The new technology of protest

Whatever the merits or demerits of the issues at stake in the debate on tuition fees, one of the things that can be said is how rapidly online social media is changing the nature of protest.

Protest which in the past might be one big call to arms by the organisers to make a statement, is also now made up of numerous people communicating in multiple ways to the world.

One of the reasons was the readily available mobile technology that can produce text, videos and audio as well as manipulate other online tools.

Looking at what happened there were four clear elements.

The most well-known element was realtime News Feeds.  We saw this come of age at the G20 demonstrations in London in 2009, but there was even greater usage in the last few week’s demonstrations. There was a Twitter Hashtag for the event: #demo2010. This gave a live feed from both people inside the kettled area of Parliament Square through to people watching events unfold from their armchair.

However a new development that appeared yesterday is that students were mapping Police movements on a live Google map. Give it a year and the Police will probably have to respond with their own public real-time map of demonstrators!

Also videos of the event were being uploaded almost live to websites. This was on top of the national news media live filming appearing on 24 hour news channels.

Audioboos, which are short audio tweets made from iPhones were being used by students to collect evidence of Police activity as and when it happened and were also linked to photos that related to the audio image.

This is all technology we at TCC are familiar with. What was impressive yesterday is that people used all these readily available tools to provide a range of information in real-time to the media and the public.

Future campaigns are likely to draw much more from this sort of live activity. Those involved in public policy cannot ignore this and will need to respond across all these platforms in real-time  as well.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for The Campaign Company


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