New Yorker vs Twitter

It began with Malcolm Gladwell’s article for the New Yorker in which he questioned Twitter’s ability to create political change.

While Gladwell acknowledges that some political action has occurred via social networking - such as recent campaigns for Iran and “Moldova’s so-called Twitter Revolution” - he doesn’t believe any of these have seen real change. He argues that joining a Facebook group for change in Burma or changing your Twitter avatar to show sympathy for the world’s oppressed has very few flow-ons into the real world. As Gladwell sees it, “It doesn’t require that you confront socially entrenched norms and practices. In fact, it’s the kind of commitment that will bring only social acknowledgment and praise.”

Predictably the online world responded with tweets, blog posts and rants. The Observer ran a balanced piece on the weekend comparing Twitter and the new York-based magazine. It makes plain the strengths of each media, comparing length by pointing to “John Hersey’s 31,000-word-long 1946 article on Hiroshima took up an entire issue” that appeared in the New Yorker and Twitter’s 140 character limit. But when you look at contributors the New Yorker has Vladimir Nabokov, Philip Roth, JD Salinger, John Updike and James Thurber while Twitter can claim contemporary popularity with “Lady Gaga,… Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Stephen Fry”.

The Huffington Post ran an article that claims Obama was elected based on online support and points to the strength of debate created by Gladwell’s piece. “Look at all of the responses on the Internet that you have been receiving to your initial column. I have seen many. Low-risk, for sure. Loosely-connected, of course. But we care enough to write responses.”

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