In her article “Demystifying the Arab Spring,” Lisa Anderson describes the false concept that the Arab Spring uprisings across the Middle East are all connected by similarities. She explains how the revolts in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya were all rooted in different causes and ended on different terms. One of her main arguments is that none of these revolutions were the result of the Internet and she uses the revolts of 1919 as a comparative situation. By doing this, Anderson shows how, instead of instigating communication between participants, the Internet simply sped up it up. In 1919, the telegraph served the same purpose.
This opinion is vastly different from the opinions of critics like Howard Rheingold and Clay Shirky. While they believe that technology can and will foster continuing communal change, Anderson speaks to how technology only simplifies it. Sure, Rheingold’s idea of virtual communities and Shirky’s ideas of cooperative social networks played a role in the Arab Spring. But the Internet only made it faster. Social media shortened the time it took to get people together and spread ideas. It didn’t instigate the ideas themselves. As can be seen in 1919, the ideas would have eventually spread somehow. However, would the ideas of revolution have been as effective today if social media was not a tool? Or did social media play such a crucial role that the Arab Spring couldn’t have happened without it?
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