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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4 Responses to

  1. Melissa Marcus says:

    Social media was one of the sole reasons that the Arab Spring emerged. The technological interconnectivity of citizens led to the revolutions. Without the social media and technology, the ability to spread information would have been at a greater disadvantage. In other circumstances, the role of social media may not have proven as efficacious. Since the Arab countries were looking at social networking technology when it was still in its developing phase, it proved to have a stronger effect. Although technology is not the only reason for the success of the uprisings in the Arab countries, it certainly was an instigator in creating change.

  2. Lauren Myefski says:

    I definitely agree that social media played an essential role in the Arab Spring. While it is possible that the Arab Spring may have arisen without digital media, I do not think that it would have been so successful. People in Arab countries were looking for a take their dissent and create effective civil disobedience in order to inflict change. The presence of digital media gave these protestors a way to take individualized anger towards authoritarian government and combine it with others who felt the same way in order to create a structured movement. Yes, it is possible to create a structured movement against the government without digital media. That being said, I think that the tool of social media really helps the idea of revolution transform from an idea to an actual uprising.

  3. Tyler Parent says:

    The question that you raise regarding whether the Arab Spring would have occurred without social media is interesting. It is suggested in one of the readings from this week that social media served as the scaffolding in which the revolutions were able to build upon. The importance of being able to highlight the many issues and atrocities that were taking place under the autocratic regimes is one relevant takeaway from this movement. It will be significant if in the coming years social media and new media technologies serve a similar role in the conceptualization of these countries new identities and governments.

  4. jesslinton says:

    I think the Arab Spring would have occurred without social media, but I think it definitely expedited the process. It’s hard to compare this revolution to the one in 1919, because it’s hard for us to imagine a world without immediate communication. Spreading the word about when and where these events are taking place still would have happened, but it would have taken a lot longer (picture snail mail). And once the protesting started, it would have been hard to get the kind of support the protesters did without social media.

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