A Spring Into Action

The “Arab Spring” has shown how mobilizing new digital technologies and social media sites can be.  “The Role of Digital Media” by Philip N. Howard and Muzammil M. Hussain explains how individuals from North Africa and the Middle East, the Arab world, used digital technologies like the Internet and cell phones to expose corruption and protest their political leaders.  Citizens from these countries started using sites like Facebook and Twitter to bring light to many of the wrongdoings of their leaders and used them to organize groups to meet and protest in the streets.  When the governments tried blocking these sites to avoid the bad publicity, the protesters got creative, where in one example, they used an online dating site to organize supporters and avoid intervention.  The use of social media sites and digital technologies in this situation proved to be successful in actually mobilizing supporters, which goes against Evgeny Morozov’s idea of “slacktivism.”

Morozov thinks that the rise of digital technologies and social media sites have caused our generation to be lazy, supporting causes only online or with a simple click instead of in person actually doing something.  The “Arab Spring” has heavily relied on these new technologies to make a change in their countries.  The countries had rulers of almost 25 and 30 years in the Arab world, and “Each was tossed out of power by a network of activists whose core members were twenty-somethings with little experience in social-movement organizing or open political discourse” (p. 40).  New digital technologies made these social movements possible and easier for these citizens to make a difference.

Do you believe the “Arab Spring” would have been possible without the use of new digital technologies like the Internet and social media sites?  Also, do you think the notion of slacktivism changes in the context of where these technologies are used?

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4 Responses to A Spring Into Action

  1. sdkusin says:

    I think that it is difficult to say for certain whether or not the ‘Arab Spring’ would have been possible without the use of digital tools like social media and mobile phones. I believe that it would have been far less likely that the movements would have been as successful as they were, but there are so many sociological and contextual factors that determine the success or failures of a social movement that it seems negligent to try to make such a statement. I do think that the context of the Arab spring played a particular role on the presence- or more accurately the absence- of slacktivism in the Arab Spring movements. The digital tools allowed citizens a manageable method for gather both domestic and international support and they were used as the primary method for coordinating offline participation. Thus, the Arab Spring offers an interesting challenge to Morozov’s concept of slacktivism. Perhaps the success of the Arab Spring movements suggests that in situations with very widespread and intense emotional feelings towards a social campaign, digital communications tools do not have the demobilizing effects that slacktivism suggests.

  2. mdhaas715 says:

    I too think that it is hard to know whether the Arab Spring would have been successful without the use of new digital technologies. If this were the case, I think that it would have taken a lot more time, a lot more effort to get people involved, and would also have been more dangerous. The use of digital tools such as social media and mobile phones allowed for people to create networks and organize much faster than ever before. It also allowed for people to play the role of journalists by posting stories, images, and footage of what was going on for both people domestically and internationally to see. In this context and for these purposes, I would say that the Arab Spring goes against Morozov’s idea of slacktivism and rather was an important feature and way for people to get involved in the uprisings. Since the political leaders were the ones controlling what was seen and reported on, the use of digital media was an important outlet for the people to show the world what was really going on and thus, was an important aspect in their ability to take action in the way and with the numbers that they did.

  3. srachelb says:

    I do not believe that the “Arab Spring” would have been possible without the use of new digital technologies. In the case of Egypt, as discussed by Tufekci and Wilson, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter were essential for organizing the first day of protests, which proved crucial to the protests’ success. Thus, it is highly likely that the protests would not have reached remotely near the level of success that they did had the Internet and social media sites not played a part in their organization. Without the use of the Internet and social media sites, protestors would not have been as easily able to organize themselves and to spread the word about the protests, nor would they have been able to use this technology to disseminate information regarding the protests in real-time. Taking all of these factors into consideration, I do not believe that the Arab Spring would have been possible without the use of new digital technologies. In regards to your second question, I definitely think that the notion of slacktivism changes in the context of where these technologies are used. In the Middle East, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter were only recently introduced, and thus, I would assume that slacktivism is less likely to occur in those countries than in countries such as America, where these sites have been around for many years. I think that in places where these social media sites are relatively new, the new users are more likely to efficiently use these sites for purposes such as organizing protests that they actually plan on attending, rather than for using them to merely indicate their “support” online.

  4. toriwhit731 says:

    I think with the large variety of revolutionary occurrences in the Arab Spring, the Internet and social media proved to be a useful, and in many cases successful tool. The many revolutions across the different countries were not inherent in the Internet, but rather easily mobilized through the Internet. In class the discussion and comparison of Tunisia to Libya and Bahrain all point to many different revolutionary outcomes, with and without the Internet. That being said, it is inconclusive whether or not without the use of new digital technologies would the Arab Spring have been possible. Within this context, the idea of slactivism only would change given the context in which it is being applied. For the Arab Spring, could you classify citizen journalists posting photos and warning and videos slactivists because they aren’t necessarily participating? Or are they participating by doing so? As stated above, the citizen journalists domestically and internationally were pivotal in mobilizing people. Gven the size of the revolution and the visibility, I would say that it is hard to classify any participant as a slactivist.

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