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The Power of Social Media


29 Jul, 2022

Social media not only allow us to hear what people are saying but it enables us to respond, in real-time, from anywhere in the world.

‘Social contagion’ describes the transmission of behaviour, cultural norms, feelings and emotions from one person to another. The term was popularised in the book Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How they Shape Our Lives. Social media is a key agent in this process and influences our choices, actions, and desires. The web of connection that arises between people forms a natural ripple effect capable of having influence over thousands, and even millions, of people at a single moment – take for example the Jan 6 insurrection of the White House, facilitated through various platforms, coordinated, and carried out as an attack on the Institution.

Urban frontiers are increasingly becoming incubators of conflict and are often well surveyed by social media users seeking to share their story with the world outside. As cases of state violence and violations of human rights intensify around the world, social media has become a powerful means of communication for both those sharing and receiving information. The data provided through the recording of events and the networks of connection between people around the world has made it possible to use forensic tools to trace, investigate and reconstruct global events.

Forensic Architecture is both an emerging discipline and an independent, university-based research agency at Goldsmiths, London. They carry out investigations and undertake media and spatial research focusing their work exclusively on the support of civil society – communities and human rights groups – seeking justice, often on an international scale.

As notions of the ‘truth’ have actively become distorted through social media, Twitter has still consistently provided a space for the supply of open-source data and information, accessible by anyone, in the form of images, videos, and geolocations (albeit with a growing number of sensitivity warnings over the years). When carefully verified, curated, and used as part of a narrative to understand what has just happened it can help to bring an unprecedented level of clarity to a situation, unachievable elsewhere and without the conventional obstructions of truth and justice.

Social media and the networks that have formed as a result have become a fundamental part of societies and boast user numbers larger than entire populations. In the age of media globalisation, and people becoming global citizens as a result, we are becoming more reliant on the information social media provides us than ever before.

The power of social media lies in its ability to act as a catalyst for social change and recent times have shown us signs of such influence but are we prepared for everything that it has to offer us?