Challenging government efficiency with digital activism and crowd-sourced disaster response
August 26th, 2012

Patrick Meier speaks in his latest blog post of a positive feedback loop between civil resistance protests and crowdsourced disaster responses. He gives various eloquent examples (the “Coup de text” against Estrada in Philippines from 2001 and the crowd-sourced response efforts to the disaster in 2012; the fires of 2010 and the recent Krymsk floods in Russia; the Egyptian revolution; the Iranian Green Revolution from 2009; even the Cyclone Bhola and the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan through a war of independence in the pre-SMS era of the 1970s).

He talks about social media and online networking platforms as tools to mobilize and coordinate masses of people into action. FB can be a scheduling tool for meetings, Twitter can be used for coordination, and YouTube as a channel for broadcasting events, like in the case of the Egyptian Revolution. From an urge to speed relief responses to natural disasters, digitally savvy activists and volunteers have come to go around and ahead of governments, and that also serves as a potential form of non-violent protest and civil resistance. Their actions have the effect of increasing their social capital as online and offline activists and of challenging the readiness and efficiency of governments. Such events become windows of opportunity for catalyzing regime change.

One striking analogy that goes through my mind is that of the Internet and social media spreading into the society like nerves growing into a body, linking all of its different parts, moving information up and down with light speed, making possible the coordinated contraction of social muscles. Like cells inside a body, people demonstrate without any doubt that, given a social nervous system, so to speak, they can communicate and act together very efficiently towards common goals and the benefit of the whole social corpus. They learn to route around corrupt or inefficient governments like new blood vessels forming around clogged and diseased vessels, so that the social tissues are still nourished and oxygenated, and can organize political activist movements in order to dissolve and eliminate such deficient governments like tumors. Along with the information revolution, the social body evolved new abilities to protect and heal itself.

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