Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Public Mobilization Observation

A few weeks ago I received a Facebook invite for a video screening. The film being shown was a short clip about the conflict surrounding the illegal extraction of minerals in Democratic Republic of Congo. This was part of a greater movement called Congo Week, in which universities around the country and organizations around the world vow to "Break the Silence," or get the word out about the wars in Congo.

Any one who uses Facebook gets invites often-- for games, parties, exhibition openings. But also for more important things like protests, rallies and building awareness. While it is becoming increasingly common for people to use social media like Facebook and Twitter to boost public mobilization some question the new media's effectiveness.

A 2006 Pew study called The Strength of Internet Ties, Focuses on the e-mail's impact on social networks. However many of their results can also be attributed to social media. Essentially the researchers found that social media (the internet) works in tandem with cell phones and in-person interactions to increase social networks and help people stay close to those already in their network. This allows individuals to reach more people when in need.

These results are intuitive to the people who use Facebook and Twitter to enhance public mobilization. Buttons like "Invite a Friend" and "ReTweet" help add people other than those in your immediate network.

I talked to my friend, who played a major role in recruiting people for the film screening, about her efforts to get people to attend. She has used Facebook in the past to invite people to events. For the film, she also passed out fliers and spoke in front of her classes. However turn out for the film was lower than in previous years. One of the difficulties she mentioned is that Facebook (and other social media) is great for getting the word out but it's hard to measure reception.

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