By Karungari Kahende
The globe is now a connected marketplace that receives, shares and creates messages fit for a cause and with a particular audience in mind. With the advent of the social media platforms, the role of social media as a communication tool has been enhanced. It is now possible to reach different audience simply by creating conversation within the social media scope without having to go through the traditional media (advertisement). According to the dependency theory by Sandra Ball-Rokeach and Melvin DeFleur (1976), the social media platforms have not necessarily brought about the increase in audience need. Instead, they have presented a variety of avenues to fulfill the audience’s’ needs. The real-time factor has transformed how companies communicate with their audience. Feedback is almost instant, and a company’s rate of response is crucial in retention of clients. The audience wants a quick and timely response to queries posed.
Strangers can quickly become friends due to increase in interaction among different networks. Briefly conversing with a stranger at a party could lead to the formation of a new network when they send you a Facebook request. By accepting the friend request, you will meet new people in the stranger’s Facebook friend list and more strangers. Social networking power is at play. We are connected by a series of friends and their networks. Your friend’s friend could be your friend too, and your friend wouldn’t necessarily need to introduce you. Again, the power of social networks!
The social network theory, formulated by Émile Durkheim and Ferdinand Tönnies, examines how people, groups and organizations interact with others within their network. Social scientists’ interests are in the interactions between each of the members of a network, rather than just the networks of close friends, family or workmates. They seek to establish why and how individuals interact as well as the level of connectedness between group members. The theory further explains how random people are connected. The marvel of social network theory is its ability to examine how social media content goes viral in relatively few steps, meaning a small change in one area can have a huge impact on the overall network. Change travels along the nodes and reaches out to the ties within the network and various connected relationships before being pushed out to other networks. This generates change throughout the entire social network. A network is a set of relationships.
Presently, there are more people than ever before, and they move around more often. This makes it hard to control them, altering the distribution of power. This change is termed as the mobility revolution. As proposed by Naim Moises, the rise in Diasporas has altered business, religion, politics, education and even culture. Migrants bring with them their culture and perceptions, which alter our stands. Some become our spouses, work mates, and friends. International mobility increases interaction among people. This move affects voting patterns, business strategies as well as interaction patterns. The success of long-serving monopoly companies is being threatened by innovative start-ups, the youth are actively pursuing politics while citizen journalism is being led by charismatic citizens. Loosely organized activists are setting the public agenda for interaction with the masses using social media platforms. This all contributes to the decay of the former power held by structures and even police force. In this article, I will be highlighting two social media movers that have shaped online interaction. I intend to link them to the mobility revolution in the digital era.
Brandon Stanton, the bigwig behind this blog, focuses on stories of the human race. The project began in New York, 2010. The photographer desired to single-handedly create a photographic census of New York City. The dream soon grew and with it came a little over 12 million enthusiastic followers. Brandon has transcended New York and now travels to other nations taking photos and accompanying interviews to form stories. The photographer acts as a medium of interaction by posting stories shared by his subjects. Be it a life changing experience or a funny encounter one had, the photographer captures the subject in their most natural environment, along the busy city streets. Brandon has transformed social media interaction by acting as a medium for people to share real-life experiences to drive interaction and create awareness on issues too.
Prisoners have had their cases reopened due to the mass support received from viewers of the blog who transform into activists. The masses are more empowered now than ever before, and so they act as agents of change. By voicing their opinion on a worldwide platform, the public is able to effect change, for example through online campaigns. Also, the mass audience is democratically empowered to voice their opinions without fear of government power. Humans of New York audience have been able to rally behind Brandon on his campaigns that have successfully been executed. The mass support received compels the policy makers to act, where necessary. This surpasses the power that was once concentrated on political leaders and the decision makers.
Muscle power has lost its essence as citizens are empowered more than before and worldwide mobilization has been made easier due to the significant internet users who are connected through networks. When injustice is being practiced, and you need to mobilize the public to enact change, all it takes is knowing the right opinion leaders within the internet sphere to share your story with. Brandon’s unique perspective in his storytelling is as a result of mobility revolution. Having traveled to several countries, the photographer has gained a wider perspective on life, which has contributed to his creative approaches to his work. He does not restrict his work to his native country but travels beyond, all in search of stories to share with the rest of the world. With this movement comes along experiences and improved skills as well.
The Kenyan award winning photojournalist and a social-political activist is not a stranger to many. In fact, he is known to be more vocal on controversial issues than political leaders through his initiative, ‘Kenya Ni Kwetu.‘ His brave actions have hoarded him a significant Kenyan following both on his Facebook and Twitter pages. He is popular for his images during the post-election violence that hit Kenya in 2007–2008 and is also the founder of ‘Picha Mtaani’, a youth-led peace initiative that primarily seeks to create space for young people to reconcile and become agents of reconciliation to their respective communities. Boniface is an embodiment of courage as he is known to be vocal, speaking blatantly on the government’s failures and its leaders. Having been imprisoned severally due to his sharp remarks, Boniface is viewed as fearless both locally and internationally. People considered voiceless or insignificant to the media feed Boniface with news on issues within their communities which he, in turn, shares with his public acting as a medium for disseminating news and advocating for action. His posts are widely shared across the social media platforms channeling awareness across the masses and encouraging a call to action, most times in the form of a peaceful protest or response from the policy makers.
He is well-traveled, and so his perspective on things is seen as revolutionary. Reigning from a country once considered to be rigid in its customs and leadership, Boniface acts as a voice for change encouraging Kenyans to speak out against corruption and other injustices to drive the nation forward. This is attributed to the mobility revolution that has broadened his perspective on life thus allowing him to share his knowledge with the rest of Kenyans. There is a change in the distribution of power as it’s hard for policymakers to bar him from traveling to nations, detailing his experiences and exposing his country’s injustices. Moreover, his projects are all donor-supported by international organizations, which the government has little control over. With substantial funding, this social activist has power in his hands and mass support.