Last week many popular news sites (CNN, BBC, techradar etc.) reporting the unexpected death of pop legend Michael Jackson caused a world-wide slow down of the Internet which caused many popular engagement channels such as Twitter to crash!
His death generated the most tweets per second on Twitter since Barack Obama was elected president. In fact many of my friends in remote locations at festivals such as Glastonbury (UK) learned of the shocking news through SMS and Twitter on their mobiles, Blackberry’s and iPhones as cyberspace began to go into frenzy.
This event raised many fundamental issues about the capacity of the internet that is critical to participation and democracy, as well as highlighting the global difference in how countries trust official and unofficial sources of information
For example, the “Michael Jackson outage” on the net (caused by the West accessing many ‘official’ sources of trusted information) resulted in many users who were finding the tool critical for organising protest in Iran unable to access their usual sources of ‘unofficial’ information, thereby effectively delaying demonstrations.
Ironically, despite the mainly unsuccessful efforts of the Iranian regime to shut down participation in the form of protests by denying citizens access to technology, it was actually the West who temporarily (albeit unintentionally) succeeded in achieving this feat through its overuse.
A clash of hunger for knowledge from official sources vs. the need to organize knowledge against official sources does raise interesting contrasts and demonstrates how far new media has the ability to focus our thoughts and actions in a modern world.