Back in February I looked at social media activism in the Pacific and asked 'What's next?'. Well, now we know.
When TIME Magazine made 'The Protester' its 2011 Person of the Year, few could imagine that months later, a little-known Pacific Island wedged between Australia and Asia would be in the throes of its own mass protest. And while this protest does not necessarily signify the beginning of a 'spring' or 'revolution' (such claims were quickly dismissed by PNG's influential tweeters) there are similarities, including in the use of the same digital tools that analysts claim facilitated the Arab Spring.
The political power of social media has always been a difficult concept to comprehend, particularly for those who have not grown up surrounded by the swelling collective of social networks that exist today.
Events yesterday in PNG involved thousands of Papua New Guineans taking to the streets (the main rally assembled at Sir John Guise Stadium in Port Moresby) in protest against last week's vote in parliament that deferred the upcoming election by six months. This protest provides an excellent example of how social media can be used to respond to an incident by strategically coordinating a substantial event with the aim of demanding political change.
For those interested in the details and analysis of yesterday's protest, PNG's blogs trump most regional newspapers (and come with photos, video and links to related info). The best include the Masalai blog, Alexander Rheeney's PNG Perspective and The Garamut.
Yesterday's protest had been in the works for at least a week and popular PNG Facebook groups were used to discuss and debate the details of a potential protest. Over the Easter holidays and following the Government's vote to defer elections, the stakes suddenly increased, as did the discussion on social media, with many of PNG's popular networking channels going into overdrive as the details of a mass protest were planned.
Details were posted across Facebook (and to a lesser extent Twitter), a number of the well-read PNG blogs and via text message. No doubt email and word of mouth were involved as well. Yesterday, Facebook and Twitter were used to coordinate different groups of protesters and to keep others watching live informed:
Part 2 of this post will be live later today.