An interesting tidbit in the news this week -- apparently, students in SoCal relied on MySpace and other digital media (email, txts, IM, etc.) to organize extensive walkouts Tuesday and Monday protesting proposed new immigration legislation.
From the LA Times:
"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."
Not that this represents a new use of digital communications to organize protesters or coordinate masses of people -- Howard Rheingold has written about and documented "smart mobs," amorphous groups of people that cooperate and behave intelligently, despite their size and lack of centralized organization. But this may be the first highly publicized use of MySpace to help give students a political voice.
Hopefully, this recent application will suggest some of the positive possibilities for sites like MySpace, and other techno-social activities like texting and instant messaging. Maybe it will even offset some of the negative publicity and moral panics that the media have been fanning lately. Instead of stressing out about the (low) risk of internet pedophiles, or indulging in fears about inappropriate online behaviors for teens, we should focus on how social networking sites and digital media can facilitate meaningful community for young people, contributing to increased social connections and thereby fostering social engagement.