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“Greening” Isn’t Enough

Curtis Gale Weeks, the founder of Dreaming 5GW, has been largely absent from the blogsophere. In the last few days, he’s returned with commentary on the Iranian information war that demonstrates why he’s been sorely missed. In his first post on his revamped personal blog, Weeks ruminates a bit on the “Greening” of Twitter:

“Embattled Iranian goes to Twitter; said Iranian flits about different twitter streams and finds a certain number of greened iconography: depending on the number of Twit streams visited, the number of green-supporters will vary, but no matter the actual number of different green icons viewed, the icons will begin to blur. My own ‘Followed’ stream seems awash in green, but that’s because many of those I follow post multiple tweets in a short period of time, filling up the screen. So one or two of them might seem like a lot of green support. Naturally, any given Iranian can only visit so many sites, see so many greened icons. A short perusal might give the impression of massive support coming from the Twitterverse — even if any given Iranian may only witness a very limited number of Twit streams.”

      While the greening of thousands of Twitter profiles may seem like the mobilization of a movement, Weeks points out, argues that it is in fact “the sound of multiple people clapping one hand in the effort to increase the volume of their outrage.” Weeks then segues into a broader point about the problems of information-age mobilization strategy:

“I do not believe the human mind handles large numbers very well, particularly when those numbers manifest in the physical plane as individuals and individual actions, or representative of same. … [V]irtually all humans naturally believe that individual observations (what happens locally) are representative of the world entire.”

       The problem with “think globally, act locally” is that the local actors often globally extrapolate when assessing their actions. The Internet and the “cloud” worsens this tendency because it allows a person to infinitely copy themselves across the infosphere. During the Iran crisis, for example, one in four Iran-related Tweets was a Re-Tweet. While one could argue that this self-multiplication creates a force multiplier effect, it also furthers mirror-imaging. In fact, self-multiplication is literally mirror-imaging because all you see is copies of your own efforts.