Using new communication technologies to create communities and facilitate social mobilization is not a new idea. The book Smart Mobs provides an overview of recent trends around the world. What is interesting is how some of these new tools are being employed by teens to organize their own forms of public protest as the US Congress considers broad revisions to the nation's immigration laws.
In two different news accounts of mass demonstrations in Dallas and Los Angeles noted at Community Guy and Smart Mobs, local stories focused on how the students organized independent protests against proposed changes in immigration policy.
From the The Dallas Morning News:
It started with a posting on MySpace.com. E-mail and text messages spread it like wildfire. And with the help of old-fashioned paper fliers, a mass student protest materialized in an instant…In what some Internet users are calling a "Net-roots" effort, a 24-hour blitz of activity by youthful organizers inspired as many as 4,000 Dallas-area students to walk out of school Monday and assemble at Kiest Park and City Hall, protesting the legislation that would crack down on illegal immigration.
Nearly 40,000 students from across Southern California staged walkouts to protest proposed immigration legislation Monday, blocking traffic on four freeways and leaving educators concerned about how much longer the issue will disrupt schools…The protests appeared to be loosely organized, with students learning about them through mass e-mails, fliers, instant messages, cellphone calls and postings on myspace.com Web pages.
Just a reminder for us that not only are social media an important part of teenagers' lives and identity formation, but something that can tap into their passions and stir collective action. Yes, they can be used as communication tools - but they will only be effective within a community context.