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?

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