Formulating my response to Malcolm Gladwell’s piece in the New Yorker, “Does Egypt Need Twitter?” was harder than it looked at first. On its face, Gladwell’s argument seems to stand strong against even the most acerbic critic, poised on the titanium crutch of the unbreakable human spirit:
People protested and brought down governments before Facebook was invented. They did it before the Internet came along.
Even on my dourest of days, I don’t want to jump into the ring and argue that people can’t do amazing things in groups. Leipzig, Paris, and the newest battleground – Egypt – showcase triumphs of human organization and cohesion that stand as a testament to a fundamental tenacity and flexibility no matter how exigent the circumstances.
People can do great things, it’s true. But people don’t do great things by simply having the potential energy of the human spirit stored up like a watchspring. Doing great things is accomplished by doing great things, which requires moving from place to place, transmitting ideas, and acquiring logistical support along the way, whether through technology, other human beings, or some combination of the two.
It is that very relationship – the useful combination between humans and technology – that is of interest and utility in this discussion, both historically and in the Egypt situation; the very same relationship that is scoffed off as unimportant by Gladwell in his article.
I couldn’t disagree with him more. This relationship is critically important. Here’s why.