A lot of ink and pixels have been spilled on predictions about how technology and social media will change the world. But the new technologies still have their skeptics (with some even going so far as to compare Twitter to the Macarena). Last week in Mexico City, the Alliance of Youth Movements convened a group of international activists, government officials, academics, journalists, and representatives of new media companies for three days of discussions seeking to prove the skeptics wrong.
The Second Annual Alliance of Youth Movements Summit sought "to explore ways to advance grassroots movements seeking positive social change through 21st century technology and tools." A quick glance at the list of conference sponsors reads a bit like a Who's Who of old-media meets new-media: the U.S. Department of State, Facebook, Hi5, Google, MySpace, Gen Next, Howcast Media, MTV, PepsiCo, Mobile Behavior, Univisión, Interactive Media, Inc., Causecast.org, WordPress.com, Edelman, and YouTube.
More interesting, however, were the delegates. There was Mayra Contreras, representing México SOS, a group that seeks to deploy technology and social activism to improve safety in Mexico. And Oscar Morales, whose organization Un Millón de Voces Contra Las FARC used Facebook to mobilize tens of thousands of protesters in the streets of Columbia and around the world against the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC). There was Rodrigo Nogueira of Viva Favela, a group that seeks to teach young people in Rio's favelas to become amateur journalists to document the day-to-day life in their communities using multi-media tools. Also Sophie Lwin of Burma Global Action Network, an advocacy organization that grew out of a Facebook group created in the wake of the 2007 monk-led anti-government protests in Burma. There was even Berkman Center's own Kevin Wallen of the Students Expressing Truth Foundation, which works with the prison inmate population of Jamaica.
Attendees heard panel discussions on a variety of topics, as well as case studies on the use of new media to advocate for social change. Natalia Morari of ThinkMoldova spoke on Moldova's Twitterrevolution, where demonstrators deployed social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Live Journal to protest the election results in the former Soviet-republic. Jack Dorsey of Twitter, Steve Grove of YouTube, Kristen Morrisey of Google, and James Eberhard of MobileAccord spoke on a panel titled "Using Social Networks to Effect Change" (which was introduced with a how-to video called "How To Use Twitter To Effect Social Change").
Other panel discussions included "Social Media as a Tool to Promote Human Rights," "Using Viral Video to Effect Change" (which included a screening of the charity: water video), "Social Media and Good Governance," "Building a Sustainable Movement," "Using Social Media for Anti-violence," and "How to Gain the Attention of the Global Media." On the last day of the conference, attendees also heard a recorded message from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
While you can check out the videos of the panels yourself, for those of you that don't have the time, below is a collection of conference highlights (in 140 characters or less) brought to you by my Twitter stream:
- How to turn clicks into action? - Elias Kuri, Illuminemos Mexico #AYM
- @RodrigoNogueira is one of the people hard at work behind @vivafavela. Worth checking out their work. #AYM
- RT @emazursky: The connection between terrorism, mass atrocity, democracy and the need for change thru grassroots is pretty evident. #aym09
- Hee. RT @katiewdowd #aym if you were worried, there was no boy in the balloon and twitter will outlast the macarena
- Chris Csikszentmihalyi of MIT Media Lab showcased a few projects, including SMS reporting of Taser use based on creation of AM waves . #AYM
- AYM panel shoutout to @berkmancenter's own @ethanz and his "cute cat" theory. http://bit.ly/s5bMO #AYM
- Bad guys often using social media tools better than we are. Reason to learn and share best practices. #AYM
- Offer diff. action items, including low investment ones. RT @ricardoblanco: "you are competing with people's time and interests" @AriW #aym
- Question to ponder: Why (or is) technology game-changing? - @JaredCohen #AYM
- Just saw a Pac Man totebag @ AYM. #want.
- Un Mundo Sin Mordaza - use of social media to save tradt'l media after Venezuelan gov't tried to shut TV station. http://bit.ly/22xQ23 #AYM.
- To get media attention, key was creativity. Ask creative friends. Put red gags over all statues in town. - @rockdiamante #AYM
- Know your story, do your homework (find journalists that are in conversation already), tell your story simply- Russel Dubner #AYM
- In joke among UOL journalists- Twitter is down, no news today. Rodrigo Luis Flores #AYM
- If you try and control the conversation with a journalist, you're going to lose. - Russel Dubner #AYM
- RT @mpastrana: Media is media is media and tools are tools are tools are tools. #imnomediaoutlet #aym -vía @ redmarker
Thanks again to Steve Grove of YouTube for inviting CMLP to tag along for the ride!