Social Media in the Egyptian Revolution:Reconsidering Resource Mobilization Theory (2-3)
This article by Nahed Eltantawy and Julie B. Wiest from High Point University seeks to open dialogue about the utility of resource mobilization theory in explaining social movements and their impact by exploring the use of social media in the 2011 Egyptian revolution through a limited case study analysis. It argues that social media played an instrumental role in the success of the anti-government protests that led to the resignation of the country’s dictatorial leader, and calls for further examination of the proposed incorporation of social media as an important resource for collective action and the organization of contemporary social movements.
The qualitative case study method is a useful tool for developing a deep understanding about a particular case, its features, and its impact. The richness of data gathered through this method complements the article’s theoretical framework and is needed to answer the research questions. Although myriad types of cases may be analyzed with this method, the case under study must represent a bounded integrated system. In keeping with this requirement, we categorize the “Egyptian revolution” in this study as the activities and conditions that led to and defined the anti government protests that occurred between January 25 and February 11, 2011, ultimately leading to the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Case researchers examine both common and unique features of a case, with an emphasis on its defining features. In addition, researchers must acknowledge and be knowledgeable of comparable cases, insofar as learning about a particular case is related to how the case is similar to, and different from, other cases (ibid.). Keeping these imperatives in mind, we established general areas of inquiry organized around our research questions and shaped by resource mobilization theory to guide our case study of the Egyptian revolution. Based on a modified version of Stake’s suggested research foci, we sought information about
1) The nature of the case, particularly its development and activities;
2) The socio-historical context;
3) The physical setting and material resources available;
4) The current sociopolitical context, including the use of social media technologies;
5) Other cases through which the Egyptian case is recognized; and
6) Informants through which the case can be understood. Because of limited space, and in order to most adequately address our research questions, the following section focuses on major findings, especially as they emphasize historical, social, and political contexts and the
uses of social media technologies in the anti-government protests in Egypt.
Data collection began shortly after the Tunisian revolution, when we first became aware that large-scale protests were being organized in Egypt. Data collection continued throughout the protests and ended on the day after Mubarak’s resignation. A variety of sources originating from inside and outside of Egypt—including published news reports and messages posted via social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogs—were analyzed. Such secondary data were appropriate for this study because of both the nature of our inquiry and the wealth of information available.
Given the enormous volume of data available, we could not access every news report and social media message produced. The qualitative researcher often must use her or his judgment, based on a set
of criteria, to decide how much and how long a case should be studied to aid in understanding. Based on our prior knowledge and research, therefore, we collected a convenience sample from as large a variety of sources as possible until we had reached a point of saturation and had a good sense of the case.
Contexts of a Revolution
Mass protests filled the streets of Egypt in an 18-day revolution against then President Hosni Mubarak, who kept the country under tight dictatorial rule for 30 years. While social media played a major role in the revolution, there are a number of other factors and activities that contributed to the development of events that triggered the protests that commenced January 25. Under Mubarak’s regime, the sociopolitical and economic climate was both stifling and depressing. Presidential and parliamentary elections lacked transparency; corruption permeated all government bodies; and political conditions for Egyptian citizens were oppressive, preventing free ex
It was in this environment that Mohamed ElBaradei, winner of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize and former chief of the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), gained strong support and later became one of several leaders in the development of the revolution. ElBaradei was among the first to oppose the government and call for democratic reform and social justice. In 2009, as ElBaradei was preparing to retire his post at the IAEA, he began reaching out to Egypt’s youth to instill hope that political change was possible. Gradually, ElBaradei became a major enemy of the Egyptian government because of his willingness to criticize and shame the regime’s dictatorship. In February 2010, ElBaradei and a group of approximately 30 politicians, intellectuals, and activists formed the National
Association for Change; an opposition coalition that supported the democratic call that ElBaradei had initiated.
By Alula Berhe Kidani, 16/06/2012