific, PNG and Timor Leste are rather distinct, and yet, the views and concerns of these young people might prove to be remarkably similar and indeed provide valuable food for thought for politicians and policy-makers. For governments, and development institutions supporting them, integrating youth in their strategic planning and addressing their hopes and grievances has been notoriously difficult and often simply overlooked. This shortcoming has come at a high price at times; high youth unemployment and a sense of social and political alienation have long been recognized as a proximate cause for political instability.