Social News and Social Networking: is Digg Really That Important?

Let me begin by stating: I do not know Thomas Hawk personally, and only correspond with him via FriendFeed.

That said, I came across his blog post about the SF MOMA incident. His case (to me) is pretty clear.

  1. SF MOMA allows photography.
  2. Despite its policies, SF MOMA’s Director of Visitor Relations, Simon Blint, personally threw out Thomas Hawk (a patron).
  3. Thomas Hawk wants an explanation as to why this occurred.

I, too, would like to see an explanation. Consider that SF MOMA’s website states:

Cameras: Photography is not permitted in the galleries. Flash photography is permitted only with a handheld camera in the Atrium.”

I’m no photographer and technical terms go over my head, but it sounded like he was complying with the written rules.

  1. Thomas Hawk was shooting with a DSLR (Digital single-lens reflex camera).
  2. He was not shooting with a tripod.
  3. He was not shooting with a flash.

Granted, this is only one side of the story, but if the Director of Visitor Relations personally threw Thomas out… would he, or any employee of SF MOMA, respond to Thomas Hawk’s inquiry? Furthermore, what happened to Thomas could’ve happened to anyone. And that’s (precisely) what made me feel so strongly about this issue. I’m not the only one.

Several people decided to share Thomas Hawk’s story by “liking” or “re-sharing” via FriendFeed, “Digging” the piece, and sharing their Digg support on their FriendFeed streams. The process, annoyed several FriendFeeders, and useful information stemmed from those voiced annoyances.

But the efforts seemed to have paid off. The story went from 129 diggs to 700 diggs within hours of promotion and proliferation throughout FriendFeed. The last I checked, two days later, the article is now close to 4,000 diggs. Since Friday, several blogs have picked up the story (including Boing-Boing, the multimedia Journalist Carlos Miller, Steven Hodson of WinExtra, amongst others). Various viewpoints are surfacing. In just a little over 48 hours, Thomas Hawk’s story drew a lot of attention – both positive and negative. It’s attention, nonetheless.

Frankly, I am not a social networking expert or critic (nor do I care to be), so I will leave the Internet Cultural Anthropology to the seasoned experts. ie: Duncan Riley. I simply love social networking, and only involve myself with the sites I choose to. I also never read comments on larger sites, and… personally? Not a fan of Digg.

What I can say is, after reading Thomas Hawk’s story, I felt strongly enough about the incident to want to spread the word… to get people to start talking. In this particular case, Digg really helped got the job done: Thomas Hawk’s story is now being heard and talked about. Isn’t that the point of social news sites like Digg?

So, his story got a fair amount of attention. Now what?

Will SF MOMA do something about it? Will Thomas Hawk get his explanation? Will SF MOMA issue an apology for the way their Director of Visitor Services treated the man? Is it in SF MOMA’s beliefs and practices to treat a patron in this way? If the “Thomas Hawk incident” isn’t an isolated one, will the photography community unite to prevent this from happening in the future? On and on, the questions are stemming…

More so, will the Digg attention really have made a difference in the end?


5 thoughts on “Social News and Social Networking: is Digg Really That Important?

  1. once a story hits these front pages. It brings a lot of of traffic to you site. Your server will crumble with the volume of hits. this is called the “Digg” or “/.” effect.

  2. Where the people are is where the importance is (often times). FriendFeed can only send a couple hundred to a few thousand visitors tops. Digg can send over 50,000 in a day (as it did for me) and the Digg effect makes sure that StumbleUpon, Twitter, blogs, etc. pick up on the story and spread it.

    Digg makes all the difference – if it did not hit the front page of Digg, nobody would be listening.

  3. As a budding photographer, the story was something that really concerned me as everything I’ve seen from Thomas Hawk has been overly polite and professional.

    The story affects everyone who wants to take a picture with a DSLR, or any camera for that matter.

    This story won’t be over until the MOMA responds and gives an official statement.

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