Written By: Royze Adolfo
While there are many amazing key takeaways from my internship at the Berkman Center, the one I value the most is the power of a tweet. Before joining Berkman, I was very much interested in the infrastructure of information access but not quite as knowledgeable about networks people used to share information. Over several weeks of interacting with and learning about the Twittersphere from my fellow Berkterns, I have come to realize how innovative and revolutionary Twitter is as a communication tool, with hundreds of millions of users tweeting as a means to collaborate, share, inform, empower, and mobilize.
While there are many examples of how tweets have positively impacted causes and communication efforts, I reference only a select few in this post.
A few weeks ago, I attended a talk given by Andres Monroy Hernandez, a Berkman Center fellow, and Takis Metaxas, a Computer Science professor at Wellesley College, regarding the tweeting practices of citizens amidst the narcotics war in Mexico. I learned that with the the increase of drug cartel violence and threats to the safety, governments and newspapers could no longer fulfill their promise to keep citizens safe and informed. In response to this change in power, citizens began utilizing Twitter as a new platform to report unfiltered news and danger zones. Through tweets, anonymous sources built communities of trust, credibility, and civic networks. From this presentation, I learned that tweeting goes a long way in keeping people informed; and, in many instances, also keeps people safe.
Tweets have also made it easier to organize and publicize relief efforts wherever and whenever disaster strikes. A couple of days ago, while I was curating a set of stories for our weekly Berkman newsletter, I read about the disastrous rains and floods in the Philippines, where my family resides. Reports have detailed that tens of thousands of Filipinos have been displaced. However, through tweets and hashtags, Filipinos were able to call upon rescuers and share updates about the devastating ongoings. This event has truly showed the positive impact of online efforts in coordinating disaster relief responses. I can’t help but think of the possibilities of more effective and efficient ways to respond to other global crises.
Moreover, in interacting with interns from the Herdict and Opennet Initiative projects, I have learned about the team’s goal to report and collect information about global censorship efforts involving a host of websites and social media sites, including Twitter. I’ve definitely appreciated their efforts, because they have helped me understand and value, with even greater fervor, my ability to opine, report, share, and access information without fearing censorship.
Overall, my time at Berkman has opened my eyes to so many projects and efforts. I have met great scholars, writers, technologists, and smart people… but most importantly, I met passionate people, with real and laudable efforts to promote the positive possibilities of the Internet.
I’ve never quite felt as sad leaving any other space, for I’ve always know that better things were to come. This time around, I truly do hope to cross paths with the great people with whom I’ve shared kitchen space, many meals, and good conversations. Berkman has taken my impression of collaborative work to an entirely new level. I have found that, in any given space and in any given topic, a good group of people can always find a way to rework, re-envision, redesign, and re-imagine a concept.
As Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Berkman truly is a special place that breathes life into these words. Thanks, Berkman, for a truly amazing experience. I am leaving this place refreshed.