But lost in the mix in conversation so far is what’s perhaps the most astonishing development in 2011: the rapid ascendance of a social web that is connecting many different kinds of participants previously left out of the conversation. The Web today is truly more social — more connected, more diverse, more inclusive. Forget, for a moment, the golden age of blogging. We are entering the golden age of civic engagement.
For sure the social web has played an outstanding role in 2011, from the Arab Spring to the occupy-movement. The impact has been by far more positive than negative. Nevertheless there is still a strong climate of scepticism against Social Media and the Social Web. When discussing with friends (and perhaps this is typical German), people more often mention the usage of Twitter and other tools during the British riots. And quite often I do hear that Social Media could or should be forbidden and blocked such events.
I completely disagree: Social Media and social channels should not be banned. In my opinion we can compare the current development with the rise of the free press in the 19th century in Europe. Beside all potential negative impact, beside the danger of manipulation, the Social Web represents the next wave of and chance for civic engagement. Maybe it won’t be a golden age, but for sure the potential positive impact is much higher than the risk.