The evolution of social media is always an fascinating subject for me. Something that started out–for the most part –with people sharing casual, unimportant information such as the ham sandwich I’m having for lunch, has evolved so much further in the last six years.
The most amazing thing though is how social media has turned into such a prominent way for us to share valuable information. One can use Twitter solely to follow news on just one topic and see more tweets in a day than can be red. This is probably where you’re thinking, “This isn’t a new idea; blogs have been discussing this for a while now,” and yes that’s true. However, I recently read an interesting Fast Company article stemming off the disasters of Japan, about how social media is used in a crisis, and its potential for good or bad. We’ve seen recently in Indonesia, where earthquakes, a tsunami, and volcanic eruptions destroyed a significant part of the area’s infrastructure, how locals are using Twitter to coordinate relief effort. Tweets go out saying help is needed to deliver a food drop, and within minutes there is a caravan of volunteers. While it’s still too early to say what role if any social media will have in Japan’s disaster relief, we are seeing high usage since the moment the earth began to shake. It is understandably the easiest way to alert your family and friends that you are safe, but even the prime minister, himself, gives updates using Twitter. We see statements of encouragement, warnings from those far away, but also rumors. David Zax, the article’s author, references a map of how radiation could spread throughout China that has gone viral. No one is sure if it is real, but that it is out there makes it something of concern. Zax therefore raises the question, “What happens to truth when filtered through social media in a time of crisis?”
Similarly, to the Indonesian crisis, citizens of the Middle East are using Twitter and Facebook to arrange their large protests. Both systems were significant in the uprising that lead to the resignation of Egypt’s despot, and social media has long played a role in the underground opposition movement in Iran. It’s obvious how social media has been useful in these cases, because it is so hard to prevent the public’s involvement in it. While these are great examples of how social media allows good to overcome, there is nothing that preventist from being used to shape our perception in the opposite direction. Since companies are finding their new media campaigns so successful, what would prevent someone from creating an elaborate campaign that could be used for something bad? Zax therefore asks the question, “Are social media sites inherently a force for good?”
In the end, of course, the medium cannot be accountable for the user. The best thing we can do is just continue doing what we’ve been doing since the emergence of social media and the internet as a whole for that matter–digging through the unnecessary and fake information.
Answer, according to National Geographic: a 28-year-old, right-handed, cell-phone-owning Han Chinese man.
National Geographic’s special series on global population, “7 Billion,” was going to be fascinating no matter what. But the animated teaser-trailers they’ve produced for the series are almost the best thing about it. The latest one uses clever infographics and an unpredictable narrative to answer the question: Out of those 7 billion people on earth, who is the most typical?
The idea of “design for all” continues to work its way into our lives. Especially our business lives. Magazines like Fast Company and Good are bringing smart design to the forefront of business thinking. In fact, I’m not sure that either are actually business titles anymore. They both seem like some new version of CommArts that connects the dots between creative ideas and business results. In our head long rush towards measurable ROI, maybe this is what designers will be taking into the bathroom instead of the Print’s regional design annual. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted By: Jeff November 21st, 2009
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