Back to books in today’s Free Thing, we consider the hoary yet still unanswered question: Does technology make our social lives better?
In Zeynep Tüfekçi’s new book, Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest the main subject is the effect of social media on protest and organization, but it’s about much more than that. One of the technocratic world’s unchallenged axioms is that technology always makes life easier. Even if this is true (and there is much reasonable doubt on the issue), easier has never meant better. In the quest to make human communication “easier,” technology may well have made it worse.
Particularly important is the communication necessary to political organizing. This is Professor Tüfekçi’s specialty. She’s been in the pits with many of the vital protests of the past thirty years, from Zapatista Mexico in the 90s to the WTO in Seattle to Egypt and Tunisia in 2011 to Turkey’s Gezi Park uprisings in 2013 — and not as an academic. Professor Tüfekçi speaks from direct experience, combining on-the-ground interviews with insightful analysis.
The appeal of this book, as opposed to so many others, is its emphasis on practice instead of theory. Roughly organized into three sections: “Making a Movement,” “The Protester’s Tools,” and “After the Protests, the book aims to show not just how digital protests begin, but also how those in power strike back.