This particular chapter came out of the book Networks of Outrage and Hope that discusses many social movements and protests and how they are all linked because of the use of communication networks via the Internet. The chapter we read was on the Egyptian Revolution and this particular quote sums up the conflict very nicely,
“The Egyptian revolution of 2011 altered power relationships in the country, brought down the Mubarak dictatorship and continued to fight with determination the reincarnation of oppression in the form of a military regime” (pg 78).
According to this chapter the Egyptians accomplished this revolution with the help of online networking and the use of social media sites. Facebook was a tool for them to plan their protests, Twitter was used for coordination, and information was spread further by texting. In this case, social media was a very powerful tool for helping organize people.
At the very end of this chapter the idea of power is brought up:
“Power is exercised by a combination of coercion and intimidation with persuasion and consensus building. The monopoly of violence is a necessary condition for holding power, but not a sufficient one in the long run.”
Power is multidimensional with lots of different parts, but according to Castells, the revolution happened when it did because of a few key components. I put it into an equation:
outrage + hope + internet (where outrage and hope were connected) = overcoming of fear and the taking back of power
I thought it was very interesting that outrage had always been present, but when hope was introduced and people could spread it over the internet was when change started to occur.
My first thought when reading this was, “How are the older people who don’t have a facebook or twitter participating?” It was soon answered, “Once the message sent over the Internet reached an active, technology savvy, large group of young Egyptians,mobile phone networks expanded the message to a broader segment of the population” (pg 57). This quote made me wonder if this chapter is giving too much credit to technology and not enough to the youth that effectively spread the message. After all, social media is just a tool that requires human use to be used properly. The youth seemed to play a large part in getting the revolution off of the ground by using social media and connecting with others in different ways. A hammer (tool) can’t put a table together by itself. A person needs to place the nails and use the tools.
“Thus, Internet networks,mobile networks, pre-existing social networks, street demonstrations, occupations of public squares and Friday gatherings around the mosques all contributed to the spontaneous, largely leaderless, multimodal networks that enacted the Egyptian revolution” (pg 56).
How can a movement be leaderless? I can see how it is possible with the use of the internet. There could be many leaders organizing events and planning things, but it is the masses of people who are connected are the ones who truly carry plans out. When everyone can be so closely connected it seems reasonable that they could all coordinate themselves.
There are a few major things to take away about the internet and the power it has in our lives.
- “…the Internet has become a fundamental right and a way of life” (pg 62).
- “…the Internet is the lifeline of the interconnected global economy, and so its disconnection can only be exceptional and for a limited period of time” (pg 65).
- They had some pretty negative effects when they disconnected everyone from the internet. Basically we can never be disconnected now because the global community is so interconnected this way. Is this a good or bad thing?
This got me thinking about how much freedom we have with our internet (although that will be ending shortly now that control of it has been given over to the government) and how we choose to use it in America. The Egyptians used it for this great revolution to bring about change and bring them closer as a people to move forward. In America we seem to use it to watch funny cat videos and make memes and post about a white- I mean “blue” dress. Most of our online media is also pretty biased and there are few sites that tell you information unbiasedly. Are we using the Internet and social media incorrectly? Should we be aspiring to use it for something greater? On some levels I think we should, but for the most part we don’t have any big social changes that need enacting. We dont have to overthrow a dictator or save ourselves from great oppression. We have the freedom and the luxury to look at cat video’s, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also use it to raise awareness about people and places that can’t use it as we do for leisure.