Reviewing the Importance of Technology in Revolutions

More than six months ago I wrote an article called “I have problems with the term ‘Twitter Revolution’.” And I really did. I thought that calling the role of technology in distributing information and reporting on the events a ‘revolution’ was undermining those who were actively participating in the revolts.

And it’s still the case. Wolfsfeld, Segev and Sheafer have researched “Social Media and the Arab Spring” and have come up with two main theological principles. That we can’t define the role of social media without political contextualisation. But also that the most social media interest happens after significant events, not before them. Just as Mohamed Bouazizi setting himself on fire in December 2010 and the following social media flurry became a catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution. 

However there is still a problem with this ‘sharing’ culture. Newsom and Lengel show that although western countries are less overt in their gatekeeping the stories that are chosen to be shared are still open to manipulation and bias because of our own frameworks and news values. A story of a young women standing up to oppressors could be viewed as having a better angle than that of an educated male in a similar story, and as such our social media would support that more… 

Doing Communication and Media Studies these are the type of case studies that get discussed frequently. We analyse the role of social media, and I am always skeptical. But this time one of my peers shared this video:

“It played not really a huge role in organising it but shhh don’t tell anyone. Otherwise nobody will pay any attention to this tiny country in north Africa” (On the Jasmine Revolution)

He goes on to say that the activist said that “the media cares about us because they think there’s this sort of technological revolution that’s happening…”

And that’s the thing that changed my perspective. I still think that there are issues with using the term, and that there are issues of legitimacy and ‘facts’ when it comes to reporting from social media. However, if it means the stories of those who might otherwise be voiceless are heard then how can you remain stoic?

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