Importance of Digital Media in the Arab Spring

In Demystifying the Arab Spring by Lisa Anderson, she argues that social media was not a critical factor in the uprisings in the Arab Spring. Rather she believes that each revolt was unique and thus the more important factor to look at is why and how protesters used specific techniques to their advantage in their differing situations. However, I think it is hard to deny the importance of these digital media tools for communication as they allowed the people to be the ones communicating the stories as well as allowing them to organize.

While it is true that each uprising was defined by different challenges and wants, I do not fully agree with Anderson when she claims that since protests have occurred in the past without social media that the Arab Spring would have occurred as well without its presence. Since these last revolts times have changed and these forms of technology have become important resources all over the world. In The Role of Digital Media by Howard and Hussain, they point out mobile phones, the Internet, and social media were one of the few consistencies across the differing Arab revolts. These technologies were used to build networks, create social capital, and organize political action at a scale and at a speed that was never thought possible before. Howard and Hussain recognize that while there had been dissent before the Internet, the Internet helped to organize that dissent. This is especially important to recognize to show the importance of digital media tools for even though each revolt had different goals in minds, they all resembled each other due to this organizing ability, which was due in large part to social media.

Howard and Hussain emphasis the effect and risk people take by using the Internet and other digital media tools when they mentioned the death of Khaled, a blogger, who was beaten to death for exposing the police’s corruption, which sparked a movement on Facebook. The discussion of the use of this kind of digital expression was brought up in Tufekci and Wilson’s article when they mention how many people consider this action “cheap talk,” “slacktivism,” or “clicktivism.” However, I agree with them and believe that these actions should not be regarded in this way for, under the conditions of revolt and the situations they were in, the use of digital media tools seem just as costly as other actions. Do you believe that during these revolts the use of digital media for action should be considered slacktivism? How would this type of digital media use be seen as compared to digital media use for political movements?

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2 Responses to Importance of Digital Media in the Arab Spring

  1. marinanazario says:

    I agree with you on your opinion or disagreement of Anderson’s claim about how the Arab Spring would have occurred just as well without digital media. I think, now, technologies are definitely important in organizing dissent and building networks. I don’t think that during these revolts, the use of digital media should be considered slacktivism because of the way digital media helped spread awareness and organize efforts. This kind of digital media use compares to that of political movements by attempting to mobilize people, gain followers and supporters, and create awareness of certain issues. Digital media is such a huge part of our lives now, that it can’t be disregarded as something that doesn’t have an impact on events. Yes, slacktivism might be a problem, but by using digital media you might reach someone who might actually take action themselves, but without the use of these technologies we would never find that person.

  2. arieloz says:

    I disagree with Anderson’s claim that the “Arab Spring” would have occurred just as well without digital media. I believe it was entirely made possible through the use of new digital technologies such as social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. These technologies helped spread awareness and made people realize they were not alone in this fight. It helped them group together, share their opinions, and figure out logistics for in person rallies. Additionally, the Internet helped spread their protest worldwide.

    In an oppressive country like Iran where Internet use in this context is banned and actually warrants punishment, I believe this is absolutely not the easy way out or can be defined as “slacktivism.” In fact, I would argue using the Internet was more high-risk activism than in person protests. The notion of slacktivism definitely changes in the context of where these technologies are used.

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