By this point Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker piece Small Change, with its bound-to-be provocative subtitle Why the revolution will not be tweeted has gotten plenty of the desired attention. Much of it ironically (and no doubt intentionally) on Twitter itself.
Gladwell jumps around from topic to topic to build a case, essentially that "social media can't provide what social change has always required;" that new media is no replacement for old-style organization and activism. In fact, he goes further, attempting to debunk the so-called Twitter Revolutions (in Moldavia and Iran) and assert that the medium is in fact, not inherently revolutionary. The crux goes something like this:
Shirky considers this model of activism an upgrade. But it is simply a form of organizing which favors the weak-tie connections that give us access to information over the strong-tie connections that help us persevere in the face of danger. It shifts our energies from organizations that promote strategic and disciplined activity and toward those which promote resilience and adaptability. It makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact. The instruments of social media are well suited to making the existing social order more efficient. They are not a natural enemy of the status quo. If you are of the opinion that all the world needs is a little buffing around the edges, this should not trouble you. But if you think that there are still lunch counters out there that need integrating it ought to give you pause.
Many of the responses, as one might guess, have been critical, sometimes scathingly so.
Honestly, I think both Gladwell's view and that of the "slacktivism" (not a term I like, but it'll do) advocates could use a strong dose of reality. Both dismiss too readily in favor of their own already-decided-upon stories (new media has changed everything/no, it's damaging something good that was already there). There is a lot ignored in online activism and several of Gladwell's critiques are absolutely on point, but there are some real new, useful tools here, and his piece does ignore some real uses.
More, below the cut.