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[liberationtech] Peter Theil On Arab spring

Virginia Beard beard at hope.edu
Mon Jul 23 07:45:26 PDT 2012


Thank you for the possibility of considering these issues. I agree with Dr.
Diamond on the compleity beyond just the rising food prices, though
recognize the important of such economic factors - along with political
factors.
Dr. Paula Booke and I are considering them in a paper we have written on
whether evidence and literature suggests these revolutions would have taken
place without social media/liberation technologies.
>From our (pre-published draft) paper, we find:
*"This paper assesses the possible impacts of social internet-based media
venues in the recent Arab Spring. Findings suggest that political will
resulting from a tipping point in political and economic grievances, as
well as the presence of central mobilizing personalities, were the key
factors driving the uprisings. Thus, social networks were important tools
that shaped the form and broad-based access to the uprisings, but were not
the only or prime factors driving the political and social changes the
world has seen exploding across the Middle East and North Africa." *
Further, ideas such as those in this pop culture Guardian article also draw
questions about how democratizing and positive in the public arena new
forms of media, especially social media, might be given the contexts in
which they are used:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/jan/14/facebook
"And does Facebook really connect people? Doesn't it rather disconnect us,
since instead of doing something enjoyable such as talking and eating and
dancing and drinking with my friends, I am merely sending them little
ungrammatical notes and amusing photos in cyberspace, while chained to my
desk?"
Especially if on venues such as Facebook, we create our identity in a
mimetic space. This seems likely to undermine the (notably debated) role of
civil society, per Putnam's "Bowling Alone" vein of dialogue:
"Facebook appeals to a kind of vanity and self-importance in us, too. If I
put up a flattering picture of myself with a list of my favourite things, I
can construct an artificial representation of who I am in order to get sex
or approval...It also encourages a disturbing competitiveness around
friendship: it seems that with friends today, quality counts for nothing
and quantity is king. The more friends you have, the better you are. You
are "popular", in the sense much loved in American high schools. Witness
the cover line on Dennis Publishing's new Facebook magazine: "How To Double
Your Friends List." Quality community and civil engagement seem what is
discussed by Putnam and de Tocqueville.

Some thoughts to add to the dialogue.
Sincerely,
Virginia Beard, PhD
Political Science
Hope College

On Mon, Jul 23, 2012 at 9:18 AM, Paul Rich <pauljrich at gmail.com> wrote:

> Larry's point is well taken.  Of course food has always had a political
> role, while the internet is a new additional factor that we need to study.
>
> This is an important debate.  I feel that political science has let the
> side down because of its failure to fully consider the new influences on
> democratization issues. The discipline is rather moribund.
>
> Some of these issues are being discussed at a conference in September
> hosted by Oxford University's internet institute and
> the Policy Studies Organization's journal Policy & Internet
>
> Paul Rich
> President, PSO
>
>
>
> On Mon, Jul 23, 2012 at 1:50 AM, Larry Diamond <ldiamond at stanford.edu>wrote:
>
>> Prashant,
>> I think Thiel's view is way too simplistic.  He is correct about the rise
>> in food prices, but there were long simmering frustrations over bad,
>> corrupt, abusive governance and the lack of freedom and human dignity that
>> contributed to these explosions.  And in any case, he is confusing causal
>> triggers and means of mobilization.  I think all the tools of Liberation
>> Technology--from the Internet and social media to mobile phones and yes, in
>> some places Twitter--made an important facilitating contribution to the
>> revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, and the uprisings in a number of Arab
>> countries that followed.
>>
>> See for example the article by Philip Howard and Muzammil Hussain in the
>> July 2011 *Journal of Democracy. *As they conclude,
>> "In each country people have used digital media to build a political
>> response to a local experience of unjust rule.  They were not inspired by
>> Facebook; they were inspired by the real tragedies *documented* on
>> Facebook.  Social media have become the scaffolding upon which civil
>> society can build, and new information technologies give activists things
>> that they did not have before: information networks not easily controlled
>> by the state and coordination tools that are already embedded in trusted
>> networks of family and friends."
>>
>> This article can also be found in the new book I have c-edited with Marc
>> Plattner, *Liberation Technology: Social Media and the Struggle for
>> Democracy*.
>>
>> Thanks,
>> Larry Diamond
>>
>> ------------------------------
>> *From: *"Prashant Singh" <pacificleo at gmail.com>
>> *To: *"liberationtech" <liberationtech at lists.stanford.edu>
>> *Sent: *Sunday, July 22, 2012 10:02:44 PM
>> *Subject: *[liberationtech] Peter Theil On Arab spring
>>
>>
>> Hi Guys
>>
>> Recently  at  Fortune Brainstorm Tech in Aspen, CO,  there was a
>> debate between Eric Schmidt and Peter Thiel  about Contribution
>> of Technology in Our Society . They touched upon many topic but  at one
>> point of time during the debate  while discussing role of technology in
>> enabling Arab Spiring and other revolution  Thiel said
>>
>> "*When you talk about the Arab spring, you can say that it's evidence of
>>
>> > Google and Twitter -- -- liberating the world through information.  But,
>> > the actual facts on the ground are that food prices rose by 30 to 50
>> > percent in the previous year and you basically had people who had
>> become --
>> > you had desperate people who had become more hungry than scared, who
>> > revolted.*"
>>
>>
>>
>> is he being too simplistic ? was there more to the revolution than just
>> Food Price ? Would like to know your thoughts . you can see the whole
>> debat
>> online at
>> http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2012/07/17/transcript-schmidt-thiel/
>>
>> thanks
>>
>> --
>> Prashant
>>
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>
>
>
> --
> Paul Rich
> President - Policy Studies Organization
> 1527 New Hampshire Ave., NW
> Washington, DC 20036
> Tel. (202) 483-2512  Fax (202) 483-2657
> www.ipsonet.org/    works.bepress.com/paulrich/
>
>
>


-- 
Virginia Beard, PhD
207 Lubbers Hall
Hope College
Department of Political Science

"Do something for somebody everyday for which you do not get paid."
~Albert Schweitzer
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