[Air-L] ISOC Statement on Egypt’s Internet shutdown

Marianne van den Boomen M.V.T.vandenBoomen at uu.nl
Tue Feb 1 12:24:51 PST 2011

On 31-1-11 16:01, Richard Forno wrote:

> IMHO social media is playing a supporting role in all of this.  Is it
> helpful?  Sure - but hardly essential.

Mm, I would say that we have no theoretical or empirical instruments to 
assess whether a factor is 'essential' for the emergence of social 
change or uprisings that pop up in mainstream media as 'sudden' (and 
thus urge for easy answers: oh, it must be caused by SM). There is 
probably a myriad of factors that co-constitute a tipping point, and the 
person who is able to figure out which one is essential would no doubt 
soon be a millionaire, in the field of marketting or espionage).
One of the first tweets I saw about Tunesia (not yet Egypt)  said 
something like 'hey, a revolution without tribute to Twitter or 
Facebook? Amazing!'
Well, it did not take long...

  To wit:  the Egyptian gov cut
> off many modes of communication helpful for social media
> applications, but did it adversely impact the protests?  Nope.   What
> does that tell us?

It does tell us a few things. Firstly, that it is considered disturbing 
or dangerous by the Egyptian powers that be. Of course, that does not 
prove that SM are essential. It may indicate that those powers are 
technological determinists but more probable is that they desperately 
try to regain control of any factor they may contribute to the revolt. 
And any communication medium - from words of mouth to printed press to 
television to radio to SM - obviously is such a factor, regardless 
whether one takes an optimist or pessimist stance.
And may be it does tell us something else. Maybe a strategy of Internet 
shutdown reveals that the regime is not quit sure it will survive, while 
a strategy of non-shutting down but using social media to identify and 
prosecute people (as happened in Iran) indicates that the regime is sure 
of its enduring power. May be the SM strategies by repressive regimes 
are a baromoter of the strength of the regimes, rather than that the use 
of SM is a barometer of the strength of a people's revolt.

kind regards

Marianne van den Boomen

Media and Culture Studies | University Utrecht
Office: Kromme Nieuwegracht 20 (room T2.13A)
Mail: Muntstraat 2a | 3512 EV UTRECHT
Phone: +31 (0)30 253 9607
M.V.T.vandenBoomen at uu.nl | www.hum.uu.nl
www.newmediastudies.nl | www.vandenboomen.org

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