Friday, 4 November 2011

2011: The year of Internet enable revolution

Total Social Media's Web 3.0 Lab has been following an amazing year of political demonstration. We are a technology and society firm, and what has so interested us in events from Tahrir to Madison to Madrid and now to the global Occupy movement has been the strategic use the the Internet, social media and mobile devices have paid in this new revolution.

Earlier this year we determined that the combination of social media and low cost mobile device access would change the nature of grassroots political activism, and given the current economic and political crisis would add a highly dynamic element to protests that would make what would have seemed impossible a few years ago possible: a globally, leaderless grassroots movement that can only really be called a revolt.

There is not denying that the Arab Spring was a revolt, from Tunisia and Egypt to Bahrain and Syria a new generation of internet users made effective use of the new technology platform to organize and publicize their discontent and to self organize in a agile manner. Results are still mixed and there is plenty of reasons to be pessimistic about the outcome of the Arab revolt, but there is no question that the spirit and nature spread to the west.

In an amazing case of globalization and third world to first world technology transfer political organizers were inspired by the use of the Internet in the Arab Spring in their own protests. From UNCUT demos in the UK to Union protest in Madison western activists tried to model the methods and style of Arab protests.

Then Madrid and the larger Spanish acampada movement marked a fully western form of long term protests. Western neo-libreal societies faced a very different challenge than Arab nations. Arabs generally knew their first objective: removal of the regime. In the west regimes change regularly, the project had to be larger about rethinking participation in a democratic system that had become static under consumerism and cynical politics. The Web 3.0 Lab observed in Spain a effort to extend the dynamic creativity of web communities like Twitter and Wikipedia to create an experiment in open culture. In Madrid this year we sensed a real change had happened.

The viral slutwalks went viral from the Internet. Started from a small protest in Canada the movement spread global via social networks and youTube. Slutwalks was probably a dry run for a global movement, one that was starting to move faster than than the old conventions of authority and discipline could probably manage.

Later in the summer riots in London and the rest of England showed that rather than being a possibility, the violent forces that the web could unleash are a reality. The question clearly was not revolution or not, but what kind of revolution and to what ends. The London riots are to have made the UK Prime Minister consider shutting off much of the Internet and BMS. Suddenly the stage or events and risks became greater.

And now we are seeing a global politics rapidly transformed by the Occupy movement. A very direct political movement, starting in the United States in response to long term economic problems and spreading rapidly via Internet social networks has now gone global. The Occupy movement is rapidly changing the nature of political discourse throughout much of the world, leaving established status quo political alliances and institutions struggling to seem relevant.

The outcome of this current movement is yet to be written, but one fact of history is now certain: 2011 will be remember as the year that the global internet support grassroots revolution added a new radical and dynamic element to global politics.

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