A Social Networked Protest in India

Each week about this time I report in on how social networking technologies (usually Facebook) and politics (usually Planned Parenthood) interact.  This week, I’m still going to do that, but I’m going to point to an article I heard last night on NPR’s All Things Considered.  Referencing the work of Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs, Phillip Reeves interviewed a number of Mumbai citizens using txt messages to organize a mass protest Wednesday (today).

Reeve notes that the texts urge people to consider holding the Indian government accountable:

The real terrorists are not only those who have come through boat but those who have come through vote.  We can change the system, if America can why can’t India?  Please pass it on.

Although I’m so sorry to hear about the events in Mumbai last week, I suddenly felt this huge sense of relief.  America is, again, a model for peaceful transitions of power and the potential for democracy to hold the powerful accountable.  Suddenly, I know America made the right choice.  Obama is the person we need to show the world and just moving away from the policies of the Bush years is already restoring some of America’s standing abroad.

Today’s New York Times is reporting that “tens of thousands of people” are protesting in Mumbai today (see also photo above).  The BBC also notes that, “The Mumbai protest drew thousands of people who blocked traffic and shouted slogans, including ‘down with Pakistan’ and ‘shame on politicians’.”  Neither article, however, mentions the use of text messages as a way to organize the protest, that may come out of some of the techy blogs in a day or two.

I’ve never really quite understood the mobile politics thing, I have to admit.  It just felt like a cruddy way to use the Internet.  However, I recognize its value in places that aren’t the US (i.e. where the desktop or laptop is not the dominant way to interface with Internet and SMS is cheaper… so like, most of the world).

Unlike reading Rheingolds book, which I enjoyed but was skeptical of on a personal level, hearing the NPR story last night and then seeing images from the protests today was just the kind of real evidence I needed to believe in the “smart mob.”

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Filed under Class Work, Social Networking

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