High-tech protesters vs. low-tech police?

02Apr09

A Cnn.com story related to the current G20 summit in London focuses on the use of social media and mobile technology by worldwide activists – historically among the early adopters of new communication technologies, starting from the 17th century printing press. They quote Clay Shirky, an expert on social and economic effects of Internet technologies, who marks the street protests at the 1999 WTO meeting in Seattle as «the “seminal event” for online campaigning”». He also talks about the violence between police and protesters in some of the more recent & visible of such meetings:
«As the police cordon around East London tightens and police brace themselves for the expected influx of protesters, Shirky says that “increasingly totalitarian defense cordons coupled with increasingly violent protests” are ultimately unsustainable.
It’s been seen at the 2001 G-8 summit in Genoa, Italy, when anti-globalization activist Carlo Giuliani died from a police gunshot wound — but Shirky says we may not have seen clashes between police and protesters peak yet.
“I fear it’ll happen when it turns deadly and protesters are killed, because this escalating cat-and-mouse game is unsupportable,” he said. “That’s the nightmare scenario, with the cat eating a bunch of the mice.”»
It’s not clear from the article if they’re suggesting some sort of connection between the ‘high-tech protesters’ and such violent confrontations — but is certainly something to address. Should we ask or expect that police will make a much wider use of Twitter, Facebook to monitor and keep quick track of activists maneuvers? That is, government and officials must catch-up rapidly with the new social environment created by the new media – just like Mr. Obama is doing. Or is that from now on this (relatively small but quite active fringe of) early adopters will always have this kind of techno-advantage against the ‘low-tech police’, so that social conflicts will actually exacerbate? Is this another unavoidable consequence of Net technologies spreading – as Shirky seems to imply?



2 Responses to “High-tech protesters vs. low-tech police?”

  1. in effetti, l’articolo è interessante, ma anche molto ambiguo. e poi dire che la polizia è low-tech mi sembra un’esagerazione. caso mai è vero il contrario: sono molto avanzati tecnologicamente, ma utilizzano strumenti centralizzati (ma già nell’esercito usa questo non è vero, perché da anni hanno adottato il paradigma della network-warfare, utilizzano sistemi di alert alla twitter etc).
    mentre, è vero che chi protesta ha dalla sua che può sfruttare meglio la tecnologia dal punto di vista collaborativo

  2. ovvio che il low tech police era un’eccessiva riduzione, e piu’ correttamente il rapporto tra dimostranti vs. polizia qui e’ collaborativo vs. centralizzato; volevo pero’ sottolineare certa approssimazione del pezzo sugli “effetti dei social/mobile media” sul contesto sociale, e anche delle battute di shirky alquanto decontestualizzate e confuse qui…


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