Monday, March 5, 2012

Quick Decisions

I read Shirky’s “Faster and Faster” right before boarding my flight from Minneapolis back to Omaha this weekend.  I showed the gate agent my ticket while still thinking about the passengers from Northwest Airline’s flight 1829 and “Three hours passed, then four.  The lavatories began to smell, then clog, then leak.”

After boarding my packed flight, the flight attendants closed the doors and our captain welcomed us aboard… an announcement followed shortly by disappointing news that our fuel latch was broken and that the flight attendants would need to unlock the main cabin doors.  Our delay was expected to be 30 minutes.  There were three passengers behind me – a Creighton law student, a UNMC student working on both a medical degree and a business degree, and a cooperate consultant.  The three agreed that the UNMC student was to blame for our bad luck.  Apparently, he was once on a plane that sat on a runway for 8 hours before being cleared for take-off.  The cooperate consultant could not believe that the passengers of the UNMC student’s flight did not get compensated by the airport in some way.  The student responded with “eh.”

The student’s grunt of apathy really made me think about one particular issue presented in the article – social media allows the more apathetic and the more timid to become protesters in their own right.

“Faster and Faster” really showed the changes that social media can force to come about – from a Passengers Bill of Rights for airline customers to college banking overdraft fees, from democracy activists in Cairo to flash mobs in Belarus.  Shirky showed that the speed and power of social media really can be used for positive social changes.

I think that the amplification of the less dedicated and more timid (or fearful) voices of change seems like a great power.  However, is there anything we should be concerned about by the ease with which online petitions can be signed?  Gleick’s “On Internet Time” reminded me of those FedEx commercials (see below) – but if we’re all expected to make decisions at this fast of a rate, are we really thinking?  Or are we just going with the flow?  (I’m also just thinking about a protest that high school students participated in when I worked in another school district 6 years ago… the cause was worthy, but many participants didn’t really get the purpose for the protest.  When the TV news crews interviewed these particular students, they ended up making their cause seem less cohesive.)

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