Week 14

The readings for this week were about the multiple political movements in several Arab countries from 2009 to present day. It talks about the organization of the movements, how social media played a role in organizing, and how each government reacted. Depending on how the government reacted to the social organization of the movements during the Arab Springs, these authors try to determine what the future holds between the relationship of the Internet and what role Arab Government regimes with play.

Gladwell, again, defends that “the ‘how’ of a communicative act is of huge importance” (Gladwell). He believes that social activism that hold high-risks require strong tied connections. He brings up points that social activism has been successful in the past without the need for Facebook, Twitter, or any other type of social media, and also states that when there is a problem that people feel the need to stand up for, people will always find a way to communicate with each other even if social media were to shut down. He ends stating that “why” people are driven to protest is much more important than “how” people chose to do it. Morozov makes a similar point that social and political changes cannot be made through technology. He says that technology drives issues into dead ends and that it cannot give people the political chance the social activists are looking for. Both Gladwell and Morozov have a pessimistic and extreme view on social media and its effects on social movements.

Springborg also believes that social media technology had little to do with Arab Spring protests. The reading focuses more on how the protests succeeded/failed and little to do with the technology involved, unlike Gladwell and Morozov, where they emphasized that technology was being given too much credit for its involvement and effect during the protests. The readings from this week are too extreme in its views on social media being, essentially, ineffective, when in fact, I believe it’s because social media wasn’t able to carry out its full potential because of the governments’ roles in filtering and repressing the Internet.

Social Media habits are constantly developing and growing in the roles it plays with politics and networking, and certain government regimes have repressed and filtered how its citizens can use Social Media Sites. Do you see this problem getting any better or worse? If this problem does get worse, do you see it making a huge effect on political movements? How do you think social media habits will change, in the future, with Internet filters being a common form of repression?

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4 Responses to Week 14

  1. jordanaltman says:

    I believe that this problem will continue, as many governments are against social media. However, I do feel that it will be difficult to contain people from using social media in the coming years. As this divide grows, it could create even more problems for certain societies. If the government and its citizens cannot be on the same page, more Arab Spring type revolutions and breakdowns will continue to appear. I think that it will certainly have an effect on political movements in the future, because if the communication process on social networking sites is indeed illegal, it will cause a clash between the citizens and the government. Nevertheless, I do agree with the authors that revolts and revolutions, assuming they involve a considerable amount of people, will be difficult to stop. Power by numbers is the name of the game, usually speaking. I can understand where the authors come from by arguing that social media is given too much respect when it comes to the overthrowing of regimes.

  2. bridgethi says:

    I think that repression of citizens by controlling their ability to access social media will definitely make an impact on political movements. I think that increased censoring and filtering of new technologies and social media will cause many citizens to be dissatisfied and unhappy with their governments. If it continues for extended periods of time it will certainly create a desire for political action to change the control the government has over the people. Because actual political change at that point will require some new avenue of organization and coordination, I think that alternate routes (other than social media) will arise out of this repression.

  3. ekaz95 says:

    When governments shut off internet access during some of the arab spring revolutions it only further sparked public upset and interest in joining the efforts. Social media use has become very normative, especially among young people, and by limiting their ability to use Facebook and Twitter it just sends a message that the government is afraid of its power. If such social media sites had been banned before they gained popularity it would’ve been a different story. Now the public is familiar and reliant on social media and if they were banned outright from these resources it would be an obvious symbol of opression, leading to domestic revolution and international attention. Additionally, new forms of online communication are always emerging so it would seem nearly impossible for government limitations on Facebook and Twitter to be the end of social media use in political movements.

  4. Travis Gonyou says:

    I don’t necessarily see filters as the greatest danger to mobilization and activism online. Although, I do see the potential for smart autocratic regimes to create a largely negative effect on social change. The users of the internet will find new ways and new forums to express their ideas and governments that wish to repress will race to catch up. I think that as more regimes use filtering, more users will utilize such technologies such as proxies or find other sites by which to organize information on. However, regimes that use social media to shape opinion and to subtely guide dialogues will find repression as an effective tool to maintaining control. This was Morozov’s argument with China and their internet involvement. I ssee that as technologies, unhindered that is, continue to remain in the use of the public, they will become more commonplace and therefore have a larger impact in social movements and revolutions. Straight denial of the technology as it becomes more engrained in public life could lead to increased internal unrest as well as mobilization against the repression.

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