"Even when cloud culture does seem to threaten authoritarian rule it is easy to overestimate its power. A classic example is the role played by Twitter in the protests in Iran in June 2009 following the country's disputed elections. Twitter became one of the ways that web users in Iran distributed news of protests and crackdowns, as Mir Hossein Mousavi supporters took to the streets to protest against the victory awarded to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Twitter provided a direct and compelling connection with events in Iran as they unfolded. Original tweets from Iran were passed on — re-tweeted — by other Twitter users in the west, often people with large followings, amplifying their impact. The scale and intensity of the activity led some web commentators to dub it “the Twitter revolution.” Between June 7th and June 26th there were 2,024,166 tweets about the Iranian election. For a few days it seemed as if Iran would provide conclusive proof of the web's power to remake the world. As the dust settled however the complex reality emerged more clearly. A study of 79,000 tweets about the protests by Mike Edwards, a social network researcher at the Parsons New School for Design, found that a third were re-tweets, people passing on an original posting. The majority of Mousavi supporters are young and urban, the main demographic of Twitter users. About 93% of Iranian Twitter users are based in Tehran. Most importantly the numbers do not add up. According to Sysomos, which analyses social media activity, there was a surge in Twitter accounts in Iran from 8,654 in May to 19,235 in June 2009. Part of this surge, however, might have been due to Twitter users outside Iran registering in the country to confuse the authorities. Yet even the higher figure of 19,235 is only equivalent to 0.027% of Iran's population (70,049,262 according to the 2006 census.) A survey carried out by the The Centre for Public Opinion and the New American Foundation found a third of Iranians have internet access. That would mean Twitter users at the time of the revolution made up 0.082% of Internet users in Iran."
Why do I post this?
I am interested in what is claimed - in how I can know. This statistic surprised me - I had bought into the hype around the role of Twitter in the Iranian protests. My distrust of the motives of media and commerce moves me towards an increasing normlessness. Is there anything I can aspire to or hold as true? Leadbeater's analysis of "the cloud" is powerful and expressed with a simple elegance and logic. It has many other insights that provoke new thinking about stuff I thought I knew. Leadbeater is someone who has oftentimes provided a balance to what I hear claimed at educational conferences and read in blogs and other media. This article in The Edge reminds me that I must always seek the measured commentary.