New Forms of Political Participation
Over the past two decades we have seen a growing shift toward networked digital media as a mainstream method of communication. Social media tools such as Facebook are not just where we connect with friends, they are places where we conduct business, discuss important political issues and show our support for social causes. In doing so, new forms of participation such as status updates, comments, videos, and profile pictures have begun to emerge, but are not recognized as valid forms of participation by governments and its institutions. This shift in communication is challenging our expectations of democracy and requires us to reexamine our methods of engagement and what we consider to be valid forms of participation. As a result, the public now expects to use the same social media tools to connect with political leaders and public institutions that already they use on a daily basis to connect with others in their community.
Geoweb and Spatial Media
The Geoweb is web 2.0 meets spatial awareness. People referencing the geoweb often refer to explicit spatial data: this tree is located here, that lamp post over there. These can be mapped easily and are used for a host of online services. Geoweb services have also been used in times of crisis to map a location rapidly, such as the work of the OpenStreetMap team following the earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Scholars are calling to expand our awareness of the geoweb to consider these activities as “spatial media.” We feel this opens an opportunity to begin exploring implicit geographic data – not only the places from which people use social media, but the places that are mentioned within the artifacts of social media. We can begin to tie locations together by way of the geographic imaginations of participants that link their own local Occupy activities to others, troubling the dichotomy of a local-to-global scale.
New Tactics for Social Movements
Social movements are using new tactics — from Tahrir Square to Occupy Wall Street, social media is being adapted and reconfigured to meet the needs of protesters around the world. This allows for distributed networks that elide some forms of hierarchy and allow people on the ground to be heard directly, in their own voice. Individual demonstrators tell their stories to a global audience through tweets, forwarded links, and citizen journalism.
By observing and understanding the Occupy movement (OWS) and its diffuse approach to collaboration and coordination, researchers have a chance to witness, in real time, what types of coordinating mechanisms emerge from a complex, adaptive system of autonomous agents whose communication across time and geography is enabled by new social media platforms. The result can be new insights into leadership models for knowledge management that can be effective in the current information ecology.
…within Social Media
Social media are the collection of internet platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and many others, that help people communicate with their social networks. These tools allow users to broadcast information to their friends and family, maintain connections with geographically distant acquaintances, and make new connections based purely on shared interests. What’s more, social media makes it easy for people with shared interests to collaborate or take collective action like never before. This is because these tools make it ridiculously easy for distributed individuals to organize into groups without incurring the high cost of organizing that institutions face.