|Communication, a photo by Xraijs_ on Flickr.|
Anyone with a smart phone can now be a part of making history. A young man climbing to the top of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo to replace an Israeli flag with the Egyptian one has been transformed (elevated?) by connected onlookers to a Twitter hashtag - #flagman - where postings document his flag-draped ascent, broadcast his arrest and call for his release.
A few months back, @reallyvirtual (Sohaib Athar) was an IT tech until he unwittingly documented the entry of Special Forces into the compound of Osama bin Laden. The world became eyewitness along with him as the operation unfolded.
The smartphone has become far more than a businessperson's convenience, or a technology-lover's toy. Its role in newly unfolding history is as a catalyst for group movements. It allows intelligence to be shared immediately among thousands, even millions, of participants. It enables local and regional developments to occupy a global stage. And it perpetuates a contributor-based information stream that defies censorship and third-party editorializing.
The management of the message has long been one of the major functions of governments around the world. But with the advent of smartphones and applications like Twitter, Facebook, HootSuite and Monitter, no longer can leaders pacify the masses by telling them that everything is OK, or that their country is returning to the "before" state of normalcy. Instead the masses are talking among themselves, and they are sharing on-the-street data about what is really happening. Together they are forming a mighty force for change.