How You Will Change the World with Social Networking

by Deanna Zandt, AlterNet.org, July 24, 2010

The following is an excerpt from Deanna Zandt’s ‘Share This! How You Will Change the World with Social Networking’ (Berrett Koehler, 2010).

…How we share information, find community, and both connect and disconnect will give us unprecedented influence over our place in the world. Social media technology holds some of the biggest potential for creating tectonic shifts in how we operate, and the overall open-ended promise of technology gives us a great shot at creating the systems for change…It hasn’t been easy to thrive in our culture for the last hundred years or so. We’ve become ever more obsessed with consumption and power. Our corporate mass media and politicians have been treating us as faceless members of large demographics with open wallets, and less as individuals within communities, leading us down dark paths of apathy and isolation. We’ve had little room for recourse and little chance to connect to one another.
All of that’s changing, and rapidly. People are using social technologies to find and connect…When we connect and share our lives with one another, both in the digital space and in the physical space, we create bonds of trust and empathy that lead us away from that apathy that’s glazed over our eyeballs for at least a century. Our lives matter: What we believe and which truths we hold to be self-evident matter.
Here’s the thing: I truly believe that through social networking, we can influence the way these conversations affect how change happens. As more conversations are taking place in public, we can represent ourselves. We can break stereotypes. We can transform our new connections into social change.
…we have to choose where we “spend” our attention, and those seeking to gain our attention have to use market-based tactics–aka “marketing”! aha!–to win the privilege of our spending our attention on them.
We have to reframe our interactions with one another–we shouldn’t be thinking about trying to “pay attention” to everything that comes our way and then running out of attention to pay. We need to make the world around us a stream or flow of information, and dip in and out of that flow as necessary or desired. Attention, in this model, isn’t a scarce commodity; it’s an unending stream that weaves in and out of other streams. As web visionary Stowe Boyd argues,
The answer is not becoming obsessed with attention as a limited resource to be husbanded, or thinking of our cognition as a laser beam to be pointed at only at what is important.
We need to unfocus, to rely more on the network or tribe to surface things of importance, and remain open to new opportunities: these are potentially more important than the work on the desk. Don’t sharpen the knife too much.
Since attention isn’t composed of chunks that accumulate and are doled out in this way of thinking, it’s fairly useless to consider the system a finite economy. Those who yell the loudest and make the biggest fools of themselves will become less important as our notions of celebrity also change–having higher numbers of viewers or followers or fans doesn’t equal influence and fame. Or, at least it doesn’t have to. If we can turn around our thinking, away from the style of mass media that has only served to alienate us from one another and has produced lowest-common-denominator content, and toward a more holistic, ecosystem-like view in which relationships to and relevancy of content matter, then attention’s scarcity also begins to disappear.
Once scarcity is removed from the model, market economics doesn’t apply to it. You’re not competing for others’ attention; you’re creating sustainable relationships across which content flows, many ways….We are at a critical cultural juncture where it is up to us to experiment and ultimately define how things work in the ecosystem.

Communications

15 things everyone would know if there were a liberal media

Your False-Equivalence Guide to the Days Ahead James Fallows Sep 27 2013  –A kind of politics we have not seen for more than 150 years…As a matter of journalism, any story that presents the disagreements as a “standoff,” a “showdown,” a “failure of leadership,” a sign of “partisan gridlock,” or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement, represents a failure of journalism and an inability to see or describe what is going on…This isn’t “gridlock.” It is a ferocious struggle within one party, between its traditionalists and its radical factions, with results that unfortunately can harm all the rest of us — and, should there be a debt default, could harm the rest of the world too.

Our Dumb Democracy: Why the Untied States of Stupid Still Reins Supreem by John Atcheson, January 22, 2013 by Common Dreams – …Want to know how our political discourse got so mind-numbingly stupid? Well, we can start with this little fact:  The press is so enamored with “balance” that they’ll treat even the most ignorant, shallow, fatuous movement – a [Tea Party] movement composed of the selfish, the self-obsessed, the angry, the bigoted, and the blissfully ignorant – as if it were a serious movement.…At one time this kind of foolishness would have been laughed off the national stage. Now it dominates one of our major political parties, thanks to the media’s embrace of balance and false equivalence and the Democrats’ silent complicity…today’s political discourse is so thoroughly littered with “conventional wisdom” without an iota of wisdom...our media has replaced truth, accuracy and reality with balance, false equivalency, and stenography and Democrats have been silent co-conspirators. Why?  Because the press is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporations, and too many Democrats feed at the corporate trough. And that’s not funny, but it is stupid.

A Great Debate By GARY GUTTING, New York Times blogs, Feb­ru­ary 19, 2013…our polit­i­cal “debates” sel­dom deserve the name…Is there any way to make gen­uine debates — sus­tained back-and-forth exchanges, meet­ing high intel­lec­tual stan­dards but still widely acces­si­ble — part of our polit­i­cal cul­ture?..Such debates will not end our polit­i­cal dis­agree­ments, but they will set much higher stan­dards of dis­cus­sion, requir­ing fuller expla­na­tions of posi­tions and even mod­i­fi­ca­tions to make them more defen­si­ble. It’s unlikely that either side would ever sim­ply give up its view, but, polit­i­cally, they would have to react to a strong pub­lic con­sen­sus if they had not made a respectable case…The only major obsta­cle to imple­ment­ing this pro­posal would be get­ting the par­ties to par­tic­i­pate. Here, I sug­gest, shame would be a prime moti­va­tor…Of course, many peo­ple will not have the time, inter­est, or the abil­ity to fol­low debates of this sort. But those who do — includ­ing the lead­ing com­men­ta­tors and opinion-makers — will be among the most con­cerned and artic­u­late, and their views will have a sig­nif­i­cant effect on the terms and tone of the gen­eral discussion. Facts and rea­son­ing will never set­tle polit­i­cal issues. All of us have fun­da­men­tal com­mit­ments that are imper­vi­ous to argu­ment. If an argu­ment seems to refute them, we take this as a refu­ta­tion of the argu­ment. And, of course, many of us are too igno­rant, self-interested or prej­u­diced on cer­tain issues to be moved by ratio­nal con­sid­er­a­tions. But ratio­nal­ity almost always has some role in our deci­sions, and more ratio­nal­ity in our polit­i­cal dis­cus­sion will at a min­i­mum help many to bet­ter under­stand what is at stake in our dis­putes and why their oppo­nents think as they do. So why not give rea­son a chance?…

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How Conservative Radio Creates an Echo Chamber of Hate

The real media bias is for the horse race by John Rash

Why the Mainstream Media Are Clueless About the Religious Right by Adele M. Stan, AlterNet, August 18, 2011

The Virus of GOP Ignorance: Why Don’t Media Protect Us From the Lies Spewed in the Republican Primary? By Eric Alterman, The Nation, November 23, 2011 – It is a symbol of our current political predicament that anytime anyone tells the truth about anything in the contest for the Republican nomination, a new scandal erupts…The respectful response of the media to the batshit-crazy statements one hears from the second-tier Republican candidates…is doing definite damage to this country…Gingrich…Cain and Bachmann…Pretending that these people might be president, and hence deserve to be treated as if what they say is true, is not merely unjustified—given that the nominee is almost certain to be Romney—but akin to playing accessory to a kind of ongoing intellectually criminal activity.In their new book, The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age, Randall Stephens and Karl Giberson explain the nature of intellectual insularity of so many in this world, in which “the teachings of dubiously credentialed leaders are favored over the word of secular experts in the arts and sciences.”…
The authors describe “what amounts to a ‘parallel culture,’” where people like alleged “historian” David Barton… abd psychologist James Dobson…proffer phony-baloney history lessons that distort almost everything professional historians know to be true about America’s founders. Reporters representing reliable media outlets are supposed to defend the discourse from the virus of this ignorance. But for a variety of reasons they no longer do so. Part of the explanation can be found in the foolish willingness of so many reporters to treat Fox News, Drudge and various talk-radio hosts as respectable voices in the debate without regard to their motives or qualifications. A second, no less significant problem is the tendency of even the most sophisticated political reporters to treat the entire process as a contest between rival teams and ignore the substance of their arguments and policies, as if politics were simply a spectator sport

The End of Newspapers and the Decline of Democracy, By Eric Alterman, Center for American Progress, Think Again – March 22, 2012

How You Will Change the World with Social Networking by Deanna Zandt, AlterNet.org, July 24, 2010