Networking and causes

Today in Intro to Media we’re going to discuss Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites.
Material on this page includes information taken – and in some cases taken verbatim – from an excellent book: “Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives” by Nicholas Christakis.


    • Jack Dorsey created Twitter in 2006. His first Tweet, March 21, 2006: just setting up my twttr.
    • Pear Analytics’ August 2009 study said 40 percent of what’s on Twitter was “pointless babble”

Source: Pear Analytics Twitter study, August 2009

  • You don’t have to Tweet to get some value from Twitter
  • Twitter received a Nobel Prize nomination for its role in getting the word out after the disputed elections in Iran in 2009.
  • Facebook offered to buy Twitter for $500 million. Twitter declined.
  • One thing that makes Twitter unlike Facebook: Strangers follow you, not necessarily friends.
  • The Strength of Weak Ties,” an influential sociology paper by Mark Granovetter. (more on theory). Article on how it applies to Twitter: You’re more likely to learn new information from strangers.
  • Twitter for Business. Southwest Airlines uses Twitter for customer service. The Los Angeles Fire Department tweets fire alarms.
  • SMS: Short message service
  • Twitter is useful for people who want to follow the news. See sites showing journalists on Twitter: Muck Rack
  • Media people using Twitter
  • Twitter is also useful for following trends. See Twitterfall
  • Jan. 22, 2010: First Tweet from space. The Tweet came from the International Space Station. See #NASA_Astronauts. Astronaut TwitPic challenge: Find that dam.
  • Forbes calls Twitter one of the best places to work. The magazine wrote: “With 2 ,000 employees in offices around the world, and more than 230 million monthly active users, the newcomer prides itself on offering its workers a ‘chance to think about fascinating, intricate and important challenges every day.’ The company’s corporate website says: ‘At Twitter, your work will be immediately felt by many millions of people around the globe.'”

Klout “Our friendships and professional connections have moved online, making influence measurable for the first time in history. When you recommend, share, and create content you impact others.”

The Internet offers great promise, allowing us to be more connected than ever in our towns, our state and across the globe.

Using networks, we can promote causes and ideas that interest us.

Networking sometimes produces unexpected results. Example: Netville. It’s a Toronto suburb where you could buy a home and get free broadband Internet access, a videophone and other online services

Sociologists Keith Hampton and Barry Welman studied the community from 1997 to 1999. They compared wired vs. non-wired residents. Among their findings:

  • Wired residents had deeper and broader connections to other residents
  • Knew more people by name
  • Talked more
  • Visited neighbors more often

What they didn’t expect was that wired residents joined together to complain about the developers of Netville. The wired residents:

  • Protested construction defects
  • Pressured developer to fix problems

Developer said he’d never build in a wired community again

Networks can help people take on challenges and solve problems. Example: Earthquake in Haiti. Hundreds of millions of dollars raised for victims.

Networks also help us meet people and share information across national and international borders. Examples:, Boring Home Utopics.

Downsides to connectivity:

  • Information overload
  • Hard to sort it out
  • Crowd opinion becomes more important than historical fact


“A reality where, if enough people agree on a notion, it becomes the truth.” Example: Fans of Stephen Colbert changed Wikipedia entries to claim, falsely, that the world population of elephants no longer needed protection


  • Much easier now to get reinforcement for negative behavior. Example: Matthew Riskin Bean
  • More than 400 message boards on Internet dedicated to “cutting”
  • Bumfights
  • White supremacy

We’re sometimes selfish about the way we use networks, something like the story of Babylon

Residents built the Tower of Babel. God didn’t like their intent so he destroyed the tower. He scattered people across the earth and gave them different languages.
But perhaps the worst part of the punishment was that they were disconnected from one another
But connected people are more powerful than disconnected ones. They can build towers and much more.

As some see it, networks have lives of their own

  • A kind of human superorganism
  • New kind of intelligence
  • Network can be intelligent even if many individuals are not

Pay it forward

Purpose of networks – often to transmit positive things

  • Spreading of good will
  • Raising money
  • Example: The Colbert Nation’s support of the Winter Olympics

So these digital networks can be wonderful, powerful things. The Internet and virtual networks can help address pressing global problems

  • War
  • Hunger
  • Poverty
  • Global warming
  • Sexual exploitation of women
  • Child labor

A sampling of websites that enlighten, empower and engage

  • Shareable world
  • SeeClickFix
  • Ushahidi
  • Pulitzer Center – “an innovative award-winning non-profit journalism organization dedicated to supporting the independent international journalism that U.S. media organizations are increasingly less able to undertake.”
  • Kickstarter – “a new way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors.”
  • MediaStorm – “an award-winning multimedia production studio, working with top visual storytellers, interactive designers and global organizations to create cinematic narratives that speak to the heart of the human condition.”
  • National Geographic – “inspiring people to care about the planet”
  • All for Good website – “helps you find and share ways to do good. Each of us has a role to play in improving our communities and our country. Small actions add up to a big difference.”
    All for Good YouTube channel
  • Zoriah – humanitarian photography
  • Witness – See it, film it, change it – “a human rights organization the uses video to open the eyes of the world to human rights violations. We empower people to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools for justice, promoting public engagement and policy change.”
    Witness – YouTube channel – Video clips about human rights violations and what needs to be done to address them
  • Citizen YouTube – What’s happening in the world of news, politics and social change on YouTube.

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