Monday, January 30, 2012

The Social Role of Social Media

           The article by Lazarsfeld and Merton about mass communication, popular taste, and organized social action explained the shift in public interest appears to be the product of several social trends. In this trend, mass media appears as a comprise for powerful instrument and the absent of adequate control. However, mass media cannot prevent the bias charged by the powerful interest groups in the society, and also, it is a formidable figures. People could turn on the TV or radio but listen to nothing. It is not a mass owned commodity that really stands for the public interest. However, the popularity of social media affect the society so profoundly as is widely supported.
In the social network, the message works as a plausible promise (Eric Raymond), sharing is more like a cooperation process, and socialites work as a core capability in human beings. Thus, the on-line commitment to social events became more emotional rather than financial. Such as people don’t expect pay back by editing Wikipedia, normal citizens posted pictures form tsunami in Indian Ocean and boom in London subway without any intention of getting benefit, and people shared and forwarded pictures of missing people in Japan after the giant earthquake just because of sympathy. It is a fully supported media by the society.
A Successful campaign was happened in China’s “Twitter”: Weibo. It is estimated that 20,000 children are abducted every year in China. Some of them were sold to couples who are not able to produce, while others are forced to beg on the street. Jianrong Yu, a professor from China's Academy of Social Sciences started a campaign called Take a picture, save the abducted children on Weibo to encourage people to take pictures of any under-aged children begging on the street since they might be the missing or abducted children. A lot of Chinese celebrities and newspapers on Weibo re-tweeted the information of this campaign. In only six days, the official Weibo page of this campaign received 415 pictures. More than 3 million tweets and re-tweets pictures of begging children were posted. Some parents recognized their missing kids from the posted pictures. Latter, the police department also involved and came to the locations where were reported by the tweets to investigate whether the children were abducted.

Translation 1: 3:00pm at Feb 1, 2011 (time), Shanggangxu (place), I saw a father and his song were singing for living. The son was singing most of the time. His right hand was disabled. His father showed his ID. The boy was born at 2004. (419 Forward)
Translation 2: at 10:40, Jan 29, 2011 (time), I saw two boys was on the subway from Delong in Shanghai (place). He seemed disappointed  because he didn't get too much money compare to his follows. (116 forwards)

This is the biggest on-line unorganized social campaign that has ever happened in China’s Internet history. Weibo works as a platform by involving free and ambition participants to use cell phones to take pictures of begging children everywhere. People engaged in this event without financial incentive but the sense of socialites, self-fulfillment and sympathies. Social attention becomes a new leverage for bad behaviors such as abdicating children and forcing begging. All these contribute to a positive reinforcement of attention into this social campaign.
       However, as mentioned in the article by Wiener, In connection with effective amount of communal information, the body politic is extremely lack of efficient homoeotic processes. As an opposite of this successful campaign, many homeless families reported that they were forced to separate with their children on the street, because the passengers will take pictures of their children and they have to go to the police department for investigation in order to bring their children back. 


  1. This is the natural development of electronic media. As it became easier to transmit messages, individuals could broadcast messages for different intents rather than purely economical benefit. We can parallel what is happening in China on Weibo with what happened during the Arabic Spring on Twitter. Social media is an excellent medium in which to disseminate messages among a mass of people. You are right that social networks have created a space for people to forward messages that they care about. Social networks are 'social' and its not surprising that social issues thrive on them.

  2. This reminds me of the discussion we had last week on truth. Social media has become a dumping ground for the masses, and now we know what the masses are. This is not to say that there is no good content being shared, but finding it among all the noise, is the trick.

  3. I agree with you that "the on-line commitment to social events became more emotional rather than financial", especially considering those disasters happened in these years. People wrote, shared and commented on the internet not because people consider them as a part of the world, not just isolated for profits like before. I have to say social media is playing an important role contributing to the communication on a social basis. As you mentioned on about the Weibo case, as a Weiboer I can clearly felt the positive effects of social media on the society as a whole.