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e-Journal

 

The Emerging Role of Social Media in Political and Regime Change

(Released March 2012)

podcast link 
 
  by Rita Safranek  

Review

Key Citations

Visuals

News


Editor
 

Conclusion

Contents

For all that it does, social media is no “silver bullet” when it comes to political change. “The use of social media tools – text messaging, e-mail, photo-sharing, social network, and the like – does not have a single preordained outcome. Therefore attempts to outline their effects on political action are too often reduced to dueling anecdotes” (Shirky). Factors that seem to impact its successful use include the size, ethnic diversity, and education levels of the population, the existence of a modern telecommunications infrastructure, and the amount of censorship used by the existing regime. Social media has limited impact at best on an important factor affecting nascent revolutions – a regime’s willingness to use force to squelch protests. Egyptian protests grew because the Army would not turn against citizens engaged in peaceful protest. Iranian protests petered out when leaders used force to crack down on those speaking out, both in public and in the cybersphere.

Arab Spring logo
A commemorative logo for the Arab Spring which began on the 18th of December 2010

Moving forward, “the activities of social movements will gain influence only to the extent that they are able to avoid the scrutiny and controls of the state. A challenge for improving the prospects of digitally-assisted political reform in closed societies that must rely on decentralized networks is to adapt, emulate and transfer the benefits of highly organized civil society groups, as bottom-up decentralized organizing is more likely to survive in repressive regimes.” (Etling).

Research suggests that protests, when effective, are the end of a process, rather than a replacement for it. Political freedom has to be accompanied by a society literate enough and densely connected enough to discuss the issues presented to the public (Shirky). “The real lesson is that the cyber-verse gives no side a decisive, unassailable advantage” (Carfano). For groups that have felt powerless against repressive regimes, social media’s technological leveling of the political playing field provides one of the most important components of any successful revolution – hope.

© 2012, ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved.

List of Visuals

References
  1. Amin, Ramtin. "The Empire Strikes Back: Social Media Uprisings and the Future of Cyber Activism." Kennedy School Review 10.15350215 (2009): 64-6. ProQuest. Web. 21 Feb. 2012.

  2. Cambanis, Thanassis. "Weekend: Now what? They Came Together to Topple Mubarak, but can Egypt’s Revolutionaries Agree on what Comes Next?." The Guardian: 26. ProQuest. Aug 13 2011. Web. 22 Feb. 2012.

  3. Carafano, James. "Successful Revolution Takes More than Social Media." The Examiner: n/a. ProQuest. Feb 22 2011. Web. 22 Feb. 2012.


  4. Castells, Manuel. The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture. Vol. 2, The Power of Identity. Oxford: Blackwell, 1997. Print.

  5. Chrisafis, Angelique. "Tunisia Uprising: Gang Violence Taints Celebration of Tunisias Jasmine Revolution: The Sudden Flight of Ousted President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali and His Family has Left a Mood of Confusion and Fear. Soldiers and Tanks Control Central Tunis, but Armed Gangs Continue to Loot and Burn Amid Worries that the Ex-Dictators Militia are Involved." The Observer: 4. ProQuest. Jan 16 2011. Web. 21 Feb. 2012.


  6. Christensen, Christian. “Discourses of Technology and Liberation: State Aid to Net Activists in an Era of ‘Twitter Revolutions’.” Communication Review 14.3 (2011): 233-253. Print.


  7. Cottle, Simon. “Media and the Arab Uprisings of 2011: Research Notes.” Journalism 12.5 (2011): 647-659. Print.

  8. Etling, Bruce, Robert Faris, and John Palfrey. “Political Change in the Digital Age: The Fragility and Promise of Online Organizing” SAIS Review 30.2 (2010): 37-49. ProQuest. Web. 16 Feb. 2012.

  9. Giroux, Henry A. “The Iranian Uprisings and the Challenge of the New Media: Rethinking the Politics of Representation.” Fast Capitalism 5.2 (2009). Web. 16 Feb. 2012.

  10. Gladwell, Malcolm. "Small Change." The New Yorker Oct 04 2010: 42. ProQuest. Web. 22 Feb. 2012.

  11. "Grasp of Social Media Not enough to Instigate Change in Lebanon." The Daily Star: n/a. ProQuest. Mar 16 2011. Web. 22 Feb. 2012.

  12. Hodge, Nathan. “Inside Moldova’s Twitter Revolution.” Wired.com. Condé Nast Digital, 8 Apr. 2009. Web. 16 Feb. 2012.

  13. Hughes, John. "Will Arab Worlds Freedom Wave Reach Iran Or China?" The Christian Science Monitor: n/a. ProQuest. Mar 17 2011. Web. 21 Feb. 2012.

  14. Hulaimi, Wan A. "It’s a Social Media Revolution in the Mid East." New Straits Times: 21. ProQuest. Feb 27 2011. Web. 22 Feb. 2012.

  15. "Information Age: Egypt’s Revolution by Social Media." Wall Street Journal: A.19. ProQuest. Feb 14 2011. Web. 22 Feb. 2012.

  16. "International: No Sign of an End; Tunisia’s Troubles." The Economist Jan 15 2011: 49. ProQuest. Web. 21 Feb. 2012.

  17. MIDDLE EAST: Social media outwit authoritarianism.” Oxford Analytica Daily Brief Service 9 Feb. 2011. ProQuest. Web. 16 Feb. 2012.

  18. Mungiu-Pippidi, Alina, and Igor Munteanu. "Moldovas "Twitter Revolution"." Journal of Democracy 20.3 (2009): 136-42. ProQuest. Web. 16 Feb. 2012.

  19. "New Study Quantifies use of Social Media in Arab Spring." Targeted News Service: n/a. ProQuest. Sep 12 2011. Web. 22 Feb. 2012.

  20. Rash, John. "Rash Report: Social Media as a Tool for Social Unrest; Facebook Helps, but Old-fashioned Courage Ends Repressive Regimes." Star Tribune: A.11. ProQuest. Jan 29 2011. Web. 22 Feb. 2012.

  21. "Reading Twitter in Tehran?; Why the Real Revolution is on the Streets -- and Offline." The Washington Post: B.1. ProQuest. Jun 21 2009. Web. 21 Feb. 2012.

  22. Riley, Sheila. "Social Media One Key to the Arab Spring IT-Savvy Population it Played Bigger Role in Tunisia, Egypt than in Libya, Yemen, some Say." Investor’s Business Daily: A06. ProQuest. Oct 31 2011. Web. 22 Feb. 2012.

  23. Rosenberg, Tina. "Friends in Revolution." International Herald Tribune: 6. ProQuest. Jul 15 2011. Web. 22 Feb. 2012 .

  24. Schleifer, Yigal. "Why Iran’s Twitter Revolution is Unique." The Christian Science Monitor: 6. ProQuest. Jun 19 2009. Web. 21 Feb. 2012.

  25. Shirky, Clay. "The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, the Public Sphere, and Political Change." Foreign Affairs 90.1 (2011): 28-I. ProQuest. Web. 16 Feb. 2012.

  26. “Social Media a Catalyst for Political Reforms” Khaleej Times 1 Mar. 2011. ProQuest. Web. 16 Feb. 2012.

  27. "Social Media Creating Social Awareness in the Arab World." Daily News Egypt: n/a. ProQuest. May 19 2011. Web. 22 Feb. 2012.

  28. "The United States Institute of Peace Holds a Discussion on ‘Sifting Fact from Fiction: The Role of Social Media in Conflict’." Political Transcript Wire: n/a. ProQuest. Sep 19 2011. Web. 22 Feb. 2012.