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Keep your hands off my web! – When Social Web becomes Social Tissue

By 24/08/20114 Comments

Scientists just discovered that by enhancing the human skin with spider DNA, it becomes bulletproof. It literally can stop a bullet. Spider webs are that strong. The Ethiopians have since the dawn of time a saying: “when spiderwebs unite, they can tie up a lion”. Ancient wisdom and modern technology agree, once more.

The Social spider web is all over the news lately. From playing a highly romanticized role in the Arab Spring revolution, to triggering the Vancouver riots, the riots in London, the cleanup  in London… social media have been put at the very roots of social community engagement happening in real life. Tweets, Blackberry messages, Facebook pages and instant messages were identified as the initiators of communities taking action: from overpowering governments and attacking police forces, to peaceful cleaning up of London suburbs that looked a bit like Beirut in its worse days…

Strangely, the same politicians that voiced their support to the Arab crowds using social media as a backbone for their revolution, were the first ones to threaten to pull the plug out of the very same social networks when crowds started to voice disagreement in Tottenham, London, Vancouver and tutti quanti. One social uproar is clearly not the other one, is it? UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron even threatened to shut down Social Networks altogether, and has summoned executives of Blackberry, Twitter and Facebook to his office to discuss their part in the social unrests.

The powers that be tighten the thumb screws of the social networks in a desperate move for more control (and ultimately even the right of excluding individuals, or temporary closing down a network) – An attitude that certainly would be loathed by the same people if some Eastern, Middle Eastern or African government would try the same thing.

But as soon as things go terribly wrong, like the Belgian Pukkelpop drama, the earthquake on the US East Coast, or the regions plagued by Hurricane Irene, social networks seem to have become the one communication web that allows a steady stream of information. @DHSjournal, the twitter account of the Department of Homeland Security tried to free a tortured and melting mobile phone system by encouraging people via twitter to favor social media to contact friends and loved ones, and to stay away from the phone.  In Belgium, social media were used as well to set up help actions for bewildered teens, as to organize lists of who was ok, or not.

Should the alert police officer have a fully loaded iPhone next to his gun? Would that be a good addition to the survival kit?  – Social media is rapidly becoming one of the fastest and most reliable ways to communicate “to many”, one of the quickest ways to send out messages to an audience. It is a bullhorn on steroids. Instead of finding ways to control, should event organizers, governments, fire departments, police forces, and worried parents alike not better rapidly embrace their use, and learn how to benefit from this social spider web that connects a growing amount of people?



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