A new paradigm shift in the internet impact on social change: the Middle East revolution model.

Author:Elmorshidy, Ahmed

    We have recently witnessed new and completely unprecedented effects of the Internet on some nations in the Middle East such as Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya. Young people in Egypt have communicated effectively using Facebook and Twitter to organize some major demonstrations that gradually resulted in the fall of the ruling regime in Egypt. They were inspired by the success of their predecessors in Tunisia who also used similar communication channels in their rise up against their government. Sutter (2011) was wondering "Are we in the age of internet revolutions, where Facebook, Twitter and text messages are essential ingredients in democratic change?" The Internet as a social machine has both advantages and disadvantages, but both its wonders and flaws are indicative of great societal change. Indeed, the Internet serves as a powerful vehicle for social change. [10]

    Participatory culture is apparent on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. While these sites connect millions of people to family, friends and co-workers, they are believed to influence behavior that is considered unhealthy and inappropriate. According to Herold (2011), several experts argue that social networking sites affect self-esteem and perpetuate addiction. There is no doubt that technological change brings about social change. The Industrial revolution saw many people displaced from their land, to find work in crowded city factories. Serfdom was abolished and the population shifted from villages to the cities. Strong family ties, self sufficiency and the right to occupy land were replaced with uncertain tenancy of land, dependency on trade and a weakening of the family unit. [4]

    When analyzing the driving forces for the revolution in Egypt, an important question arise: What caused this to happen all of a sudden? Is it the well of the people? Is the Internet and communications in the new era? Is it the saturation and ceiling effects of any injustice and aggression in the world? In fact it is a combination of all of these items which ignited and triggered the wave of change in the Arab world. But moreover, the decision of the Egyptian government to make the Internet service free in the late 1990s has helped to spread out the technology in millions of people's hand who could have never ever afford to have Internet access before. According to GMF Studio (2010) "Advances in technology, is generally not equitably shared within society. People with money have more opportunity to acquire technology, which enables them to acquire even more wealth. It is also important to remember that war has been and will continue to be the driving force for technology and innovation. Power and wealth are intrinsically tied together." Far from its humble origins as a simple computer network, the Internet has reached the forefront of technology and society interest. It has moved from the realm of an elite group of researchers and scientists to the center of attention of business, governments, and the public at large. Prior to the mid-1990s, users perceived the Internet as a domain mainly for academics, scientists, and technically minded people, but the past ten years have launched a proliferation of Internet use. The World Wide Web has evolved into important information for tool for businesses, consumers, and society as a whole. [10]

    The internet in its current form was developed as a free exchange of information, unregulated by any one government or owned by any one person or company. In its raw form it was the playground of hackers and computer geeks, who challenged the status quo. It brings about a new era, the technological revolution. The free flow of information, has brought about technological advances at an unprecedented rate and has made many rich and brought companies who failed to adapt to a standstill. How will this technological revolution impact on our society? If the industrial revolution is anything to go by, there will be winners and losers to technological revolution. (GFM Studio 2010)As civil society, we are confronted with an opportunity to use the Internet and other emerging network technologies to support our quest for global peace and social justice. Consider that we live in a world where almost anyone located in an urban centre can share their message globally with a free blog and a few dollars spent at an Internet cafe. Access is not- or will not for much longer be--a major communications stumbling block for civil society organizations. The more pressing need is for civilsociety to learn how to appropriate the technologies that we now have access to, bending and molding them so that they can be used more strategically and politically. While we can point to examples of innovative civil society applications, most organizations have not moved much beyond e-mail and basic web sites--and they have certainly not moved on to what might be called the 'strategic use' of these technologies [7]

    It is not being overly dramatic to speak of an 'online publishing revolution' within civil society. While we often take it for granted, the ways that transnational civil society organizations produce and distribute information are very different than they were 10 years ago. One of the most widely discussed uses of networked technologies within civil society is online mobilization and activism. The use of e-mail and the web for the Seattle WTO protests and the global fight against the MAI show how successfully the net has integrated with traditional campaigns and protests. Some even argue, that the role of the Internet in these events led to the...

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