Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Blogs, Tweets, and Social Democracy

A little more than a month ago, my fiance took TRAX (Utah's local train transit) from her work to where she was going to meet me. She has a student pass, and didn't have her ID with her. She was stopped by a transit officer. He was rude, wrote her a ticket, made her miss her stop, and confiscated her pass. She was very upset about it, and we talked about it with my brother. He writes a blog about transit issues and parenting, and decided to do some research and write about her situation here. A few days later, he received a very polite email from the head of the transit police, who wanted to talk to her and discuss the situation. They got in touch, and she had a chance to tell him exactly what happened. He apologized for what happened, explaining that the officer would be reprimanded, and we were able to get the ticket rescinded and a new pass issued. A few weeks later, she saw the officer again on the train, and he approached her and personally apologized for being hostile.

With the election issues in Iran, Twitter has come to prominence as a way for Iranian Tweetizens to get the truth out about what's happening "on the ground" in Iran. I've even seen tweets warning to not retweet or post follow links of prominent Iranian Tweetizens, so that they can keep a lower profile. It's an interesting irony: They need their voice heard, but their identities unknown. How do you build a following without having any followers?
When Twitter planned some scheduled downtime last week (server upgrade? maintenance?), the canceled their original downtime and rescheduled it for 1:30 am in Iran. The middle of the afternoon in America. I think in EST, even though I live in Utah, because I do a lot with stocks and investments. I think the markets were closed, but barely. It was a beautiful case of human issues triumphing over blatant capitalism. Stocktwits and company had to wait, there was a crisis in Iran.

I haven't closely followed the situation in Iran; I've been thinking more about paying rent, finding a part-time job to sustain me while I get my trading and blogging figured out, and planning for an upcoming wedding. What I have noticed, though, is the new role that tweets are playing. Tweets are the new blogs, and blogs are the new. . . what? Superheros? Guardians of civic virtue?
Maybe it's from listening to the evocative rhymes of Ani DiFranco and Bob Dylan a lot lately, but my thoughts have returned again and again to this new medium. We never intended my brother's blog about the run-in with the transit police to be our medium for obtaining social justice. We were going to pursue the normal avenues: Call to get the address, present student ID to get ticket rescinded, submit formal complaint of mistreatment and request disciplinary action. All of that was made unnecessary by the favorable outcome obtained by my brothers blog.

Should we have to blog to obtain social justice? Should the Tweetizens of Iran have to tweet to bring freedom to their country, or to exercise freedom of speech? Of course not. The world is never quite as ideal we would like it to be, but it's the world we live in. It being the world it is, I'm just grateful we have blogs, and tweets, and whatever else it takes to make the world a slightly better place.

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