As I mentioned the other day, the Shirky/Doctorow thesis is that the internet in general and social media in particular tend to generate political freedom; the Evgeny Morozov thesis is that those…
Yes and no. Overgeneralization is clearly a form of stupidity, but so is getting lost in minutiae, and perhaps a more perverse one at that, since it’s easier to masquerade as insight. (Not saying that’s what you’re doing Alan — but, it may be one of the lurking dangers of the academic mind.)
Broad trends do in fact, exist. There is value in identifying them precisely, analyzing their impact on the present and plotting out their course in the future.
Intelligent analysis, it seems to me, requires not a particular level of granularity, but the ability to gracefully move between levels of granularity. In fact, it might be the best definition of analysis (as opposed to punditry on one end, and bean-counting on the other): being able to not only correctly assess a particular case or identify a broad trend, but to understand and highlight the interplay between the two.
Understanding how Twitter and QQ worked in the Sichuan earthquake, or Ushaidi after the Kenyan elections, can in fact help us understand how social media (a nebulous term, yes) might impact governance and society in the future.
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