Blown To Bits

Twitter to Freedom

Friday, April 25th, 2008 by Ken Ledeen

Sometimes its not what you say, but to whom and how you say it. And in the post-digital-explosion world the possibilities are utterly transformed.

Consider what happened with James Karl Buck.

On April 10th he was arrested in Egypt while covering an anti-government protest.¬† As he was being led off to¬† an uncertain future he sent a single word message to the blogging site.¬† In case you’ve¬†never looked at it, in their own words “Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co‚Äìworkers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question:¬†¬† What are you doing?”
When I first encountered Twitter I had two conflicting reactions.¬† The first was “you’ve got to be kidding, will anybody actually do this?”¬† The second was “why not?”¬† After all, I had witnessed inumerable¬†cell phone conversations that had no more content than the central twitter question “what are you doing.”
But I digress.
Jim Buck sent his single word message “ARRESTED” to his friends¬†via Twitter, and it was enough to make all the¬†difference.¬†¬†You can read the whole story on the web here.
From the Blown To Bits perspective this is a classic example of the fundamental transformation that the digital explosion¬†has wrought.¬† Information moves everywhere.¬† The degree of connectivity, the ability to convey information¬†broadly, is staggeringly different from what was available in the pre-explosion era.¬† Twitter didn’t get Jim¬†out of jail, the collective efforts of his friends did.¬† But in the absence of the web, his fate could well have¬†been quite different.¬†
Had the designers of the Internet not created a system that¬†could be adapted for use in ways that were not imagined by those very creators, had they not produced, in Jonathan Zittrain’s lexicon, a “generative¬†technology” James Buck might well be in an Egpytian jail today.

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