The Arab Spring and the Role of ICTs (3-3)
The wake-up call for millions of people in Arab countries is now. It began with the events of the Tunisian uprising in December 2010 and proliferated, leading to similar revolts later, in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, and other Arab nations. This article was written by Ilhem Allagui of American University of Sharjah and Johanne Kuebler of European University Institute
Although officially outlawed for the last 50 years, the Muslim Brotherhood has, contrary to Ennahda in Tunisia, been able to participate in political life by campaigning as independents and by building a strong social network of hospitals, pharmacies, and schools among others. While the movement has vowed to refrain from picking a presidential candidate from among its ranks, the struggle for power between the movement and the army is one of the big challenges that Egypt faces in the aftermath of the revolution.
Developments are ongoing in both Tunisia and Egypt, so it is premature to attempt to assess the success of either revolution. More time, further research and careful examination of these events in relation to the history of both countries is needed to understand the complexity of the recent uprisings.
Nevertheless, the collection of articles in this special section initiates a discussion on the role of digital media in the current Mid-East social transformations. Authors have worked within a very short time frame to present their initial thoughts and make sense of the ongoing changes in the Arab world.
Albrecht Hofheinz appeals to researchers to search beyond the political and the public sphere for more long-term socio-cultural developments created by new media. He calls for the study of the social and cultural effects of Internet and mobile phone use and how this affects power relationships between the individual and established authorities.
Victoria Ann Newsom, Lara Lengel, and Catherine Cassara discuss how information flows—helped by modern information technology—transport local knowledge from a very specific local context onto a global stage.
Nahed Eltantawy and Julie B. Wiest analyze use of social media during the recent social movements in light of resource mobilization theory. They argue that social media played an instrumental role in the success of the antigovernment protests and call for further examination of the proposed incorporation of social media as an important resource for both collective action and the organization of contemporary social movements.
Miriyam Aouragh and Anne Alexander set out to deconstruct the debate about the role of the Internet in mobilizations for political and social change, distinguishing between the Internet as a sphere of dissidence and as a tool in the Egyptian protests. They show the dialectical relationship between online and offline political action, as well as how activists used both digital and non-digital communication tools according to the circumstances.
Ben Wagner sheds light on how regulatory regimes of media and communications technologies, such as Internet, television and mobile phones in Tunisia, have coevolved with the protests while efforts to control them gradually become increasingly restrictive over that period.
Eike M. Rinke and Maria Röder propose a new model of political communication in contemporary Arab societies more generally, relying on three components to grasp the Egyptian regime change: the media ecologies, communication culture, and temporal-spatial unfolding of events.
Brett van Niekerk, Kiru Pillay, and Manoj Maharaj analyze the recent events in Tunisia and Egypt from an information warfare perspective through the use of the Information Warfare Lifecycle Model, extracting the functions that the relevant ICTs performed in the uprisings and the attempts by the two governments to subdue protestors.
Rolf H. Weber elucidates the legal framework for the Internet to assess under what circumstances a governmental shut-down would be justified. He identifies the issue of shared responsibilities of states to preserve the Internet—both infrastructure and cross-border traffic—as a means to safeguard freedom of ex
How the Internet Affects Journalism Coverage
Adrienne Russell stresses the end of monopolization on political news information with the advent of digital networked-era journalism as a response to censorship in Egypt, as well as to traditional international media outlets turning to citizen journalists and networked participants to relay the events.
Elizabeth Iskander highlights the specific context in Egypt to explain why new media played a crucial role during the protests and how the connection between new and traditional media can create a new channel for political debate and activism in the long term.
Summer Harlow and Thomas J. Johnson compare Egyptian protest coverage from three sources—The New York Times, the Twitter feed of Times reporter Nick Kristof, and the citizen media site Global Voices—to test whether the delegitimizing protest paradigm found in mainstream media is replicated in social media and blogs and what impact their protest coverage has on their credibility.
Empirical Data Sets
Gilad Lotan et al. provide a glimpse of the information flow during the Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions through a set of tweets, analyzing patterns of sourcing and routing information between media outlets and individuals, as well as the distinct roles that particular user types appear to have played.
Christopher Wilson and Alexandra Dunn present empirical data on media use by protesters, coordinators, and transnational audiences during the Egyptian protests. A preliminary analysis suggests that social media use was not dominant in demonstrations, but did play an important, yet complex, role in connecting and motivating protesters.
Analysis of the Contribution of Specific Websites/Online Practices
Melissa Wall and Sahar El Zahed examine a series of video logs that were highly influential during the Egyptian protests to ponder the ways that participatory and social media may be changing or influencing protest and dissent in non-Western settings. Michela Ferron and Paolo Massa show how the online encyclopedia Wikipedia functions as an online setting in which collective memories about controversial and traumatic events are built in a collaborative way.
By Alula Berhe Kidani, 26/06/2012