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ISN Weekly Theme: Technology and Democracy

Tweet for the peeps / photo: G20Voice, flickr
Tweet for the peeps / photo: G20Voice, flickr

Twitter had a lead role in the Iranian uprising after the contested elections last month. But that wasn’t the first time a popular form of communication proved vital in a democracy movement. This week we’re focusing on the impact platforms such as Twitter, Facebook – and Web technology overall – have on democracy movements and the relationships between governments and their constituents.

Here’s a quick rundown of just a few website highlights:

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Journalism

Yelling for Understanding of International Relations

Let me say this first:  I am definitely not a fan of  the Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

When I was working for a German internet service provider, our chief marketing officer thought that showing us a clip of how Steve whips up the people at Microsoft would be a good motivator.

I wasn’t motivated. I was just shocked. This moment fixed my picture of Ballmer for the eternity.

So I was really surprised when I saw an article on paidcontent.org this morning discussing Ballmer’s speech at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

The same crazy jumping Ballmer that shocked me some years ago said one of the most interesting things I have read about the financial crisis in traditional media in the last weeks:

“I don’t think we are in a recession, I think we have reset,” he said. “A recession implies recovery [to pre-recession levels] and for planning purposes I don’t think we will. We have reset and won’t rebound and re-grow.” Ballmer, named media person of the year at this year’s festival, also painted a bleak picture for the future of traditional media, arguing that newspaper publishers have failed to generate new revenues from the digital opportunity. He said that within 10 years all traditional content will be digital”

I have seen a lot of boring articles about Google killing quality journalism in the last months.  Some people were asking if media should be the next industry that has to be supported by the governments. There are still a lot of tradional media companies praying that the hypothesis of Wolfgang Riepl stays true. He said in 1913  that “new media never make the old media disappear”.

We need traditional media to understand the most important questions in international relations, security and foreign policy. Of course we are impressed by the possibilities of the internet and the rising influence of social media like blogs, Facebook or Twitter. Yes, these days the Tweets from Iran are amazing.  But as my colleague Rashunda Tramble mentioned in this blog:   “Tweetable doesn’t automatically mean reliable.”

Therefore I should probably rethink my picture of Steve Ballmer. Maybe a  jumping, stomping and yelling man is needed to wake up traditonal media and save their important role in our understanding of international relations and foreign policy.

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Journalism Social Media Audio/Video

Twitter: The ‘Forest Gump of International Relations’

Weighing Twitter trust / screenshot: Twitter search
Weighing Twitter trust / screenshot: Twitter search

This is just a tiny, tiny word of caution to remember as we take in the Twitter feeds, YouTube videos and other user-generated content from Iran.

First, although it’s invigorating to see the amount of info being passed on Twitter, I think there may be a quantity vs quality issue going on. I won’t go as far as Kara Swisher and call it the ‘Forrest Gump of International Relations’, but some of the tweets I’m seeing are…well…if not exactly Forrest Gump material, then maybe that of his long lost cousin who made it out of Savannah, Georgia before he did.