We live in interesting times. Ruptures are occurring in our physical and political infrastructure. Buildings and regimes are toppling around us. Moon phases, solar flares, climate change and capitalistic speculation have all been blamed…..but a common thread in all of this upheaval is the integration of the physical and digital realms through social media.
Social media (most prominently Twitter and Facebook) have been playing an increasing role in mobilising citizen activists. Whether it be generating uprising in the Middle East and Africa, or mobilising grass roots support for quake ravaged Christchurch; social media and crowd-sourcing dynamics are now at the centre of the revolution we see around us.
I write this a few minutes after watching a television news item about the Rangiora Earthquake Express an brand new NGO running supplies and hot meals into the quake zone using helicopters. The CEO has just said that they have run out of money for jet fuel and are desperately calling for donations. I am now watching donations and comments stream into their Facebook page - thousands of dollars are pouring into their account minute by minute.
People donate money and goods and immediately receive appreciation in the form of comments or ‘likes’. Facebook’s fast feedback system gives instant gratification and appreciation in a way that previous forms of fundraising where unable to achieve.
You can see why revolutionaries are also addicted to this form of mobilisation. A call goes out and thousands can come together in a few minutes. Meaningful interaction is possible in moments, even seconds You can make a difference through your computer – or in a large city square. With the hit of a ‘button you can be part of something bigger – step one foot deeper and there you are waving a banner, digging out silt, baking a cake to feed the hungry...and others instantly reward you for your efforts. It is addictive.
And now I am involved. I have been sending links and numbers to REE as they wall post items they need urgently to helicopter into the quake zone. They called for water – I sent a list of companies with supply lines they asked for dust masks – I sent an email to 3M (NZ’s supplier of masks). Rangiora Earthquake express asked me to phone them…I talked to one of their organisers and texted her the 3M contact details. I am a researcher and connecter – I can make a difference. I am simultaneously interacting in both the physical and digital space.
Others are doing the same and much more – one woman finds a man selling dust masks on a trading website, she phones the supplier and he will now donate them to the quake effort. I send a ‘like’ to her. Another person rings water supply companies, another is sourcing aviation fuel. Others closer to the site physically drive out supplies. People sitting in their homes on a Sunday afternoon are working together to source whatever is needed and deliver it any way possible to the people on the ground.
This case study of the integration of physical/digital/social spaces is just one example of what is occurring around the world. I would argue that it is not a social media revolution but more a socio-spiritual revolution. Meaning is now being generated through a complex web of digital and physical interaction rather than being supplied from one supreme authority or dogma. Spiritual guidance and solace is occurring in multiple realms rather than just one physical space (such as a Mosque or church). I will dwell on this a while and write more in another post….
- Donate to Rangiora Earthquake Express here and the Christchurch Red Cross Appeal here.
- For great article on the use of social media in politics look at Clay Shirkey’s recent contribution to Foreign Affairs
Last Tuesday, 22 February at 12.51pm, I walked towards the car park building in Auckland where my car had been stored that morning. At that very minute (I know because for some reason I checked the time) I made a note to myself to check the Earthquake prediction site of Ken Ring - I had been told by a friend that he was correlating seismic activity with Moon and tidal movements and had had some degree of success. On arrival home 30 minutes later, the Google news feed alerted me to the rupture that had occurred to the heart of Christchurch - and the weird coincidence that my thought had occurred at the exact time of the Earthquake. I didn’t’ check Ken’s site again until today and see that he is now predicting another event in and around the 20th of May. Lets all hope he is wrong!