Upheaval by update.

24 Mar

In less than 5 months, in short order, a change of guard in Tunisia and Egypt. The people rise in Libya and Bahrain.
Facebook, twitter and blogs have accomplished what all the political and military might of the free world could not, in the last 30 years. The Tunisian overthrow of its dictatorship is now called the ‘Twivolution’. The State Department requested twitter not to shut down its site for scheduled maintainence so that the real-time tweets would continue unabated. In Egypt, when the government shut Internet access as Tahrir Square boiled, Google produced a sms bypass to twitter to keep the updates flowing.
The world is agog: revolution by social networking. Facebook and twitter, two brands that lived squarely in the ‘brain candy’ space, have now emerged as irresistible revolutionaries. Mahatma Gandhi would have been delighted: can you think of a more ahimsak way to overthrow a government than by ”update’?
What on earth is going on? Observe two things: the crossover of the virtual self into real life, the ‘disinhibition effect.’
The virtual self is the person we are on the web, the painted, primped and polished version of ourselves that we present to the world, the ‘me’ that we would be if not chained to our humdrum realities. Give that sytlised, ideal me enough rope and it asserts its right to exist. Once it gains ascendancy in our psyche, it will not be denied.
The disinhibition effect is the bravado and sass we indulge in on the web when we believe we will never be found out. We comment, decry, oppose, abuse without restraint because there will be no price to pay, no accountability to answer to, because we are anonymous.
When the virtual self starts indulging in the basic freedom of speech of a citizen, the right to have an opinion, to oppose draconian government yokes, the real self tastes it, and wants it for real. A forbidden right gains consciousness and asks why it is not so in real life.
And when the real self has the safety and luxury of anonymity, it shouts with abandon.
The Filipinos did it more than a decade ago. In the world first revolution by networking, Filipinos sent each other over 70 million smses in one evening, encouraging each other to converge on the Presidential Palace to protest their government’s chicanery. That night the President resigned.
It has a bit of time, with the Iranian elections tweeted to exposure along the way, but its catching up with a vengeance.
Why Wikileaks would release cables pertaining to India when it is in possession of more than 350,000 cables (and so far it has released barely 3000, less than 1% of them), is something that will have to await disclosure.
But we now have a very interesting pot being brought to boil: 711 million mobile subscribers in India. 91 million on the web. 31 million on facebook. And the accepted fact that the next 100 million Indians to be connected to the web will do it on their mobilephones.
Facebook and twitter have a free app for every single mobilephone platform in the world. Indeed, you don’t need an app: you can update by sms.
We have 1 billion people getting mightily annoyed with the temerity and brazenness of the scams now being brought to light.
All we need is a spark to light the fuse. Not a big spark. A wiki would do.
C’mon, baby. light my fire.

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