Monday, 20 June 2011

The limits of social media in understanding protests

Above is the tweeting intensity for geo-tagged tweets coming from the protest site in Athens. Though the number rises and falls with major events on the ground, Athens generally has low levels of tweeting.

Compare this to a protest site in Barcelona Spain. Though the crowds in Athens are as bigger if not bigger than those in Spain the levels of tweeting in Spain are far higher than in Greece.

Levels of tweeting vary wildly between cultures. Greeks are less likely to tweet with mobile smartphones than Spanish. This can be in part accounted for by income. But also do not forget that Greeks could quickly start tweeting in the way Arab have since the Arab Awakening.

A very key thing to remember is that Greeks don't need to tweet. Why, well here are some key observations:

  • Protests in Greece are more organized, they involve more established groups within civil society like trade unions. They have the ability to organize and communicate that pre-date twitter.
  • Protest in Greece are more acknowledged by the local and global media. One interesting fact is that Greek protesters have been flashing green laser light at the press core. The explanation I hear is that the protesters are not happy with the way the events are covered in the Greek press. Outside of Greece the global media has paid huge amounts of attention to Greece. In Spain many of the acompada protesters felt they were being ignored. In Bahrain people felt as though the global media had ignored them. In these cases people who feel neglected by established media will turn to new media to try and get the message out. This neglect of protests is not a case in Greece, where every action of the Greek protests is carried live around the world.
  • Protests in Greece contain a larger band of age demographics. Unlike Spain the Greek protests have drawn people from almost every demographic in the country. And unlike Egypt Greece is a European country with an older population. Therefore a large part of the demonstrations are people are not digital natives.
  • Protests have often been violent. Though there are debates of who started the fighting Greece protests have seen more confrontation. Tweeting is generally more active in large peaceful protests.

1 comment:

  1. I actually enjoyed reading through this posting.Many thanks.

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