Sunday 1 April 2012
Georgia Tech, home this year of the ICTD conference is every inch the modern higher education outfit. Smart and new, well behaved clean-cut students and its confident PR operation leaves no-one in any doubt that it is the pace to be. Well it was for the very enjoyable and slightly anarchic CTO special sessions on social media and democracy which I took part in.
The morning was devoted to a debate on the role of social media in recent democracy movements -- the middle east. I spoke against, along with Al Jazeera's Senior Washington Correspondent Alan Fisher. I am no social media luddite but I wanted to "hold on a bit". There were lots of factors at play -- demographics, the global economy, religion, and the political backgrounds of individual countries. To call what happened in Egypt, for example, the "Facebook Revolution" is to ignore all of these. After all revolutions are won by people not technology platforms. But it was a fun and lively debate, streamed and tweeted about with a worldwide audience.
In the afternoon I led a workshop that looked at other historical movements where an emerging technology may or may not have played a pivotal role -- Luther and the printing press, the Bolsheviks and trans-European railways, Nazis and the cinema. The group was truly international and all the perspectives were really enlightening.