Activism will never be like it used to be
We all hear it... the ceaseless chatter regarding the role of technology in the current Middle East transformation. Some are quick to poo poo the value from toolsets like Facebook and Twitter. At the other end of the spectrum there are those that say the new tools are driving what we're seeing.
My view is that technology is one of many tools used but never the only tool.
Secondly, we won't ever go backward (and stop using new tools).
Lastly, what's important is that we not "meet" the tool's capabilites which exist today but we align with their "direction."
We tend to overplay the hand of new tools. Landing on the moon didn't fast-track people living in space... although many at the time seemed to think it would. Tech advancements shift cultures, they offer new value to how we communicate and connect but they don't substitute for the need to connect with another person. When I think of the race to the moon I tend not to think of it in tech terms... I think of it as a culture shifting and aligning.
The above said I think it's also important to realize we never go backward. Kennedy didn't win the election against Nixon because a critical debate was televised. He won because he leveraged the competitive advantage potential with that new tool. We don't see debates like the one to the left (black and white, no audience interaction, etc). We see every new contest for the Presidency taking advantage of every new toolset that's been invented to enable communication to connect deeper, to raise funds easier and to engage people deeper. Elections haven't been the same since Kennedy debated Nixon on TV (we don't go backward). Elections also haven't been the same since Obama leveraged social networks (the baseline for toolsets changes and advances over time). What we see is a shift... a disruption and nothing is the same after. Here's a great piece by the BBC about how new apps are directly real-time activism around the world.
Lastly, it's important to understand the Wayne Gretsky quote about not going to where the puck is but instead skating to where it's going. If a company wants to compete with Apple they probably won't win by pushing out an iPad2 competitor or a new version of itunes. They need to go past that and offer something better... regarding music, Amazon's Music Cloud comes to mind as an offering going past itunes but in the same direction.
Surfrider's take on this is simple.
We don't seek to be at the cutting edge of technology.
We seek to be at the cutting edge of activism.
We know activism will never be like it used to be.