Social Media, Democracy, and the Arab Spring

This weeks readings discuss the role that social media played in aiding in democracy in the Arab Spring. Howard’s article, “The Upheavals in Egypt and Tunisia: The Role of Digital Media,” delves into the ways in which digital media played a role in “building networks, creating social capital, and, organizing political action with a speed and on a scale ever seen before” (p. 36). Everything began when a street vendor set himself on fire in Tunisia, and when the state-run media had ignored this tragic event, it sparked a nationwide protest. People began to share their opinions on the tragic situation over various digital media such as YouTube, SMS, Facebook, etc. These digital media have allowed people across the world to band together that share similar grievances or beliefs and create change in an unjust society. These social networking sites allow users to share everything from photos, to videos, to text in a real-time context.

Looking back at Morozov’s essay regarding the “Twitter Revolution” in Iran, Morozov presents a very pessimistic view on social media and the impact that sites like Twitter and Facebook have on creating social change. In comparison to Iran in 2009, why do you think Twitter and other social networking sites had less of an impact than in the events taking place in the Arab Spring in 2011? Do you think the world wasn’t ready for these sites as tools for political change?

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1 Response to Social Media, Democracy, and the Arab Spring

  1. stemulka says:

    One of my favorite part about Anderson’s article was that the Arab Spring is too generalized and that each country had its own individual problems and that that leads to a difference in how citizens and the governments responds to a potential revolution. Anderson points out there is a huge difference in who started the revolution, what within the government they wanted to change and now afterwards what changes need to made in order to create a functioning society. I think it is important to realize the differences between the countries and that perhaps do not think of the social media failing in the Iran “twitter revolution” rather focusing on who started it, what were they trying to fix and more importantly look at how the government response. Social media in my opinion is merely a tool that aids people, it existence won’t create successful revolution overnight.

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