In Howard’s and Hussain’s article The Role of Digital Media, he finds that there are five phases in the recent Arab Spring that each country went through; all of the phases heavily rely on social media. In phase 1, preparation, is about the activist using social media in a unique way to find each other (i.e. Facebook groups) and to building solidarity around shared grievances as well as to identify collective political goals. In other words, social media allowed the ground work of the revolutions as disgruntle citizens were able to not only connect to one other, but to lament their suffering further perpetrating the call to action. Phase 2, ignition, focuses on a tragedy caused by a government entity that was ignored by state run media, but came to attention online and enraged the population. An example of ignition is the Tunisian fruit vendor who set himself on fire in front of a state building after being beaten by government officials numerous times over a challenge over a fine. Phase 3 is street protesters. As shown in the Tufekci and Wilson experiment, the street protesters at Tahrir Square used their phones to record the event and then shared the photos on their Facebook and through SMS. This caused army retaliation to be light, as solider knew they were being record and the international community was watching. Phase 4 is international buy-in where the digital media coverage (through sites like YouTube) drew the attention of the international community and prompted discussions in the UN and statements from foreign officials like Obama. Phase 5 is climax where the government represses its people by either military power like Syria did or shutting down the Internet like Egypt attempted to do.
In most of these phases, social media plays a large role on how they were able to happen. Although revolutions have happened within the Middle East without the aiding of social media as Anderson points out in Demystifying the Arab Spring, it is clear that the recent uprising are due to the ease that social media has created to share information.
Do you think that Howard’s five phases and the role that social media played within them are an accurate depiction of the recent Arab spring or do you agree with Anderson and her belief that social media role was over emphasized in the news?