Yesterday I discovered World Affairs Council of Atlanta. Today theme was "Democracy. Democratization. Development". It was a great meeting, the speeches I was able to hear covered information technology transformation, development projects and the importance of democracy in achieving sustainable economic growth.
The interesting part of discussion was about social media and the reality. Many credited Facebook and Twitter with sparking Arab Spring. Speakers told the audience this is simply is not true. On the other hand all present admitted that internet has provided them with access to videos and individuals. However the stream of videos and photos and other contents from crisis areas in the world does not necessarily paint an accurate picture. Many referred to the fact that much of information could be distributed to broadcast a biased image. The internet and social media have reduced journalists' interactions with their subjects as well. Many sit in their offices and collect information via social networks. They even let social networks decide their agenda and headlines.
For me this highlighted the significance of personal motives or utility maximization behavior. Individuals do not send out information to tell the truth, but to tell their side of stories. And not everybody is truthful in recalling events and motives. As one of the audience pointed out "we have the information, but what is the reality?"
I think the greatest challenge in coming years is to overcome the asymmetry caused by personal motivations and interests.