|PHOTO: Reuters/John Kehe Illustration|
Charles Horton Cooley writes in his essay, “The Process of Social Change” about writing and printing (read: mass media) on social change. He writes that “[p]rinting… does open a path along the margin and give every one a cup from which to drink” (Peters & Simonson 2004, 22). He presents that because printing makes writing available to a larger audience, that then that larger audience can reap the benefits of being informed. He points out that one of these benefits is the recognition of a social relationship to the whole social group (22-23) – that social communication is “the precise measure of the possibility of social organization” (22). Another benefit that he notes is that the availability of information from mass media increases the feeling of freedom of the individual and individual development, or originality (23). He argues that this freer development or originality allows for more development of social order (24). My favorite quote in this article is when he argues that mass media allows for greater social change because of the availability of information:
Modern society… is more like the uninterrupted ocean, upon which the waves of change met with no obstacles except one another, and roll as high and as far as the propagating impulse can carry them (24).
|Photo by Manoocher Deghati/The Associated Press|
Cooley's essay could be applied precisely to the role that social media plays on social change today. In particular, I was thinking about the direct correlation between social media and the Arab Spring. This article in the Huffington Post summarizes the importance of recognizing the role that media plays on social change – even platforms like Facebook, and Twitter.
Raymond Schillinger writes:
Alec Ross, the tech paragon of the State Department, who has spent the past few years merging cutting edge technology with the mission of diplomacy … equated the rise of social media to a democratization of world politics, shifting the balance of power from nation-states to individuals and smaller institutions… (Schillinger 2011).
I would argue that social media and social change are tied to each other today -- and Cooley would agree. What do you think?