Quick Study

By Brian Robinson

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Social networking for democracy (and earthquake relief)

Sen. Richard Lugar wants the Obama administration and U.S. diplomats to be “nimble, flexible and innovative” in the ways they use social media applications such things as Twitter and Facebook in the pursuit of foreign policy, according to an article in Foreign Policy magazine.

The State Department is apparently actively pushing the use of these and other Web-based social media tools by nongovernmental organizations around the world. It’s offering training under a new initiative called “Civil Society 2.0.”

This isn’t surprising, given the administration’s tilt toward new media. But you have to wonder if the comparative slowpokes at State will be able to keep up with speed of technology developments in this space. I don’t think the resistance in Iran needed any help before people there started using Twitter to organize.

I must admit that the techie nerd in me prefers the more basic -- and in my view more elegant – use of social networking tools. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), for example, is using the Twitter-crazed to help it pinpoint earthquake activity in areas around the world where there aren’t many sensors.

Apparently people now love to "tweet" each other after an earthquake occurs. So the USGS is using aggregated tweets to build up a database that could help detect earthquakes that its sensors otherwise can’t pick up.

So cool!

Posted by Brian Robinson on Jan 14, 2010 at 12:19 PM


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