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Archive for April, 2013

Classism, Accountability, and Social Media

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Even before YouTube and Twitter, incidents like the videotaping and public release of Rodney King’s case of police brutality gave a glimpse of what is now a common occurrence with social media: increased visibility of major societal issues. Examples of such issues are racism and bullying that come to light via particular incidents that gain a lot of attention due to increased access to communication channels. These issues are not necessarily new but the ability for large numbers of people to track them and to collectively reflect and react to them has become more common and at a much faster response rate.

Countries like Mexico, where deep-seated classism and abuse of power are part of everyday life, are seeing these societal issues surface through social networks. For example, in 2011, one of the first incidents of this type emerged via a YouTube video.The video showed two seemingly intoxicated young upper class women in Polanco, a posh neighborhood of Mexico City, verbally abusing some police officers–insulting them by calling them “salary men”–while the officers did not do much to defend themselves. Had it not been Polanco or those women, the situation might have been very different for the average Mexican accustomed to police abuse and corruption. The video caused indignation on social media because it highlighted the classism and impunity that is rampant in Mexican society. The event got a lot of attention on Twitter and it became a popular trending topic under the hashtag #LadiesDePolanco. The use of the English word “ladies” was a clear commentary on classism. Upper class Mexican speech often tends to replace Spanish words for English ones (for example, expensive private schools often ask their students to refer to their teachers as “Miss” and “Mister”).

In 2012, another incident with the same features surfaced on social media. This time it was a YouTube video of a middle-aged man beating a concierge at an apartment building in yet another upscale neighborhood of Mexico City called “Las Lomas.” The incident was known as the #GentelmanDeLasLomas. The same year, the daughter of then presidential candidate, Peña Nieto, was involved in a similar incident after retweeting a friend’s message using the word “prole” (from proletariat and a commonly used epithet for poor people) to attack her father’s critics. The incident was perhaps the first major incident in Peña’s campaign.

This weekend yet another incident of this kind came out on social media. This time it involved the daughter of a government official in charge of consumer protection at the Attorney General’s office. Apparently, the young woman used her influence to have inspectors visit and close a restaurant after not having received the treatment she expected. The issue exploded in social media with the hashtag #LadyProfeco (Profeco is the name of the government office her father presides). The young woman and her father were publicly criticized on Twitter, receiving more than 12,000 and 15,000 messages, respectively, on a single day on Twitter. There were more than 42,000 tweets with the hashtag #LadyProfeco.

Read the rest of this entry » Facilitating Information Seeking For Hyperlocal Communities Using Social Media

Monday, April 15th, 2013

You hear sirens blaring in your neighborhood and, naturally, you are curious about the cause of commotion. Your first reaction might be to turn on the local TV news or go online and check the local newspaper. Unfortunately, unless the issue is of significant importance, your initial search of these media will be probably be fruitless. But, if you turn to social media, you are likely to find other neighbors reporting relevant information, giving firsthand accounts, or, at the very least, wondering what is going on as well.



Social media allows people to quickly spread information and, in urban environments, its presence is ubiquitous. However, social media is also noisy, chaotic, and hard to understand for those unfamiliar with, for example, the intricacies of hashtags and social media lingo. It should be no surprise that, regardless of the popularity of social media, people are still using TV and newspapers as their main sources for local information, while social media is just beginning to emerge as a useful information source.  We created to address this issue.

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