Monday, August 29, 2011

Twitter: Response to Disaster

This article, taken from the New York Time's media blog, discusses the use of Twitter in a national response to riots and looting in several London neighborhoods near the beginning of August. Astoundingly, the twitter hashtag gained more than 70,00 followers, according to the article.

Through Twitter, a volunteer desiring to help those afflicted by the riots began a Twitter following which helped to enlist a large number of volunteers. The influence of media was also clear in this article when the author, Jennifer Preston, discussed how London police turned to Facebook and Flickr in order to identify possible looters in the case.

Often times, it seems like the realm which media affects is limited to either entertainment or informative news - these social networking tools are viewed as means of expressing thoughts feelings, and information, with no response other than a virtual one expected by the poster. This seems not to be the case anymore.

While this article may have more of a negative tone than others on this blog, I find it important to remember that the influence of social networking tools is far more important than just sharing information about entertainment or news. Social networking is now the tool that helps to initiate real responses to many types of events.

In this case, Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr are defining the response to a national tragedy, something that certainly wouldn't have happened even a few years ago. A post by a stranger united 70,000 people in the face of tragedy, and the means of inviting people to this group is accessible to anyone. The role of social networking tools, then, is clearly more than just to offer information, but it is to unite and affect a community's actions and decisions - a big role for a 140 character Twitter post.

1 comment:

  1. Great piece, and nice summary, Val! I'm reminded of this news item from last spring:

    A woman whose sister was unaccounted for in the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami used Twitter to reach out to NBC's Ann Curry for help--and it worked! It really is astounding how social media have come to define world events for us--take the coverage of Hurricane Irene as just one (very!) recent example.