Posted tagged ‘Hillary Clinton’

The Twitter revolution

February 21, 2011

What do TCD Provost candidate Colm Kearney and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have in common? They are both aware of the potential of the social media in winning hearts and minds. Kearney was first out of the gate in the campaign for Trinity College’s top post and had a well prepared machine up and running immediately, of which his Twitter account was perhaps the most innovative element. He also has a Facebook account, but I don’t think he has yet put that to work, and indeed may not yet know how to do so.

And Hillary Clinton? Well, she has let it be known that she wants the State Department to use the social media to create a channel of communication with young people in the current areas of turbulence in the Middle East and North Africa.

Whether either of them will use Twitter to practical effect remains to be seen, but it is interesting that both understand the significance of the medium. For anyone following the events right now in the Arab world, doing it via Twitter is a disturbingly different experience. Someone recently suggested to me that getting your news from the BBC is like having afternoon tea at the Ritz Hotel, brought to you on a trolley with a table cloth and in a silver kettle. Getting the news from Twitter is like drinking from a street fountain. It’s different, and you need to know how to do it, but you get something that is both more pure and at the same time less refined.

So for example, I have been following events in Libya on Twitter over the past 20 minutes. During the few minutes it has taken me to write this post up to here, a total of 420 tweets have come in about Libya. Some are sarcastic comments (one suggesting for example that the speech by Gaddafi’s son Saif was scripted by US far right columnist Glenn Beck), some are heartbreaking pleas by Libyan exiles hoping for news of loved ones, some are apparent comments from the current trouble spots, some are short pieces of analysis by news reporters, some are announcements by governments and agencies. Is it accurate? Well, the Twitter world is saying right now that Gaddafi has fled, perhaps to Venezuela. The major news sites seem to know nothing of that. By the time you may be reading this you’ll know, perhaps, what is true. So you cannot be sure about the precise accuracy of what you are reading, but you are getting the full force of the news, rumours and arguments swirling round the system. And you keep an eye on the source of what you are reading.

So what about the TCD election? Yes, it has its hashtag, but so far it lacks the sense of immediacy or the excitement that this should generate. Statements there are genteel rather than challenging, and in so far as the candidates are turning up (and not all of them are) they are massaging their voters rather than challenging them to think. But it’s a start, and it would be churlish of me not to say that I am quite impressed that Colm Kearney has gone out there and tried it. Maybe it’s a good sign and we can hope for a communications revolution in Irish higher education. That is what I have wanted to start, and someone needs to take it forward.


So who are my heroes?

September 25, 2008

I was talking with a small group of first year students earlier this week, and one of them asked me who were my heroes. There are of course many ways of tackling this question, but I took it to mean that I was being asked to name people whom I particularly admired and, I decided, who were around in my lifetime – so excluding Charles Dickens, William Wilberforce, Charles Babbage, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and anyone else long gone before I was born.

So here is my little list – as far as I am concerned, all people who made a contribution to the world which left it a more civilised, fair, progressive and humane place. The first is Willy Brandt, German politician, member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), and Chancellor of what was then West Germany from 1969 to 1974. In many ways, he could be said to have brought Germany back into the world community from the horrors of Nazism and the guilt that followed: a visionary, tolerant and determined leader, who pursued and found reconciliation.

The second is Desmond Tutu, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town in South Africa from 1986 to 1996, and a vocal opponent of apartheid but also an advocate for peace and reconciliation.

The third is John Lennon, a complex and sometimes difficult character, but whose music (with Paul McCartney and the other Beatles)  defined a generation and helped push the western world towards a more open and confident culture.

And finally, Richard Branson, whose approach to business made it possible to have a role model for young people in industry and entrepreneurship. And he’s a blogger.

So these were the ‘heroes’ I gave the students, off the top of my head. No doubt there could have been others, and maybe it is of doubtful value to have heroes at all, as this may push a search for values into the realms of celeb culture. But in the end individuals can make a difference, and can influence others to lead a better life. And so, that was my list.


PS. Wendy (see comments) points out that this list didn’t include any women! Many of my women heroes are writers (particularly Rose Macaulay, on whom I may yet blog separately), and maybe some musicians (Joan Baez). On the politics side, they include Hillary Clinton.