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[liberationtech] Peter Theil On Arab spring

L. Fernando Baron lfbaron at uw.edu
Mon Jul 23 13:26:09 PDT 2012


Yes thank you for opening this interesting discussion. I personally think that the analyses of these political dynamics deserve to consider the socio-technological dimensions in which they are embedded, including their historical processes and the national, regional and international contexts. For example, the role of ICTs and social media should not be studied without acknowledging the effort by Muslim organizations in building a social movement or the increasing dynamics of workers’ mobilization in Egypt between 1999 and 2009. Nor can the emergence of new forms of political expression – which have their roots in solidarity committees that spread throughout Egypt following the start of the Second Intifada in Palestine in October 2000 ­– be ignored. 

 

ICTs and SM should be consider in relation to regional dynamics such as the revolutions in Iran (2009) and Tunisia (2010) as well as the human rights campaigns launched by local and international organizations in Middle East North Africa (MENA), and the international pressure for political reforms that Mubarak’s regime experienced coming from the United States and several European Union countries. 

 

Within these conditions ICTs and SM seem to have had very important roles:  1) They not only provided alternative mechanisms to spread messages and join people in a repressive climate; they also increased the size, speed, and reach of activism (local and internationally) 2) They had an impressive impact on the creation and development of new youth movements such as April 6th Youth Movement, and the use of ICTs were also a sign of identification for youth networks in Egypt 3) the combination of ‘bits and streets’ (digital communications and activities on ground), supersized not just the mobilizations but also the size of the threats that Mubarak’s regime experimented during the revolutionary dynamic.

 

Under the coordination of Professor Maria Garrido, we are working in a study on the changing roles of Social Media in pro-democracy movements in Egypt between 2008 and 2011. This is part of the work of the Technology & Social Change Group (TASCHA) at the University of Washington’s iSchool. Sooner than later we are going to present a working paper and a couple of papers about this topic and we will let you know about them by this list.

 

Cheers

 

Fernando

 

 

L. Fernando Baron P.
Ph.D. Candidate Information Science

iSchool

University of Washington

Seattle, WA

 

From: liberationtech-bounces at lists.stanford.edu [mailto:liberationtech-bounces at lists.stanford.edu] On Behalf Of Virginia Beard
Sent: Monday, July 23, 2012 7:45 AM
To: Paul Rich
Cc: hhfvk-3154007782 at pers.craigslist.org; liberationtech at lists.stanford.edu
Subject: Re: [liberationtech] Peter Theil On Arab spring

 

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 <tel:%28202%29%20483-2512>   Fax (202) 483-2657 <tel:%28202%29%20483-2657> 
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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