What Google Art Project, Political Unrest, a Blog on MS Tell Us: Value the “Social” in Social Media

What do  the Google Art Project , political unrest in Tunisia  and Egypt and Ms Lab Rat, a personal blog on Multiple Sclerosis have in common? Over the course of a day, I came to realize quite a lot, actually.

Here’s how it started.

Early this morning, my husband sent me links to the Google Art Project Web site and this Art Project YouTube video.

Amazing! Now anyone can tour many of the world’s most famous museums anywhere, any time. Thanks to Google, you can “walk”  the halls of the MoMA and get close enough to your favorite Vincent van Gogh to see the brushstrokes.

After I got over being starry-eyed over van Gogh’s The Starry Night, I stepped back and thought about the implications of universal access. And was reminded of the role social media played in the recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

Then I made a social media connection much to closer to home:  The recent launch of my friend Lisa’s blog, MsLabRat.com.

And, for the first time, I got it. I understood the value in what makes social media truly social.

The Google Art Project

Powered by Google Street View, the Art Project offers 360-degree tours of 17 of the most famous art museums located around the globe. (Sadly not the Louvre … yet!)

Spend the morning roaming the halls of the Palais Versailles in Paris, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, or the Tate Britain in London – or visit all three  in one  day. Get so close to a painting that you can actually see the brushstrokes. All it takes is a device (desktop, laptop, mobile) with an internet connection. A staple in most libraries and schools, homes and cellphones. See the GoogleArtProject YouTube user page for additional videos, including  Visitor Guide and Behind the Scenes.

Talk about social media/Web 2.0 technology democratizing the world. After all, mobility is not a given  for everyone, e.g. money or physical limitations.

Power to the People in Tunisia and Egypt

Initial reports  of the recent uprisings in Tunisia  and Egypt featured image after image of streets filled with people of all ages and classes voicing their concern and waving signs of protest. Political analysts declare the level of civil engagement unprecedented. And the headline of  a two-part article published by the Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG) poses the apocolyptic question: Are We Witnessing the Start of a Global Revolution?

How did these movements gain so much momentum so fast?  Social media mobilized the masses, providing an historical example of democratization.

Lisa aka “Ms. Lab Rat”

Lisa McKenzie is a writer. An amazing writer. And she has Multiple Sclerosis. Nasty, brutal MS.

Today’s thought trail led me to Lisa and the idea of interviewing her about her new blog, Ms. Lab Rat – Notes from a creature with brain shrinkage.

Lisa’s blog posts are about her experiences, her struggles and observations on life with MS. Not only as a self-designated “lab rat,” but as a wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend and more. And as a woman.

Lisa’s stories are far from morose and often peppered with dark humor. I marvel how she manages to be so frank and write with such clarity.  I may live a thousands of miles away, but through these blog posts, I am right there with her. I  have insights about Lisa and what it’s like  living with MS that I never had before.

Occassionnally, I  am surprised to find myself smiling. Other times I  feel a knot in my throat. In That Which Doesn’t Kill You,  I tag along on her labored walk with teenage son Henry and Jack the dog. And am grateful to Henry for getting her home safely.

Sometimes I get angry. When the “Suburban Soccer Mom” of  The Cold Keeps the Riff-Raff Out chides Lisa for  only swimming a solitary lap completing a “mere” 15 minutes of laps in the gym pool, offering the unsolicited comment, “Well, that was the shortest swim I’ve ever heard of,” I visualize myself eavesdropping a few lockers away, waiting until Lisa leaves so I go introduce myself …

Ironic how today, social media is restoring what  arguably has been sacrificed in the name of technological progress – connectedness, intimacy and community. Decmocracy. Be it through providing accessibility to the world’s art treasures, or to a good friend who lives far away, or  to the political momentum of the groundswell.

Social media encourages us to be more social, and more socially aware. I never fully appreciated that until today. Odd for someone who has been professionally and personally engaged in it for the past few years. Better late than never. And it feels good.

About Alison Cummings

Business Writing, Copywriting, Content Marketing.
Communications + Marketing + Technical Expertise.


  1. Your turn to make me all teary eyed. That was really touching.

  2. CORRECTION: It wasn’t a “single lap.” It was 15 minutes of laps. My pride is at stake! Not that it matters. My body, my laps, my business.

    • Lisa, that is a very important distinction. And in the name of journalistic integrity, this post has been revised to reflect that reality! Though it doesn’t make “SSM” come off any better … maybe even worse. ;)

  3. Felicia Smith says:

    You hit on some of the most profoundly beautiful aspects of social media — sure, it’s being manipulated to silence free speech and human rights in places like Iran and Egypt, but those voices and images that connect us all keep coming through — inspiration and awe via breathtaking works of art, the courage, strength and humanity that Lisa shows us, and the sheer faith and will of the people of Egypt, reaching out to the rest of the world. Thanks for threading these things together; one can’t help but feel hopeful.


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