Unpacking Kony 2012

Mar 10, 2012
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Why haven't I embraced the whole phenomenon of viral videos and mass social media campaigns? Philosophically, I argue that such phenomena, based as they are on number rather than connection, are more representative of old-style politics than the new. Additionally, as the current post demonstrates, they also suffer from the same failings. The old - based on mass, based on symbolism, based on mobilization - is unable to deal with nuanced and complex phenomena. In order to spread the word, to create a meme, to achieve mass awareness, a gross oversimplification is required. And as Ethan Zuckerman well understands, "these simple narratives can cause damage." He asks, "If we want people to pay attention to the issues we care about, do we need to oversimplify them?"
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