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David Nassar responds to Douglas Rushkoff

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David Nassar

Hi all - happy to contribute!

The use of the internet in Iran was and is fascinating to me, not so much for how it enabled information to spread within Iran because that seems to be fairly limited but for how it enabled news to get out of Iran.

Most of the focus has been on the tools, and for sure Twitter is amazing. Beyond the tools though, lost in that debate is a strong analysis of the motivating factors behind the successful use of the web. To the extent it has been covered, people have talked about where CNN failed. However, it is not only that mainstream media has shortcomings, which it does. Rather, it is that Twittter and other types of blogs and social media are now able through their own assets to challenge mainstream media for credible reporting. This is historic. If we are going to understand the potential for what is happening and did happen in Iran, we need to look closely at those unique assets that enable the web to challenge TV news as a credible source.

First, there is the quality of the content. People watch mainstream media to get information and because that information is of a sufficient quality to generate credibility. However, how do we assess quality? One way is clearly presentation and CNN beats a blog or Twitter there hands down. However, probably a more important factor is authenticity and the web crushes CNN there. If people believe they are more likely to get quality content from alternative outlets that is better than the mainstream media, they will gravitate towards it.

Another inherent asset of the web is the human connection. What Twitter and Facebook and the others are doing by connecting people is generating credibility by connecting thousands one at a time, rather than all at once through the shared agreement that millions are watching one program. Those connections are happening at lightening speed. If thousands of people are following posts by an activist in Iran, that lends credibility to the source by our mutual agreement to listen to him/her. This is real alternative media but coming to you with a shared sense of agreement that blurs the line between it and a"mainstream" product.

So when you combine good content, with ease of use and the power of human interaction, what you get is the reporting out of Iran on Twitter or on blogs. It's a brave new world. Like any new world there will be risks and challenges, but it is exciting to watch it develop.

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David Nassar
Executive Director
Alliance for Youth Movements

posted February 2, 2010

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