From Ethan Zimmerman (2010)
Twitter has become a powerful tool for Chinese citizens as they increasingly play a role in reporting local news in their communities. But the social revolution brought by microblogging might be even more important than the communication revolution. Indeed, here Chinese Twitter users lead the world, using it for everything from social resistance, civic investigation, and monitoring public opinion, to creating black satire, ‘organizing without organizations’ in the Guangdong anti-incineration movement, and mailing postcards to prisoners of conscience….
Twitter political activism in China challenges the simplistic yet widespread assumption that social media in the hands of activists can lead swiftly to mass mobilization and social change. Instead, these information-sharing tools and channels promote more subtle social progress.
That subtlety reflects the distinction between macro-politics and micro-politics. Macro-politics is structural, whereas micro-politics is daily. Changes in the micro-political system do not necessarily lead to an adjustment in the macro structure, particularly in hyper-controlled political systems like China’s. But if small units are well organized, they can greatly improve the well-being of society as a whole, bit by bit, by working at the micro level. ‘Micro-information’ and ‘micro-exchange’ can push forward real change.
Why is micro-power so important? In the past, only a few highly motivated people engaged in political activism; the masses took almost no initiative. Passionate people did not understand why the public seemed unconcerned about their efforts. Today, highly motivated people can lower the threshold for action so that people with less passion join their efforts.
Currently, the Chinese Twittersphere has three prominent features: First, as China’s rulers strengthen their censorship efforts, Twitter has become highly politicized. Moreover, Twitter brings opinion leaders together around one virtual table, attracting a lot of ‘new public intellectuals’ and ‘rights advocates,’ as well as veterans of civil rights movements and exiled dissidents. Its influence on Chinese cyberspace and traditional media is the result of this grouping.
Finally, Twitter can be used as a mobilizing tool in China. Recent years have seen an explosion of activities indicating that Twitter has become the coordinating platform for many campaigns asserting citizens’ rights. With the proliferation of Twitter clones in China (all the major portals now offer microblog services), social movements in China are getting a long-term boost.”
- Excerpts from Cool Knowledge