The tragic eventsin Mumbai last week highlighted again how susbtantially the media landscape has changed in the recent past. Literally within minutes after the beginning of the terrorist siege, twitter users, bloggers and flickr users began reporting the events as they unfolded. Established national and international news media quickly began featuring the content provided by private individuals in their own reporting. This Wired blog post has some of the most interesting examples of social media tools used to provide first-hand accounts of the events, including the already prominent flickr collection by Vinu. Gaurav Mishra has written an extremely informative and balanced account on the use and impact of social media tools during the days of the siege. He suggests that while Twitter was used heavily to send first-hand news, there was somewhat less original citizen reporting through blogs than could have been expected.
The horrific violence perpetrated against the people of Mumbai and their visitors in the attacks brought out the best in people as well: empathy and the desire to help others in the wake of terror. As pointed out by Asfaq Tapia, volunteer spirit and social media complemented each other in this situation to deliver critical information faster and more comprehensively than traditional news and rescue services could:
Another thing I noticed was that a lot of information on Twitter was relevant and useful (e.g. emergency numbers, etc.) and a lot of info on the news channels was sensationalist.
When I was tweeting and re-tweeting all this information, Mahesh Murthy, the founder of Pinstorm called (disclaimer: I work with Pinstorm). His opinion was that though all this information was being sent out via twitter, there weren’t a lot of people receiving it since Twitter is not main-stream in India just yet. He also generously agreed to host a page on a Pinstorm sub-domain. My sincere thanks to him!
The HelpMumbai.Pinstorm.com page, with all its content was up within three hours and we soon started promoting it exclusively on Twitter and FriendFeed. Our task with the page was to keep updating it with more and more relevant info. Netra called each and every number to verify if it was working and to ask for the contact person’s name there. This was then updated on the page and on Twitter. This is not a post which will discuss page views, etc. but I must tell you that the response was phenomenal.
Dina Mehta was also brilliant at MumbaiHelp.blogspot.com. She was actually able to acquire a scanned list of injured/dead from all the hospitals in Mumbai and transcribed all the 5 pages (with help from volunteers) in quick time. These lists help the embassies around the world coordinate their efforts from their side.
This is another example from Divya Girish writing at CIOL:
Twitter users took up the role of social workers by sending tweets pleading for blood donors to make their way to the JJ Hospital in Mumbai, as stocks were in danger of running low in the wake of the atrocity.
It is a sad tragedy that demonstrates the potential of certain social media tools, but it does so in a powerful and inspiring way. The promise of using some of these tools to create social change is that we can do it together – everyone according to what they do or know best – connected virtually to help and support each other in very practical ways.