The outcome of the Myanmar uprising remains to be seen. But the visual immediacy of the government's brutality has been exponentially magnified by Myanmar's networked citizens.
As we argue about the marketing implications of mobility, and question whether 'consumers' will adopt this or that technology, we find in Myanmar a people fighting for their rights and their lives with the tools at their disposal. A kingdom historically hidden from the world by distance, ignorance or complacency is dragged to center stage by mobile phones, blogs and email. But it's not about the devices themselves - it's about that to which they connect: the web. The world. The visibility of Burmese atrocities stems from the advent of networked culture. The power of near-instantaneous global distribution of images, video, text. And ideas.
There are three billion mobile devices in the world now, projected to grow to 5 billion by 2010 - and the majority of growth is expected in "emerging markets". Some of those regions have been saddled with oppressive regimes. What will the influx of mass connectivity do to them?
Think on this one for a moment: Could we have ignored Darfur as long as we have if its people documented attacks by the Janjaweed and government troops with cameraphones?
Picturephoning.com has been covering this well - here are some highlights from the story from Myanmar junta can’t murder in darkness:
"...if democratic forces do prevail over the military junta, the victory will owe something to today’s extraordinary communications networks. If the junta ultimately prevails by force, the same technology will have indelibly exposed its depravity to the civilized world.
...the regime won’t be able to cut Myanmar off from the world. It will never be able to confiscate every cell phone. And while it has shut down the country’s Internet service providers, foreign companies and embassies can stay on the Web via satellite.
Some of history’s greatest crimes against humanity, including the Holocaust and the Turkish genocide of Armenians, were committed in darkness. Whatever the Burmese junta does, it will have to do in the harsh light of international scrutiny. Myanmar’s democracy movement has a precious ally – instant, speed-of-light communications – that past victims of brutal dictatorships couldn’t have dreamed of."
From distributed technology has emerged the phenomenon of connectivity - of network and networked culture.
In the world of instant global intimacy, it's a gunshot in Asia, not a butterfly flapping its wings, that can cause a hurricane around the world.