The Way We Protest Now: Zeynep Tufekci on activism in the age of social media

On January 28, 2011, a man on Cairo’s Talaat Harb Street, near Tahrir Square, tries to pick up and throw back a tear-gas canister.

On January 28, 2011, just days after the first protest gathering, a man on Cairo’s Talaat Harb Street, near Tahrir Square, tries to pick up and throw back a tear-gas canister. (Photo by Alisdare Hickson. Original image here. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.)

For the better part of a decade, we’ve been watching protest movements arise around the world and wondering what role was played by Twitter, Facebook, and the like. Did Facebook bring down the Egyptian government in 2011? How did the Tea Party movement in the United States elect sympathetic legislators while the Occupy Wall Street movement did not? Did Chinese government censorship of online platforms thwart the democracy activists in Hong Kong in 2014? Was it their methods or the activists themselves that succeeded in some cases and not in others? In Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest, Zeynep Tufekci, a sociologist who has been studying and often participating in digitally networked movements since the late 90s, discusses the new technologies, how they’re used by protest movements, and how they’re used as well as countered by governments and opposing groups.

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What to do before the sun goes out: reading suggestions

Depending on which way you lean, you may feel that a darkness is upon the land. Relax—it’ll get worse soon! A total eclipse of the sun—not to be confused with this—will cut a swath across the United States on August 21, leading perhaps to “Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!” (as the original Ghostbusters had it) or maybe just a lot of oohs and aahs and other exclamations of epic awesomeness. The few, the proud, the unimpressed may not be moved, but hardly anyone will be able to say, “I’ve seen better.”

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Not all pearls last forever: New York loses a classic theater company

Where is the past when you need it? If you want to read an old novel, you can buy it or get it from a library. If you want to see an old film, you may be able to buy it, rent it, stream it, catch it on a cable channel, see it in a revival house. Old music? Regardless of what you mean by that, it’s probably been recorded. And if you want to read an old play, you can find it the same as other books. But most of us no more want to read a play than we want to study the blueprints of a building, the sketches and patterns and fabric swatches that led to a piece of clothing, the score for a piece of music. We want to see or hear the thing realized. Some old plays still turn up in production; many do not, except in the work of classic theater companies. Luckily, New York City has a handful of such companies, but it now has one less than it did for a long time: on June 17, the Pearl Theatre Company announced it was shutting down, after 33 seasons.

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Shakespeare’s crazy mix is perfectly clear in TFANA’s ‘Measure for Measure’

Angelo (Thomas Jay Ryan) and Escala (January LaVoy) in Measure for Measure at Theatre for a New Audience.

Angelo (Thomas Jay Ryan) and Escala (January LaVoy) in Measure for Measure at Theatre for a New Audience. (Photo: Gerry Goodstein)

What manner of beast is this play Measure for Measure? The ruler of a city decides it needs to be cleaned up and straightened out, but instead of doing it himself he gives someone else the job and goes on vacation. The man he appoints, a strict moralist, cracks down on crime as expected, but he also proves to be prone to corruption. (Shades of contemporary crusaders such as former New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer here.) It looks as if either a nun must lose her virginity or her brother must lose his head. But this disaster-in-the-making doesn’t come about, because the play changes course. The duke hasn’t left town after all. He sticks around, disguised as a monk, to see what happens, and he ends up having to fix the fixer, so to speak: he must become the one who guards against the guardian, as Plato might’ve put it, which the duke does through a set of relatively comic maneuvers that often recall Much Ado About Nothing. Continue reading

Sure, Slack is fun, but that’s not all that needs to be said

A screenshot from a Slack demo.

A screenshot from a Slack demo.

Do you Slack? I didn’t used to, but I do now. And I’m pretty sure I’m getting more done and having more fun because of it. I like Slack. (So does the Church of the SubGenius, but that’s different.) Slack is spreading. If you don’t know about Slack but you use computers and work with more than a handful of people, you probably should know about it. Continue reading

Passing glances: making news pay, making Jobs sing, making protest work

Copies of the Times emerge from a cutting and folding machine, September 1942

How the news was made: Copies of the Times emerge from a cutting and folding machine, September 1942. (Photo by Marjory Collins)

When the Internet was young(er), publications, like other businesses, began establishing outposts there. This now seems like something of a recap of the original frontier experience: the Internet was fresh ground, unexplored territory, ripe for shaping, settling, colonizing, conquering. It may be going too far to say the whole thing exemplifies Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier Thesis (which in any case is still contested), but the expansion into the online realm has certainly been critical for periodicals.

Curiously, while most other businesses went to the Internet to sell, periodicals didn’t. Continue reading