Samantha Power: Outlining the Disadvantages of Living in Web 2.0 World
Critical Perspectives on Social Media and Web 2.0:
Samantha Power, in the most recent issue of Time Magazine suggests criticism of web 2.0 trends in “Technologies’ power to narrow our view.” Power highlights the ongoing trend in technology, politics, and social movements:
Much has been made of the convening and mobilizing power of today’s technology. A person inspired by a cause can blog about their outrage and plot a response on Facebook with other similarly animated people. While any single congressional district might not produce a groundswell to demand a halt to global warming or killing in Darfur, a virtual community unmoored from geography can deliver a critical mass.
Power, however, worries:
But while the long tail ensures once obscure documentaries remain available, citizen advocacy may have a short tail, causing the number of viable causes to get winnowed to a handful of megacauses. Burma may achieve the requisite market share, while Burundi fails to penetrate at all.
Non-profit Advocacy and Outreach 2.0:
While I agree with Power’s on-point recognition that this is an issue that needs to be highlighted, addressed head-on, and discussed robustly in society, I fear her analysis may be slightly askew. Certainly an undercurrent of the issue Power discussed is emerging, however I feel Power may miss the larger point. Initially, Power’s analysis forgets the power of the network online. Social movements, non-profits, and advocacy groups are uniquely positioned to take advantage of the community and community aspects of web 2.0, particularly as mobile expands. A nonprofit concerned with Burundi can find other folks interested in similar issues via social media platforms and social networking communities (for instance those interested in human rights in Burma and China, as well as those concerned with genocide and ethnic conflict). Further, a non-profit concerned about Burundi can talk about related issues on their blog, as well as provide context and depth for what may be more shallow coverage in mass media. Video platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, and UStream along with Ovoovoo and Seemic provide the ability to provide dramatic documentation of rights abuses, environmental destruction, and compelling stories of cancer. Video can tell these stories in a way the written word may not. Further, as mobile video expands, the ability to cover issues and international news, including international human rights, ethnic conflict, and genocide, will vastly expand.
A More Viable Criticism of Web 2.0 Communities and Trends:
Non-profits may struggle to find the most strategic platforms to use amongst the thousands of web 2.0 platforms. Understanding how their customers and donors will behave online in three to five years is certainly a difficult calculation. Second, dealing with the struggles of getting outside the echo chamber of the non profit blogosphere in constructive ways and dealing with the information overload in productive ways (aka social networking overstrech may be larger concerns that the ones Power outlines). Third, web 2.0 and social media uniquely risks encouraging the younger generation to conflate knowledge of human rights with more robust forms of activism and volunteerism. To me these seem like the more urgent risks and disadvantages of a web 2.0 world for non-profits, social movements, and advocacy groups.
Are the criticisms Powers outlines a real concern? What are the actual disadvantages of a web 2.0 world?
Check out this post, for more a more robust explanation of the advantages and disadvantages of web 2.0 for personal and professional use.
About the author: Nathan Ketsdever provides ethical social media optimization (SMO) and search engine marketing (SEM) for entrepreneurs, startups, and non-profit organizations.