Review | A LITTLE T&T

ZEYNEP TUFEKCI, TWITTER AND TEAR GAS

Zeynep Tufekci Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest (Yale University Press, 2017)

Tons of limousine liberals, champagne socialists and armchair academics are quick to toss around the language of revolution as well as violence, but few are fast to risk life or limb out in the streets of the world, where situations can become dangerous, in a fraction of a heartbeat.

Zeynep Tufekci, female contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, is not an author of such an ilk. As an associate professor at the University of North Carolina, School of Information and Library Science and faculty associate at the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, Tufekci is a historian of revolutionary movements who is also well studied in standing toe to toe with riot cops and agent provocateurs, on the contemporary front-lines of protest zones where a single tweet can cause cars to burn, cans of tear gas to fly, handcuffs to clink and blood to spill.

In Twitter and Tear Gas, Tufekci combines a vast knowledge of the history of social movements around the globe including her sharp research with first hand knowledge from on the ground in order to suggest where the future of protest in the age of hyper-connectivity may be headed.

In the ultra-fast age of information, even protests of the recent past and their surrounding movements seem like light years ago, due in large part, to the radical impact of new social media platforms and mobile communication devices.

But Twitter and Tear Gas is more than just a love-fest on flash mobs or an info orgy on big data.

Tufecki eloquently discusses the flaws and weaknesses, both real and virtual, of the landscape connected to contemporary protests by contrasting them to historical revolutions.

Back in the day of say, the Seattle 1999 protests and prior, public protest depended on lengthy gestation periods, solid organizational foundations as well as sturdy tactical and problem-solving skills. Tufekci points out that today’s revolutionary culture is easily compromised by the lack of ballast that allowed past movements to be born or endure enough to enjoy any fruits of their labor.

Revolutionary movements in the age of information can be fragile exactly because modern tools (like mobile devices) and the rapid pace of life in the Information Age make constant change a constant factor for both the crowd and the individual.

Tufekci web-writes at medium.com and technosociology.org, among other places on the interweb.

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