At the Nobel Peace Center’s new exhibition ‘Be Democracy’ you can learn about social media’s impact on changing societies and challenging power. How do you use your voice?

Facebook is seen as the mere symbol of social development online. In October, 2012, the company reached one billion active users. Figures from Facebook Newsroom tell us that the site has over 1,189 billion active users each month.

Norwegians are actually world leaders statistically, with 2, 2 million people logged in every day. This constitutes almost 43 percent of the population. As many as four in ten over 60 years have a Facebook account, and one in five is on Twitter. In short: we, as a nation, are addicted to social media!

Through the exhibition “Be Democracy”, the Nobel Peace Center wants to explore how social media changes societies and the balance of power within.

Social media and human rights

The exhibition focuses on how we use social channels to acquire information, to be seen, to snoop, share and be heard.

“Be Democracy is combining images, text, statistics and digital installations. The pictures tell stories from different parts of the world where social media has played an important role in democracy. As a part of the exhibition, touch screens make it possible for visitors to voice their opinion. These statements appear in a large globe, and you can vote for the utterances you like best. In contrast to the digital aspect, you also find wire and pipe cleaners on a worktable. The idea is that visitors can express themselves on a large and colourful wall”, says Kirsti Svenning, Information Advisor at the Nobel Peace Center.

Social media gives everyone a voice. But the question is how do we use it? The exhibition shows how social media has played a major role in development and international visibility of controversies in other parts of the world. For instance, the young girl Malala Yousafzai, from Pakistan, published her negative opinions towards Taliban on her blog. She fought for the right to go to school. Malala almost lost her life, but survived and her fight has received international attention. She has won awards for her work for children and woman’s rights. You find similar stories like this from all around the world.

Arena for political debate

Who will ever forget last year’s revelations made by the American Edward Snowden? He revealed the greatest surveillance scandal of our time, in which ordinary people’s telecommunications and data were collected and analysed by U.S. security agencies. People’s opinions are divided. Some call him a human activist, while U.S. officials have accused him of spying.

One should, however, not frown upon the common web user’s influence either. It turns out that one in three Norwegians participate in various political debates online. All around the world social channels are used to mobilise support from political matters of the heart. This has given governments worldwide a challenge. Everything is much more visible now, even though someone tries to do what they can to stop the impact. As an example, the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan closed both Twitter and YouTube in the run up to local elections, stating that the media “threatens Turkey’s international security”. Also during the uprising in Kiev, Ukraine, social channels are often used to mobilise protesters.

The exhibition uses social media

The exhibition does as it teaches, and is actively using social media on the website bedemocracy.no. Here, it is possible to participate in the debate and influence the exhibition. Your opinions are displayed on the homepage and at the Peace Center. Feedback from the public has been very positive.

“The audience has expressed that they are thrilled and fascinated by the exhibition. Older visitors say that they are glad to finally understand what social media is. The younger audience think it is cool that you actually can participate and contribute yourself. But the best feedback we receive is that our visitors use time to acquire content and engages by voicing their opinions in the exhibition. There has been little nonsense, people use this opportunity to say what they mean in proper manner”, reports Svenning.

Take a stand

Besides the website, Twitter is also an important part of the exhibition, where visitors can participate democratically using different hashtags. The website and participation on Twitters allow you to influence the exhibition at home on your own sofa from anywhere in the world.

Is Edward Snowden a hero or traitor? Do you take precautions against being tracked while being online? Should we allow government surveillance in order to fight social challenges? Visit the exhibition or website and make up your own mind.

You will find the Nobel Peace Center in the old Vestbanebygget, between City Hall and Aker Brygge in the heart of Oslo. It is within walking distance of the Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel, Oslo. Learn more, ask questions and gain an awareness of your own social habits at this exciting exhibition, open until 23rd November, 2014.

How reflective are you towards your own use of social media?