– Start Something!

2009-07-25 at 12:39 am hugege

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Twitter moved beyond its initial remit as a social networking tool to become an overt weapon of dissent over issues of national and international importance. Days of national mourning are declared and practically officialised by an unchallengeable Twitocracy as celebrity after another passes away, leaving behind them their online legacies of micro-obituaries (microbituaries???) summing up their relative importance to the world in 140 characters or less a thousand times over. Green-tinted thumbnails line the computer monitor as users vent their virtual frustrations over the spiralling political debacle in Iran.

What makes these large-scale acts so impressive and unique is their visual dimension. Beyond colours, the channeling of a ‘voice’ in the Web 2.0 age implies size, substance, shape, taking the form of tweets or comment boxes. When we think historically of protest, we think in pictures: Martin Luther King at the head of the podium, his right hand raised. The actions and consequences of The Tianenmen Square protests in 1989, that occurred at a time of worldwide governmental reform (or collapse) on an unthinkable scale, are now almost rendered secondary to the compelling symbolism of THAT man with his shopping bags and the oncoming tanks. The sustainability of our fascination with this image is surely linked to its residual power as an astonishingly appropriate visual metaphor for the act of mass protest; an ‘everyman’ of the people pitted quite surreally against the faceless, destructive and infinitely stronger enemy.

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