Mahinda’s Facebook page from the short-lived Fake Facebook Drama of 2007
Teaching social media is a bit like teaching people to be social. Most people just learn when they’re young. Greg Berger had sessions on YouTube and stuff but for me they were not especially useful. For most activists this is stuff they pick up on the street, as it were, or type in to Google as needed. For some people I think those sessions were new, which was good. I’ve found that this type of information can seem obvious but have a major effect on people who are just discovering it. By the end of the session everyone could pretty much make a YouTube mash-up, which was cool. Zenga Zenga.
Al Giordano did some sessions on safety which were not especially useful, if only because it was the wrong audience. He was talking about fitting in with local people and following local customs and stuff which is not especially relevant to citizen journalists. It is important for foreign correspondents or journalists who are visiting, but most citizen journalists are by definition local. Some of the Israeli/Palestinian participants had tips about not running when shot at and the Egyptian Ahmed Salah had some interesting tips for avoiding state security off session.
The broader insights into social media were valuable. For one, Anne Marie Codur situated social media within the broader ecosystem of the whole range of social media and showed, basically, different strokes for different strokes.
For me the most striking insight came from the Egyptians who basically said that it wasn’t a Twitter/Facebook revolution at all. They said that social media was an important part of what they did, but what Ahmed was talking about off-session was really old-school street teams. IMHO, social media is a force multiplier more than a force in itself.
It seems most relevant in getting information out to the media and the rest of the world, but it’s questionable how relevant either of those is to actually affecting change. That still seems to happen on the street, in real-time, largely unmediated.