(Note: This is a cross post from the “What’s Shaping the Global Information Society?” course blog at Georgetown. I may post more of my previous writings here again since my original posts were on a “closed blog”…how anti-social, right?)
Facebook is an amazing cultural phenomenon. While I’ve suspected this for some time, two recent developments have really brought this home to me.
The first occurred just a couple months ago. On February 4th, over 2 million Colombians flooded the streets of that nation (as did thousands of other people in over 190 cities across the globe) to protest the actions of the FARC, an international terrorist group that for the past 40 years has financed itself by kidnapping innocent people, extorting Colombians, and profiting from the illegal drug trade. What’s amazing about this march is not just the size of the demonstration (the largest in Colombian history) but also the fact that it was completely organized on Facebook by one person – Carlos Andres Santiago – a student from Bucaramanga, Colombia who started the group “One million voices against the FARC.” According to Santiago, “This was a snowball that kept growing and growing….A few years ago no one would say anything against the FARC. In the march, we’ve shown our faces and we’re working for a new country.” If you’ve followed Colombian politics recently (and I’m sure ALL of you do) you’d know that this Web-organized march has served as a significant turning point in that nation’s work to weaken the political influence of that terrorist organization.
The second event was when my mom decided to join Facebook. I was shocked to learn that she had accomplished this because I feel like it was just yesterday that I was going ABSOLUTELY crazy trying to teach her how to double-click a mouse (“no mom, you have to do it fast – click, click, NOT click……………..……click. UGH!”). Now, my mom is friending people, writing on fun walls, poking her co-workers, and ruining my brother’s social life by browsing his photos. God bless America.
My point here is that despite all the media hype and public discourse about privacy rights in the age of social networking services, we cannot ignore the wider opportunities that Web 2.0 technologies offer. No longer does the Web connect computers with other computers, but with Social Networking Services like Facebook, MySpace, and Linked In, the Web is now connecting PEOPLE to other PEOPLE in meaningful ways.
As the Beacon case demonstrates, this leap to Web 2.0 comes with some problems. Perhaps one of the sacrifices we have to make in this brave new world is an erosion of our expectations of privacy. But as Facebook’s reforms have demonstrated, we also know that with increased social connectivity also comes an increased ability to organize and fix the systems we don’t agree with.
Three additional links you might want to look over:
Check this one out, a great parody from the People for the American Way: www.rightwingfacebook.org