Seattle AoIR Internet Research 12.0 October, 12th, 2011
Resistance and Technology Roundtable
Part 2: Leveraging Technologies of Resistance
Social media as tools of resistance: disseminating the voice of the multitude
I would like to say first why I’m not at ease with expressions like « Facebook Revolution » or « 2.0 Revolution ». These expressions reflect a determinist epistemology, a techno-determinist way of thinking suggesting that it is the 2.0 technology that is the very source of explanation of social transformation. Within that deterministic paradigm, for a social revolution to happen in a specific country, activists just have to implant Facebook and Twitter devices in that country, and the social revolution will happen at a moment or another. It’s not that simple!
The reasons why social revolts happen are numerous and complex, and the action of technology has to be put in a context where many explaining factors are to be taken in account. In countries like Tunisia and Egypt, a long period of social injustice in authoritarian regimes was the first historical condition; we can add also the presence for a long time, of invisible but active networks of protestation, and more formal social movements of political contestation who were repressed by these authoritarian regimes, etc.
In the same time – and this is my second point – the technological devices (mobile phones, laptops on hardware side / blogs, Facebook and Twitter on software side) appear to be efficient networking tools if there is a sort of coordination work assumed by nodes of the networks. Social media prompt new ways to think in common, new ways to organize social actions, new ways to decide collectively, to exchange information and emotions, new ways to develop a collective awareness and a social consciousness. By example, during the Arab Spring, a blood-soaked body of a protestor was immediately taken in photo, and that photo was instantaneously diffused through the networks. In short, the efficient uses of these tools can become a political catalyst having the capacity of revealing a social movement to itself.
I like the idea developed by Tarik Ahmed Elseewi (2011) of « a revolution of the imagination » permitted and brought by the uses of the new media. We have to pay attention to the fact that the uses of social media have « placed individuals (and groups of individuals) at the center of their own narratives in profound ways« . And Elseewi added that this « has led to the rejection of the tired, official narratives that have long dominated official mediated production in the Arab Middle East, and it continues to encourage Arabs to imagine themselves as subjects (…) of history. » (Elseewi, 2011: 1197). Continuer la lecture