In looking at State 2.0 and challenges to government, Paul Mason’s ‘Twenty reasons why it’s kicking off everywhere‘ struck me as an interesting commentary on the tension between new and social media and government discourse.
We have heard and seen many instances where social media such as Facebook and Twitter have played a crucial role in organising riots and protests. Charles Hirschkind examines the situation in Egypt and the role of social media: “The seeds of this spectacular mobilization had been sown as far back as the early 2000s and had been carefully cultivated by activists from across the political spectrum, many of these working online via Facebook, twitter, and within the Egyptian blogosphere. Working within these media, activists began to forge a new political language, one that cut across the institutional barriers that had until then polarized Egypt’s political terrain, between more Islamicly-oriented currents (most prominent among them, the Muslim Brotherhood) and secular-liberal ones.” (Hirchkind 2011)
Hirschkind identifies new methods through media as ‘forg[ing] a new political language’ separate to the already existing discourse. Mason examines the social and the political, and and claims that these new methods that are used mainly by young people create a danger of a growing divide between the young tech-savvy, new media-using generation and “the values and language of the state” (Mason 2011).
Basically, young people are engaging in politics through network technologies, but not in the traditional mainstream politics. Mason suggests that young people can’t tune in to mainstream politics, and likewise officials and older generations are not yet in the loop with network technologies. The popular suggestion that young people are apathetic to politics is in a way disproved, but also strengthened for they are involving themselves, but not in the usual way.
Perhaps it’s the notion of power that overcomes any apathy that is attributed to younger generations. “Young people believe the issues are no longer class and economics but simply power: they are clever to the point of expertise in knowing how to mess up hierarchies and see the various “revolutions” in their own lives as part of an “exodus” from oppression, not – as previous generations did – as a “diversion into the personal”” (Mason 2011)
But I think Mason makes a really interesting point; how do we get these two generations to interact with each other properly? Mason questions whether social network methods could be employed by ‘opponents’ or the other side of the argument. “Also we have yet to see what happens to all this social networking if a state ever seriously pulls the plug on the technology: switches the mobile network off, censors the internet, cyber-attacks the protesters.” (Mason 2011)
What would happen if the state took away our freedom and power to organise ourselves and interact with each other? The power would be out of our hands and back into the institutions people resist, the apathy would be back and a feeling of helplessness would replace the empowerment we experience now.
Mason, Paul (2011) ‘Twenty reasons why it’s kicking off everywhere’, Idle Scrawls BBC, <http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/paulmason/2011/02/twenty_reasons_why_its_kicking.html>
Hirschkind, Charles (2011) ‘From the Blogosphere to the Street: The Role of Social Media in the Egyptian Uprising’, Jadaliyya<http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/599/from-the-blogosphere-to-the-street_the-role-of-social-media-in-the-egyptian-uprising>