In the euphoria following the downfall of the Mubarak regime in Egypt, Wael Ghonim, the so-called “hero” of the revolution proclaimed:

“Technology played a great role here. You know, it helped keeping people informed, it helped making all of us collaborate.”

He said the Egyptian government was “stupid” to close down the internet because that showed the world Mubarak was afraid. The revolutionaries even had back-up plans in the event of a government closure of internet access.

But according to Yale scholar Navid Hassanpour, the apparent positive role the internet played in the revolution has been misrepresented.

In a widely circulated American Political Science Association conference paper, he argues that shutting down the internet did make things difficult for sustaining a centralised revolutionary movement in Egypt.

But, he adds, the shutdown actually encouraged the development of smaller revolutionary uprisings at local levels where the face-to-face interaction between activists was more intense and the mobilisation of inactive lukewarm dissidents was easier.

In other words, closing down the internet made the revolution more diffuse and more difficult for the authorities to contain.

RTFA. An interesting conundrum methinks.




  1. god says:

    Great view from that Ivory Tower. Or Klein Tower.

  2. msbpodcast says:

    Technology is fundamentally neutral.

    It will serve whoever wields it like an axe will or a scalpe will.

    Facebook will serve a dictator was easily as a dick. But the dictator doesn’t have any exclusive claim on it. (That’s why North Korea’s Kim family is so repressive, or at least it tries to be. It knows that the safest way to handle technology is to suppress it ruthlessly. North Korea is the only country where there is no light pollution.)

    Technology doesn’t care. Technology just is.

    Once it gets a hold, it is extremely hard to root out.

    That’s because IT’s so seductive and attractive.

  3. noname says:

    People only can act on what they know. Knowledge of that information and the personalization and internalization (meaning realization) shapes the feeling it creates in an individual.

    You have to be a total and committed nerd, to believe that twitter, facebook, email, sms and blogs are to an individual, more effective then the old fashion 1-to-1 interactions.

    It was indeed the gathering of large crowds in the streets (a diffuse 1-to-1) made possible by government uncontrolled mass communication that enabled peoples curiosity and anger to be pooled and spark the revelation.

    But I think the paper author has a point that the internet is not the end all be all, nerds believe the internet to be.

    Remember all those failed committed self experiments publicized of nerd’s, claiming they could demonstrate and live their full lives in front of a keyboard! I don’t think a cell phone keypad is any different!

    The paper points out the importance, impact and commitment a 1-to-1 interaction makes and how it’s vital and indeed can’t be superseded by the internet, especially when individuals inevitably seek reassurances and encouragement when faced against guns and death.

    The point seems to be, blocking the internet back fired, because; it increased the 1-to-1 interaction which bumped up the individual’s intensity and the revolutionaries commitment that enabled a successful revolution.

  4. What? says:

    Social media is the CIA’s best friend.

  5. bobbo, are we Men of Science, or Devo? says:

    Hey—just like Global Warming===post hoc ergo proctor hoc reasoning may or may not represent causation behind it. In fact, which is more chaotic: human social reactions, or the heating of the atmosphere?

    I might have missed it but a few months ago the thought was that when the social media were shut down, that forced people to go to the squares to find out what was happening, that created crowds, and that spurred the revolution.

    Looks like mix of things to me then: social media to get everyone aware of an issue, then crowds to resolve it. Wouldn’t have had the revolution without both? Or would more or less of one or the other or both have been better or worse.

    We live in only this universe. We’ll never know the what if’s and maybe’s and thinking ANYONE KNOW WHY/HOW groups of people act they way they do===its all BS projection of one’s own prejudices.

    Only very basic isolated facts are ever known to any certainty. Here’s a demonstration: why did you have what you had for breakfast this morning instead of the second thing you thought about? Now, multiply by several million over several years and tell us what you will have for breakfast a month from now.

    but Sea Level is still rising. As a trend.

    Silly Hoomans. Tell us another story.

  6. msbpodcast says:

    In #3, noname brought up an excellent point about the nature of the nature of the internet.

    Its a N:M medium.

    Authoritarian regimes like 1:N media because that is an excellent way of the 1 controlling the N. (Advertising is also totally predicated on controlling the message broadcast over 1:N media like newspapers, radio and TV commercials and visual/billboard ads.)

    N:M media fundamentally alter the balance of power by altering the balace of communication.

    An N:M channel can also accomodate 1:N (like viral videos,) and 1:1 (like email) communications.

  7. Somebody_Else says:

    Sounds to me like the Obama admin. has figured out how to use media/the internet as a tool for toppling dictators.

    They’ve been training people for this at overseas universities, staged every step of each revolution process, and offered military support when necessary.

  8. deowll says:

    #7 Exactly. It can be used to organize revolution but as Ben L. found out it can be used to track you down and kill you. Steve Gibson noted on his last podcast that the illegitimate DNS issued by the Belgium company had been used in Iran to do ~100,000 man in the middle attacks on Iranian Google email accounts. My guess is a few people disappeared. May Allah have mercy on their shades.

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