Wow – I’ve had the most awesome evening following the San Francisco leg of the Olympic torch relay online. Too often social media applications are used for frivolous sharing and organisation – actually frivolous is not the right word but the majority of photos on facebook are drunken party pics and events are often house parties etc. Seeing Clay Shirky recently really reinforced the actual social possibilities of social media and then tonight it really all came together.
The other day a friend of mine sent me a few posts on Craiglist offering different methods of protest for the torch relay – I checked them and they were funny but definiately showed that people were using it to organise themselves.
Then tonight I got home and checked Twitter – to see a tweet from Robert Schoble saying that he was enjoying watching tweets from people protesting in SF – I quickly searched and found a bunch of people and started following them. Someone tweeted a link to NBC.com who had a live stream so I opened that up – suddenly it felt like I was right in the middle of some kind of multimedia play – NBC reporting with video supplied by helicopters above the streets and Twitter providing reports from people on the streets.
What made it so awesome and enthralling was that due to the protests the route kept changing – no one knew where it was going so people were using Twitter as some sort of bat type sonic / text locating device.
I then found @SFtorch which was a Twitter profile that was aggregating all of the related tweets – suddenly sitting in my kitchen in London I was party to probably more information than had I been walking the streets of San Francisco. People started tweeting that they didn’t know where the torch was headed (as it had been driven off in a bus) however I was was watching the live feed so I knew where it was going – I quickly tweeted @SFtorch, let them know what I was seeing, they then relayed that to everyone following them and BOOM all of a sudden I providing information to the protesters on the ground – shit – this is the most awesome ARG (except that its real) ever.
This carried on for a couple of hours and then the bus carrying the torch headed to the airport and people started peeling off home and uploading videos to the newly announced Flickr video (here’s another one), youtube and Qik.
Having written this down it seems a little less exciting but seriously I was completely pumped – people were chatting about how the Chinese government had informed local and national police forces (and the FBI) that they would be in control of security and the route – the fact that they kept deviating from the route thus leaving thousands of protesters stranded miles from the parade seemed like a nasty trick and a convenient way to present the relay to the media without protest – tomorrow I’m sure that all over the place it will be held as a triumph of American spirit – a shining example of the 1st Amendment that the relay went off without much of a hitch!! but really it was a triumph for social media – through social media the protesters were able to prepare, organise, re-organise when the plans changed and all the while document and then share what happened. Yes it was only a torch but to other people it means turning a blind eye to human rights – this time however the revolution (ish) was televised, and blogged and twittered and flickered and youtubed and I’m sure a whole bunch more.
Oh all this and I went to a talk on social housing and the family – but more on that another time.