DIGC 202

#Help, I need somebody

Connectivity is power. Knowledge is power. And now, social media is power.

The immediacy and ubiquitous nature of social media has no relevance to the general public until its power is unleashed – for the public to see – during mass demonstrations in foreign countries.

A poignant example of social media’s power dates back to November 2013 where a few thousands students gathered in Maidan Nezaleshnosti (Independence Square) to protest president Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to “ditch a far-reaching accord with the European Union in favour of stronger ties with Russia” (Fishwick, 2014).

A protester during the protests in the Independence Square, Kiev

A protester during the protests in the Independence Square, Kiev, 2013

Political upheaval is not new to the Ukraine – as the Orange Revolution was some nine years prior – but what made this significantly different to the previous revolution was that “new media, social networks and other IT tools for organising and sustaining protests” (Bohdanova, 2013) were implemented within the first few days. Tetyana Lokot (Mitew, 2014) reported that 3,200 tweets were published per hour on November 25th and up to 4,800 per hour on November 30th which was the first day of violent crackdowns by police.

ukraine-blog-photo

24th November protesters reached a record 100,000 people in Kiev

However, the November record was broken on December 1st when 700,000 protesters gathered in the aptly named Independence Square

However, the November record was broken on December 1st when 700,000 protesters gathered in the aptly named Independence Square

Twitter was a major platform used during the protests and a hashtag was created on November 21st – the first night of protests – #euromaidan. This hashtag started, spread and sustained a revolution.

Moreover,  Facebook  played a central role in informing wider audiences but soon became useful in “meeting the growing need for medical and legal assistance” after protests turned violent on the morning of November 30. Facebook pages such as Euromaidan SOS asked individuals to post information about victims of police beatings so they could send appropriate help to those in need.

But there are always some who do not believe in the power of social media during protests. Evgeny Morozov (2011) states that digital tools are simply that, tools. And that social changes requires “many painstaking, longer-term efforts to engage with political institutions and reform movements”. Yes, it does take a long time to overthrow a government or bring about any kind of political change. But does it not take one voice to begin that change? And what happens when that voice is amplified and disseminated to a thousand people? Ten thousand people? Well, you get change faster than ever before. And this is what the protest in Ukraine exemplified – that one platform, one idea and one hope was shared by so many people and it all started with one voice and one person.

And this is the power that social media has – its innate ability to provide ubiquitous connectivity and knowledge. And knowledge is power.

 

References:

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Bohdanova, T, 2013, ‘How Internet Tools Turned Ukraine’s #Euromaidan Protests Into a Movement’, Global Voices, viewed 27 September, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2013/12/09/how-internet-tools-turned-euromaidan-protests-into-a-movement/

Fishwick, C, 2014, ‘We were so naive and optimistic’: Ukraine Euromaidan protesters tell us what’s changed for them’, The Guardian, viewed 27 September, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/04/ukraine-crisis-protesters-kiev-euromaidan-independence-square

Mitew, T, 2014, ‘The social network revolutions: #mena, #arabspring, #maidan’, http://prezi.com/ikufthacaunr/mena-arabspring-the-social-network-revolutions/

Morozov, E, 2011, ‘ Facebook and Twitter are just places revolutionaries go’ The Guardian, viewed 27 September, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/mar/07/facebook-twitter-revolutionaries-cyber-utopians

 

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One thought on “#Help, I need somebody

  1. I agree with the notion of knowledge and connectivity holding immense power. Subsequently social media has highlighted the extent of this power in the creation, coordination, and organisation of all social media influenced revolutions especially the demonstrations in Ukraine. The effectiveness of the platforms established a base of communication that disseminated information, content, and all possible avenues to permit a successful protest; in turn a movement was born. Connectivity can be regarded as one of the most important tools in gathering support, as a mass audience will allow for a greater spread of information. It is all good and well to have a demonstration that promotes the notions of freedom and change however without the masses it amounts to nothing. In this aspect, the organisers in Ukraine had full control and knowledge of their movement, of coordination methods to reach their full potential in tackling government pressures and censorship regulations. This demonstration I believe is a positive example of the power of social media in influencing a cohesive audience to take action; able to invigorate the people in a way never seen before.
    The following article highlights how Ukraine can be regarded as a social media revolution ‘years in the making http://www.voanews.com/content/ukraines-protest-movement-fueled-by-social-media/1871457.html

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