The ‘Arab Spring’ In Space…

If I recall rightly there were questions raised in our last seminar about the place of social (internet) networking as an actor in its own right as a globalizing force.  The comment was made that it was probably better thought of as simply a ‘medium’ for various actors.  It is then a globalizing force only in so far as it allows global actors to network.  All this was made with particular reference to the ‘Arab Spring’*.  I guess this blog is essentially a follow up on that conversation.

It got me thinking about social networking’s place in the Egyptian Revolution where it played a prominent role.  The Al-Jazeera Blogs played a pivotal role where the demonstrators at Tahrir Square used them to get strategic advice from anyone who bothered to read these public forums.  On a more local level text messaging helped galvanize the local population, quickly giving the uprising (the) mass(es) it needed.  What it effectively did was create a space for strategizing and therefore a sense of global activism.  This happened to a much lesser extent in the Libyan Revolution where the initial uprising quickly turned into a short, sharp civil war.  As far as I can see it, it is playing an almost insignificant role in shaping what is happening in Syria.

However, in addition to simply facilitating the flow of information, the Internet, and technology in general, also facilitated a different sense of space.  And I think this concept of ‘space’ has been incredibly influential in the machinations of these uprisings.  In a sense, all roads led to Tahrir Square and Benghazi during the respective Egyptian and Libyan uprisings/revolutions.  Both were ‘resolved’ in a finite time.  I wonder if there is a link.  Syria’s uprising looks as though it will become protracted and this might be because it lacks spatial focus; the Free Syrian Army is based in, and operating out of, Turkey and Lebanon.  The Syrian National Council’s leaders are based in Europe (and Paris in particular).  Added to this are small community uprising in towns and villages not affiliated with, or often even in contact with, either, of the aforementioned groups.  Basically there are no mass rallies in Damascus (for example), and much less networking that would provide a sense of cohesiveness.

It’s a completely untested theory of mine (more a hypothesis I guess).  But I think a movement focused spatially towards a particularly city/square/region is given an extra dynamic that helps drive it to it’s conclusion.

Perhaps this is where social networking comes back in.  It helped the movement in Tahrir Square achieve a global dynamic that gave the movement an epicenter and therefore a critical mass.  And it is this one of many things that is lacking in Syria.

From my own personal experience in Syria, and Damascus in particular, the internet is still relatively rare.  Syria having just embarked on aggressive modernizing ‘thanks’ to Assad 2.0.  Broadband is practically nonexistent, internet cafés are few and far between, and if you want to use Facebook, Twitter, etc. you have to know how to redirect to a proxy server (based in Lebanon) to get access as many of these sites are barred in Syria.  The last I heard Syrian authorities were now confiscating smartphones, etc., as they found them, to try and cut down on social networking (and they were only any good when you could get a signal).

Just my synapses firing off an idea…

Glenn.

*I think the term ‘Arab Spring’ is a particularly pernicious noun for such a large phenomena which has encompassed a relatively peaceful revolution in Egypt to that which unfolded in Libya and that which is still unfolding(?) in Syria.  ‘Spring’ denotes concepts of renewal and the burgeoning of something necessarily good.  Here people are dying.  Incidentally the Arab World is calling it for what it is; ‘Al-Thuraat Al-Arabia’ (obviously a transliteration), that is ‘Arab Revolutions’.  Much more preferable I think.

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4 comments on “The ‘Arab Spring’ In Space…

  1. ryankf says:

    initial thoughts after reading: movements for social change are only as good as they are organized. Change movements have existed for most of human history if not all, and only really in the past 20-years has anyone had access to things like e-mail and the internet. Since they’ve happened before the advent of today’s tech is important to wonder if Twitter/Facebook/etc. matter?

    Strong and recognized leadership tactful enough to tap into an emotional motivating sentiment will always use the technology of the day, be that the printing press or an iPhone.

    I do think geography plays a role as well. Focused messaged with calls to action and an explicit desired outcome will generally be more effectual than broad undefined wishes coming from Paris or London when the issues they’re talking about are in Lebanon and Syria.

    Technology is a tool like any other (leaflets, posters, propaganda art, speeches, etc.). Does the tool make the difference or the craftsman?

    I say the craftsman.

    • frassminggi says:

      Al Jazeera, as the information media, is more powerful than a weapon because it constructing public opinion and portraying reality. Because of this systematic propaganda people can be deaf, dumb, and blind regarding what is right. This is known as “CNN effect”. Before we get further, we must know that Al Jazeera serves Zionist-Israeli interests in the region. They are the craftsman. I think Al Jazeera is like a media propaganda benefiting Israel to depict more and more atrocities Israel oppression (for sure, not all Israeli doing this) to Palestinian people in order to attract more and more rage from Arab people. In this regard, then we must see carefully of so-called Arab Spring. I think we have to make distinction between so-called spontaneous Arab Uprising in Tunisia, in Egypt, etc., and pre-planned and armed insurrection in Libya and now in Syria. Arab Uprising for me appears like Arab Slaughtering.

      Now, Al Jazeera portrays that world of Islam is rising and all the secular government backed-by US will be swept away and “authentic government” representing Muslim emerged. And therefore the Jews is under threat because this is the most dangerous time that portrayed by Al Jazeera. Consequently, if Israel is not doing something they will slaughtered by these Muslim fanatics. This is like Hollywood drama and in this scenario Israel will do pre-emptive strike in order to prevent the state of Israel being destroyed and to protect Jews form outrage Muslim. In my humble opinion it will be a dazzling display state-of-art military technologies and the transition of power from Pax Americana to Pax Judaeca will be happen just as US emerged as a ruling state replacing Britain from act of terrorism in Sarajevo and culminated with WW II. So this strike will appear as though Israel defending herself. This is deception. This kind of deception you can see in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuZbfy1dOeU.

  2. Katia S. says:

    Before I reply on the conspirancy theories that pop up in this blog every now and again, I first of all want to agree with both what Ryan and Genn mentioned in the beginning.
    I do a paper on political reprentation and participation and coincidentally, we just discussed forms of protests and characteristics this week. We actually found out that protests and demonstrations are more likely to occur in open democracies and less likely to happen in cosed democracies. The country where people are actually protesting the most is Sweden. This relates to the fact that people actually have the right to protest there and can actually go on the streets and shout out their opinion (as long as this opinion does not goes against the constitution, for example you are not allowed to mention any connotations to the Nazi regime in Germany and you can actually go to jail for that because that is against the German constitution and a thread against democracy).
    Interestingly, in this study we looked they found out that protests have only little to do with grievance. So people go on the streets for other reasons. In the following discussion we agreed on the fact that protests might not make a huge difference but they draw attention to the problem and that is where the new media is important. Because of youtube, facebook, twitter, etc. we can actually follow protests all around the world. The publication not only by the media but also by private people raise the awareness of people towards certain problems. I myself actually can’t wait for surveys coming up that study the impact on social media on the Arab Spring.
    If you are interested in the literature I took my information from, have a look at
    Dalton, R., van Sickle, A. and Weldon, S. 2010. “The Individual-Institutional Nexus of Protest Behaviour.” British Journal of Political Science 40: 51-73.
    Norris, P., Walgrave, S. and Van Aelst, P. 2005. “Who Demonstrates? Antistate Rebels, Conventional Participants, or Everyone?” Comparative Politics 37(2): 189-205.
    I can highly recommend them!

    Concerning conspirancy theories about the Jews running the world together with America I have only little to say. Considering my cultural background and this can be sometimes very influential, I was raised with a high awareness of comments about the Jewish nations. Casually uttered sentences about this topic were used not only 60 years ago but for centuries in Europe to influence many people to develop a very negative picture about Jewish people. This negative image was used by certain regimes to openly go against Jewish people and we know where that ended. I’d rather suggest we don’t let ourselves be influenced by the strange ideas of former European countries that have been popular before the second world war but rather take a scientific and objective look at politics. And more importantly, don’t let ourselves get influences by the opinions of former colonial powers who from the middle ages onwards believed, that the Jewish people are actually really bad people because they were the only ones allowed to give out loans to people. And as far I as understood from today’s discussion, we are all pretty much against being under the influence of Western homogenous ideas, concepts and perceptions, aren’t we?

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