Many tried and true media operatives were amazed, in 2008, at the speed and breadth of how the Obama campaign energized its base thru non-traditional media channels. While it was thought that the issues themselves would be enough to motivate a movement, the Obama campaign gave significant credence to the Marshall McLuhan phrase, “the medium is the message”. McLuhan’s 1964 book, “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man”, suggests that the medium affects society, not simply because of the nature of content, but also because of the framework of the medium itself.
In the midst of the worldwide financial distress directed at the feet of lower and middle class people, many traditional media types, organizations and activists have been amazed at the energy and effectiveness of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. While the narrative content of Occupy Wall Street has not been materially different from information offered from traditional activists, unions, or even progressive tv or radio talk shows, the medium has been radically different. Utilizing social media via mobile communication has created an energized, horizontal participatory model activism that has eluded the traditional organizations.
Clearly the talking head, top down approach to communication and message creation has its place. However in today’s environment, multiple hands-on mediums serve as an obstacle and filter for old style forms of communication and activism. Facebook, Twiiter, Tumblr and other social media are the order of the day for those who want to create a movement of change.
As such, many media activists, and unions in particular, have been quick to emulate the use of new age tactics to re-energize their base and invigorate their messages. Not only do they recognize the wisdom of having a new, younger level of participation, but they also see the threat of becoming irrelevant if they don’t adapt. This article from the NY Times speaks to some of these issues, and is a worthwhile look: www.nytimes.com/2011/11/09/business/occupy-movement-inspires-unions-to-embrace-bold-tactics.html?pagewanted=all