Social media

The rapidly shifting media landscape should be a subject of detailed study for anyone linked to traditional communications and trying to make a living thereby. A few interesting things in this context.

First, TED has the always fascinating Clay Shirky in the spotlight these days, posting a recent lecture on the potential impact of Twitter, due to the topicality of the micromessaging service as a tool for protestors in Iran. I can’t help feeling that Shirky is both overly emotional and enthusiastic on the impact of Twitter in Iran, carried away by the swirl of unfolding events.  There are just too many key questions begging answers; how to filter the noise, how best to use the medium, and most importantly, will anything actually be achieved?

It will be more interesting to see how he analyzes things in retrospect, and to gauge how empowering these tools truly are.

In a similar but lighthearted vein, the Guardian spotted an amusing anomaly, noting a very bizarre result in an online Daily Mail poll. The ill-tempered and rabidly anti-immigrant newspaper had crafted a poll question primitive in intent even by their own standards: ‘Should the NHS allow gipsies to jump the queue?

This vision of ‘gipsies’ jumping health queues could no doubt strike fear even into non-core readers, but the amazing thing is that results were running at about 90% in favor of such preferential treatment when the Guardian dropped by, and this was even higher than the 85% clip I saw when visiting the poll much earlier in the day. So what has happened to the Daily Mail’s readers?

Well, I didn’t happen by the poll by chance, and I’m no Mail reader. This is the power of Twitter in action. The offensively worded question spurred a series of ‘retweets’ and calls for a demonstration of the power of the vote in this context. Perhaps this is a trivial gesture, but besides being satisfying and amusing, I can’t help feeling that it is also an eloquent expression of the medium’s potential.

Update: According to this report the Mail capitulated by withdrawing the poll, and apparently shaken, putting up a bafflingly confused question in its place. The linked article also provides the background to the poll, i.e., why the Mail thought it was a topical question, presenting a nice snapshot of just how ugly an organ the newspaper has become.


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