Answering Students’ Questions

Yesterday, I had the good fortune to speak at Professor Lani Guinier‘s Harvard Law School course on Law and Social Movements, along with MIT Professor Dayna Cunningham and my good friend Nasser Weddady of the Hands Across the Middle East Support Alliance. The topic of discussion, of course, was the use of technology in social movements, particularly as it relates to the recent movements in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere in the region.

The discussion was incredibly interesting, and I was honored to be the guest of such a distinguished professor (and alongside such distinguished panelists!). Of course, all of us had so much to say that, in the end, there wasn’t ample time for answering students’ questions. As a result, I managed to scribble down (yes, by hand) the questions, in the hopes that my co-panelists might join me in answering them here. I will thus be updating the post if and when they join in, so stay tuned.  You should also feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section, in case the students drop by to read.

  1. Are media moguls/organizations dictating or manipulating the agenda in Egypt and elsewhere?
  2. Could a Western embrace (either by individuals or governments) of social media in the Middle East and North Africa be detrimental to the cause?
  3. Does Internet exacerbate the “quick-fix” mentality of our generation and is it sustainable?
  4. Can one build up cachet solely online or does one need a certain background?
  5. Is there a difference in the way public vs. private spaces (e.g., Facebook vs. email) are used online for organizing and does one have a greater impact than the other?
  6. Does the social and political context of a country or locale influence the use of social media there and how?
  7. Is there any usefulness in comparing these varied movements in a vacuum?
  8. How much does social media impact people’s ability to take in information and develop empathy?  Are we suffering from information overload?
  9. How does the empathy created amongst outsiders influence the direction of insiders of a movement?
  10. Is the framing of “Twitter revolutions” the same in foreign media as it is in American media?

2 replies on “Answering Students’ Questions”

I also think Al-Jazeera’s role in informing the American public is growing. I wrote a post on my blog about how Americans are turning to Al-Jazeera to help understand what is happening in the Middle East and North Africa. The American media establishment hasn’t been able to satisfy the public.

Just stumbled across your blog today and am finding it really interesting — and it takes on a new meaning now that I’ve finally come to appreciate Twitter :)
I’m esp curious about #10. During the beginning of the protests/revolution in Egypt when the Egyptian government shut down all cell phone and internet communications, a lot of the interviewers and interviewees on AJE were obsessed with talking about how not having Twitter would impact the protests’ momentum. Nevermind that the lack of Twitter was pretty unimportant in comparison with the complete phone & internet blackout. It gets frustrating to see “Twitter” constantly used as a buzz word in the news media (well, Western media at least) without a more serious assessment of its role. How much is Twitter being discussed in Arab news sources and what is being said about it?

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