Charity Hitt MMC 6660 Blog

University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications

Week 11 Essay

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Shirky- The Political Power of Social Media

What is his conclusion on the question: Do digital tools enhance democracy? Do you agree. And also, what does it mean to say “enhance democracy?    Shirky agrees with the diplomatic answer that social media tools, “probably do hurt in the short run and probably help in the long run”.   He also asserts that these digital tools are most beneficial in those countries which already have an established democracy and where the people can influence change.  I agree with Shirky’s views, as the mere existence of digital tools is not an assurance of democratic freedom, but a vehicle that makes easier the practice of democracy.

Social media has become, he says, a “coordinating tool.” What does that mean?   Shirky explains that social media has become a coordinating tool by helping “loosely coordinated publics demand change”.  We see this all the time in society today, especially with tools such as Facebook where with a click of a button an entire protest group can form, organize, and demand action, regardless of the geographical distance between members.  I have personally seen this coordinating tool put to work when a family friend was denied health insurance for her child that was born with complications.  The health insurance refused to cover the child due to ‘pre-existing conditions’.  How could a newborn child be classified as a person with pre-existing conditions? That is what friends, family, and thousands of concerned strangers asked themselves as they formed a Facebook group to petition the actions of the insurance company.  With the support and outcry from thousands of Facebook members, the group garnered the attention of the insurance company, who in turn granted the child health insurance coverage.

What is the environmental view of social media that Shirky talks about?    Shirky discusses the environmental view of social media as  “the long game” in internet freedom.  Much as environmentalists focus their efforts on the sustainability of the environment, in a changing media landscape the internet and social media  are crucial to the sustainability of the public sphere.  The opportunity that the internet provides the public to participate in political discourse is one that Shirky establishes “Not as a separate agenda, but merely as an important input to the more fundamental political freedoms.”  In this environmental view, the internet and the freedom it provides to gather and discuss is an important aspect of the sustainability of today’s public sphere.




Written by charityhitt

November 3, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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