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July 03, 2008

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I can definitely see how social media would have changed the distributed information ABOUT the Declaration...but since you're asking how it would have SHAPED the Declaration, that's a whole other thing. We've long understood that our founding fathers built the Declaration, Bill of Rights, Constitution, etc. on the notion that the common man does not know what is best for himself, and the few should govern the prospects of the many. That was easy in a time when most people couldn't even read or write, let alone publish their thoughts.

We now live in a day and age where self-publishing is the norm, dissent is common, and questioning our leaders is old hat. I could see that if Social Media existed in 1776, the common man would have had much more say in what they wanted in the Declaration. I could see it starting as a wiki, edited by the colonists on the whole, rather than by a group of men in one room in Philadelphia. It wouldn't have been as concise, it would have included videos (as you say) of the atrocities committed by the Crown, it would contain hyperlinks to resources such as the Virginia Declaration of Rights or profiles for each of the founding fathers and Generals. (Can you imagine George Washington's Facebook page?)

Of course, since women and minorities are just as efficient at social media, the statement "all men are created equal" would have had a very different meaning. No doubt women would have been able to vote and own property in that day and age, and slavery would have been abolished much earlier. But given the culture back then, that would have been a whole other battle unto itself. :)

A very interesting question you've posed! My apologies for the long-winded response.

Thea--I LOVE your thinking here! I asked how it would have shaped the Declaration, but didn't really answer that myself and the direction you're going in is a really interesting one!

Your point that the Declaration and Constitution would have presumably been more representative is an excellent one. I wonder how the bill of particulars, for example, might have changed if other voices were heard here. What rights would the colonists have wanted for themselves?

This would also be a REALLY cool and interesting HS social studies project, too, wouldn't it? Having kids re-writing the Declaration with hyperlinks, videos, etc.; creating Facebook entries for different historical figures; blogging and commenting with those personas--maybe the blog of a woman, of a minority, etc. That would be incredibly fun and fascinating, I think.

Ok, I'll take the challenge. In the fall I'll be teaching a history course and I'll assign this as my task for the class. These are college freshmen, so I expect they'll either groan or have a lot of fun with it. I'll let you know how it goes and I'll give you both credit for the assignment, natch.

This was a lot of fun to read and think about. Thanks for sharing :D

Dani--I'd love it if you'd keep me posted on this and how it goes. You're right that they may groan, but maybe they'll get totally into it. Personally I would have loved to do something like this rather than write endless papers, but that's me. :-)

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