Jillian C. York

Jillian C. York is a writer and activist.

Tag: @3arabawy

re:campaign XI: Tools of Change (How Social Media Helped Spark the Arab Spring)

On Saturday, I gave another talk in Berlin, this time at the re:campaign conference, on the role of technology in the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and beyond. My take, as I’m sure you know by now, is that tools are just that…tools, and that a revolution comes from human power, but that nevertheless, such technology has become integrated into our lives (and lives of Egyptians, Tunisians, etc) to the point where it’s only natural that we would turn to them in the case of social movements and protest.

My presentation, which doesn’t include many words, is below. If you’re interested in learning more (as a few folks who attended mentioned they were), I’m happy to also share the corresponding notes, though I warn that I tend to spend a lot of time putting together visual aids so that I can then speak off the cuff. Ultimately, this presentation takes you through a variety of examples of existing movements in Tunisia and Egypt, explaining how these movements were a long time in the making (Egypt backgrounder on that, by Hossam El-Hamalawy, here).

The slideshow then jumps into the question of what role these tools did in fact play, emphasizing their role as amplifiers rather than as organizational tools, while noting that that backchannels like email and private groups (as well as SMS) do exist and do matter. I end with a few key quotes from Egyptians and Tunisians whom I greatly admire, explaining the importance and role of tech in their own words. My presentation ends with a prescient quote from 2008 from Egyptian journalist Hossam El-Hamalawy, who wrote then:

The internet is only a medium and a tool by which we can support our “offline” activities. Our strength will always stem from the fact that we’ll have one foot in the cyberspace, and, more importantly, the other foot will be on the ground.

Check out the slides below, and as always, let me know if you have any questions:

re:publica 11: noha atef on egyptian social media stories

Noha Atef, the Egyptian blogger behind tortureinegypt.net is giving a talk at re:publica 11 on “Egyptian social media stories” to answer questions about how Egyptians have used social media and how, overnight it seems, Egyptians managed to mobilize on social networks to assist in the revolution.

“The answer to the question: ‘Were Egyptians using social media prior to January 25?’ is yes” says Noha, sharing figures about how many Internet users exist in Egypt (21,000,000 subscriptions, 4.5 million Facebook users, according to Noha’s presentation; but only 26,800 Twitter users). She says that Egyptians have begun looking to the Internet as some sort of “magical genie” that could answer their demands. She says: “that’s wrong.”

How Egyptians Used Social Media Before the Revolution

Noha explains that the Internet has been around for awhile, and people have been using it for entertainment, information, and much more. She also notes that Egypt has a fairly high illiteracy rate. “Still,” says Noha, “Egyptians have been using new media. They film, take photographs, of protests and celebrations. If they know you’re a blogger, they’ll ask you to post their photo online.”

She shows the famous Al Ahram photoshopped image of Mubarak leading the leaders at a peace process meeting last year, and explains how bloggers blew the story out of the water by tweeting, retweeting, and photoshopping, then blogging the image again and again, and how that created a scandal.

Did the Use of Social Media Pave the Way to Revolution?

Noha’s initial answer to the question is “yes.” She says that social media, and traditional media, shape the views of the public, and since the public made the revolution happen, then of course media and social media influenced that.

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