The Revolution Will Be Televised (and Twittered)

In 1970, Gill Scott-Heron  famously said, “The revolution will not be televised.” But we learned twenty years ago this month, when CNN broadcast from Tiananmen Square, the revolution would indeed be televised and provide iconic images that would resonate for years.

In the past, powerful technologies were often to be feared (and depending on who’s using them and how they’re being implemented, caution is often necessary). George Orwell’s 1984 had Big Brother with pervasive government surveillance and control. But now, with powerful and affordable communication technology widely available plus new social media outlets, there’s a shift that we’re only just beginning to appreciate.

As this year began, unfortunate events on the San Francisco BART led to the death of a young man at the hands of a police officer (that’s all I’ll say as this case is currently in front of the court). Many revelers had their cell phones or cameras to capture their evening and documented the events on the BART platform and were even live streaming to the Internet. Some of those videos are now being used as evidence.

We’re now watching the post-election events in Iran unfold, and it’s fascinating that we’re able to see on the ground reports in real time – especially as foreign reporters are reportedly banned from the streets.

Micro-blogging service Twitter even delayed planned maintenance when they realized that a convenient time frame on the West Coast of the United States put it mid-day in Iran – exactly when people would be depending on the service. And it’s easy to feel more connected to people on the other side of the world when you’re hearing directly from them regularly – and worry about them when you don’t.

One of the most striking images that I’ve seen so far – and there have been many – is this video on YouTube from the weekend. When what appears to be smoke bombs and perhaps tear gas are deployed against the protesters, more move in with their cameras to film and disseminate what’s happening. People around the world have worked to provide proxy servers and keep information flowing and ensure that people in the country can communicate with each other and get information out.

What events have you felt more connected to because of social media?

Lisa Crotty

Marketing Manager

Lisa is a Senior Optimization Specialist at Innate – her friends even teased that she A/B tested her name change. Lisa studied Philosophy of Science & Technology at Virginia Tech and is always asking why.

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