These two postings would normally be as separate, but since their content matter is on the same subject, I have chosen to combine them into the same lengthy response.
When I first heard about The Arab Spring, I felt that I had not heard anything about it. However, as I read further, I began to draw connections to events that I was hearing about. They drew my attention more strongly as I worked with an Egyptian transplant at work.
With this association, I tried to look at the protests and events from his perspective, but I truly found that I lacked knowledge or understanding to get an idea. This reading helped me gain a bit of a better quantity of perspective, and gave me some insights into how this sort of event could occur, and how some failed.
As I read about the events, I tried not to be biased to thinking of the middle east as an unadvanced society. There are many primitive technologies in use with the more advanced technologies slowly becoming pervasive as time presses forward.
What we had was technological advanced urban areas verses rural primitive areas. As the paper pointed out, most of those that participated were young, educated, urban persons. Traditionalists would be found in rural areas, and generally would also be of an older age. Just as we find this divide in our western culture, it has to exist in the middle eastern regions.
So why were there failures? I think it comes down to this specific divide. The older more traditional peoples would be constrained by their view, and experiences in their regime based environments. In theory they would have more fears, and respect for the authority that their younger more energetic counterparts lacked.
So, we have the young urban against the traditional rural. This sort of polarization does not do well to influence a positive and consistent outcome. When the people are united against the government, is when they succeed as a people.
There is another effect that I want to touch on that I noticed. With the use of social media as a method of communication, we return to the Little Boxes concept. Where there are networked communities that interact with each other. This creates very niche like cells where people of very specific mindsets can come together and interact. This establishes a stronger emotional connection in the participants. However, those who are outside that box of thought and emotion, are left without that emotional zeal. The rebellion deflates without this influx of emotional energy and support.
I would like to call this the Romeo And Juliet effect. When people come together, become strongly energized, and engage in their protest. The protest is hard, intense, and sometimes violent. Then the protest dies out, burnt out from the energies within, or beaten down like a fire by the government.
What I found interesting in the paper, was the fact that they never really gave any hard and concrete conclusions or associations between the protests and social media. What the paper seemed to say more, was that there was a lack of evidence as we have not yet collected that evidence. Therefore, we are still left with the question as to whether social media can influence the government, or its people. We still need more data.
As social media becomes more prevalent and invasive across the world, I think we will see stronger ties to events. For example, American political elections taking place are mired with social media. It is used to promote, defame, and spread news, ideologies, and perspectives.
It is important to be aware of those perspectives, and what they mean to the person that holds it. Often times, we see the reason for their actions or beliefs simply by looking back at events that have influenced them. Then consider, how you would have reacted given those same events.
The Arab Spring, is an interesting phenomenon that took place in a partially developed region of the world, were modern conveniences mix with rural tribal ideologies. As examples have shown, new media is borne from old media, and sometimes requires old media to support it.
So, is it the message or the means by which the message is conveyed? I think this is perhaps the most important question of the lot. Is the medium pertinent here? Again, I can only refer to the paper’s conclusion, We need more data. It will be events such as The Arab Spring that will help us gain a better understanding of how society is influenced by Social media and the new media that will come after.
featured image from here