Engaging with Global Empowerment

by on July 25, 2012 in Fresh From the Field with No Comments »

This is a picture I took of a wheat-pasted poster in Manhattan in the early days of Occupy Wall Street.

Its phrase attests to the age-old struggle of the masses fighting for an equitable piece of the pie. And, though it references power struggles with which we are very familiar, it is linked to a new movement radically catalyzed by social media. Until recently, major changes in power came in part through the direction of a revolution’s leaders or figure-heads, but not so anymore; the world has borne witness to an incredible new era of power shifts.

“Bearing witness” to human struggle and social activism have been at the heart of MCNY’s vision since its founding. For this—and many reasons—I regularly use and talk about social media in my Critical Thinking classes. In our class discussions, we have found that as others’ realities become instantaneously available to us, we are met with the opportunity (and obligation, I feel) to be impacted in ways never before seen in human history. Each of our lives now becomes shaped, informed, called into question by the realities of others across the globe.

In a recent article, Revolutionizing Revolutions: Virtual Collective Consciousness and the Arab Spring, the authors discuss the “role social media play not only in igniting revolutions but also in modifying how regime change is achieved” (Marzouki and Oullier, 2011). The article considers the far-reaching impact of studies tracking the “bottom-up” approach in recent uprisings. The interpretation of these studies not only gives shape to complex systems of emergent behaviors (thousands mobilizing instantly for protests), but patterns of change that are necessarily accumulative.

What does this mean?

This means that the already democratized social media platforms are being “hijacked” from their initial use by citizens in service of unique goals shared by thousands or millions of others. This particular usage not only accelerates the rate of change, but sends out instant, accumulating waves of global reach. To grapple with this new connectivity, the authors coined the term Virtual Collective Consciousness (VCC), “referring to an internal knowledge shared by a plurality of persons. Coupled with ‘citizen media’ activism, this knowledge emerges as a new form of consciousness via communication tools” (Marzouki and Oullier, 2011).

Take a look at one visualization of the dynamic sharing of this ‘internal knowledge’ captured in the hours surrounding the fall of Egypt’s dictator, Mubarak, following only the hashtag #jan25. This is a fascinating graphic, and by the end, the throbbing cluster beautifully resembles Tahrir Square, the hotbed of the revolution itself. (Here is an additional dynamic visualization of edits to Wikipedia pages about nations where protests and revolutions occurred from December 1st to February 20th.)

It can be argued that we all learn the most about ourselves by looking into how others’ lives shape and impact our own, and college students are charged with this activity regularly. To the MCNY student in particular, you are each asked to think about connectivity on a regular basis through Purpose-Centered Education. You are expected to “accumulate change” through progressively more complex Constructive Actions and find meaning by practicing relevance (Cohen, 1997, p. 6).

Now, through social media, you have a new call to actively position yourself to “catch a wave” in the global reach of cyber-activism.

How will you/do you engage with empowered voices via social media?

How will you engage with others’ lives differently?

How will your voice travel?

Read the article yourself, and see what you make of our freshly-mediated human collective consciousness.



Cohen, A. (1997) The Third Alternative, New York: Audrey Cohen College.

Marzouki, Y., Oullier, O. (2011, July 17), Revolutionizing Revolutions: Virtual Collective Consciousness and the Arab Spring. Posted to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yousri-marzouki/revolutionizing-revolutio_b_1679181.html



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