Monday, 22 June 2009

Of course, there are grounds for alert. Stationed here at my terminal, with everyone's avatars turning green, I watch perplexed as the feeds roll by, as the live blogs update and as the conjecture continues. The role of social media once more is highlighted, with Twitter as much as source of news from the ground as it is rumour.

From solidarity actions such as green colouring of profile pictures, to endless email petitions, to falsification of location (switching to 'Tehran' on Twitter supposedly dilutes dissidents), all allow a distant engagement and a sating of the political urge. Does participation through these networks make us more engaged or less engaged? Are these conversations influential? International news agendas have changed, certainly. Grassroots activism continues on the streets.

Judiciousness however must be not be forgotten, especially as the elitism of technologies holds strong. Perhaps 10,000 people inside Iran have Twitter accounts (source). Some claim only 100 of them are 'active'. The suggestion is that these would be people with access to internet-ready phones. Perhaps fifteen percent of the world has access to the internet (source). There are large leaps of numbers, sender to receiver, broadcast to ear.

This pointless posturing is not to suggest of definite untruths, but merely to caution that the potential for exponentialism, the potential for events to bear one load or another in the eyes of the world, is not reduced by 'eyewitness' accounts. One hundred unverified sources to feed some billions of people is not necessarily open news. Any right-minded individual is suspicious of a news media, should be alert to bias. That should not be forfeit now in the face of a new mode of delivery. Trusted sources remain trusted sources - this rapid growth in social media should not affect our jurisprudence. To this end, the role of networks such as Global Voices is of utmost importance.

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