In The New Yorker, Malcom Gladwell argued that online social networks such as Twitter aren’t good for “real” social activism, not least because they support only weak ties. The assumption here is that social activism needs strong ties. In reality, the opposite is true. Mark Granovetter’s classic 1973 paper titled “The Strength of Weak Ties” discussed the relationship between tie strength and social activism. Granovetter considered the redevelopment project of the Italian neighbourhood in Boston in the 60s. The project was widely opposed by the community but went forward. Why? The problem was the absence of weak ties within the Italian neighbourhood. Social life revolved around members and unchanging groups of friends, and the density of strong ties (but relative lack of weak ones) inhibited any political change. Gladwell cited Granovetter’s article but didn’t read it. Gladwell titled his article “Why the revolution will not be tweeted”. Perhaps revolution is not what we need. We might just need people who read what they cite and don’t fall into the trap of “the old dismissing the new” (substitute “telephone” for “twitter”/”facebook” and see how the article reads).#fail
social activism and weak ties
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