For two months our online bookclub has been reading Zeynep Tufekci’s Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest. With this post we conclude by discussing its epilogue, “The Uncertain Climb,” and reflecting on the book as a whole.
In this post I’ll briefly summarize the text, then add some reflections and questions.
You can participate by writing comments here, or through whichever other means you like (Twitter comments, Hypothes.is annotations, etc.).
If you’d like to check out other moments of our discussion of this book, you can find all blog posts and their associated comments filed under https://bryanalexander.org/tag/tufekci/.
“The Uncertain Climb” summarizes the strengths offered by social media to dissident movements, as well as the rising problems presented by the same technology. The chapter builds on some of these, such as drawing our attention back to how social media enables homophily (268) and how “the tyranny of structurelessness has merged with the tyranny of the platforms.” (272) It also addresses the fake news term as applied to techniques already in play in Twitter and Tear Gas (264). The epilogue concludes with notes about newer technologies, like Loomio (276), a theme of persistent activism, and the importance of continuing to question these technologies and practices.
I wonder if Tufecki’s critique of Occupy applies to the gilets jaunes movement, which might be stalling out as of this writing. The Macron administration must be having a hard time negotiating with the movement, as they lack a clear leader, should Macron be interested in doing so.
The book seems to conclude on a mixed or skeptical note, after opening chapters with home and optimism.
- Have you used Loomio? Are there any other tools from the past two years that you would recommend?
- What do you make of the role played by libraries and digital literacy in the book as a whole?
- Earlier the book argues that humans join protest movements because of our “desire for nonmarket human connections, participation, voice, agency, community, and diversity.
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” (112) Beyond the gilets jaunes, are there any other new movements appearing to meet that desire?
- Several weeks ago Joe Murphy asked if we should consider online activism skills as necessary for education. Now that the book is done, what do you think?
- If social media giants have replaced television as “gatekeep[ers] for access to the public sphere…” (134), will rising criticism of those giants lead to a new way of organizing the public sphere? Or will people pick one platform to avoid the others?
And that’s the end of our reading!
What did you make of the book’s end and the work as a whole?
Coming up: we’ll determine the next title our book club will explore.