LANGUAGE
Due to translations, the other language editions of NATO Review go online approximately two weeks after the English version.
About NATO Review
Submission policy
COPYRIGHT INFO
Editorial team
 RSS
SEND THIS ARTICLE TO A FRIEND
SUBSCRIBE TO THE NATO REVIEW
  

Political change: what social media can- and can't do

Does social media make political change easier? Is it true that it has already been the force behind political changes? Here, experts outline how social media has been a game changer - but also the limits it has.

 Subtitles: On / Off

Political change: What social

media can do and can't do.

As people rose up in North Africa,

Time Magazine, HuffPost,

even the New York Times,

asked if events there could be

called a Facebook Revolution.

While these revolutions may have

occurred without social media,

the speed at which

they have occurred

would have been much,

much different.

I think social media

has been very important.

Social media gives them a safe place.

They don't need to know anything

about you on Twitter or Facebook.

At a time of crisis I think people

are searching for information

wherever they can find it.

If they have Internet access,

Facebook is a place

to which they turn.

One of the darlings

of the movement, Facebook,

was created

on the East Coast of America.

But only when it reached

the West Coast, in California,

its explosive growth took off.

So how does California

see the role of social media

in effecting change?

When you look at revolutions,

you usually have a leader.

You usually have a cadre

of individuals who are the cause,

the motivation.

But now we are seeing

revolutions without that.

We see democratic change, or

what we hope is democratic change,

occur in a very broad base

of support that is leaderless.

So how does social media

help bring about this change?

Social media, what it has done

is to really, suddenly show the light

on perhaps the vastness

of the wealth at the top.

And also on

what is possible in other countries.

Once you allow people

to begin expressing themselves

and then when they find other people,

who they might not meet

in their day-to-day life,

who have the same feeling,

that's a very powerful process.

You get a point where suddenly,

you know, the cauldron boils over

and people suddenly see

that they are not the only ones.

It's like a rapid wild fire,

in a sense, with a big wind,

which suddenly brings people

in contact

who realise

that many feel the way they do,

and that it might be possible

to do something about it.

And why has use

of social media spread so quickly?

The good thing is that the tools

are free or very low cost.

Facebook and Twitter are free.

You can start a Ning website

which is another

social media website.

Individuals can now organise

almost costlessly,

share information almost costlessly,

and that allows them

to share ideas, to gather,

to call for change

in a very short order,

whereas before it would

have been much more difficult.

But this is only part of the picture.

How much credit can social media

take for the recent

political changes in North Africa?

Social media is much broader than

sending 144 characters over Twitter

or updating your status posts

on Facebook. Those are useful,

but if you look at how people

are sharing videos and information,

in Egypt, in Tunisia, in Libya,

it's primarily through SMS.

It’s not primarily through Twitter.

So how did the phrase

Facebook Revolution come about?

There is much about these uprisings

that people cannot understand.

They are looking for some sort

of rationale. How did this happen?

I think they are jumping

onto this bandwagon of…

Here are the latest toys, and look

at everybody playing with them.

This is not to denigrate

the role of social media,

but as people try

to figure it all out they are saying:

Here are the tools that made

it happen. I think that's not true.

We observe Twitter

so we give Twitter a lot of credit,

but there’s a lot more

communication going on.

For those people who call this

the Twitter or Facebook Revolution,

I think that's a misnomer

that is unfair to the people

who went onto the streets

and risked or even lost their lives

in the cause of these revolutions.

The facts on the ground

in North Africa seem to confirm

the limits of social media’s role there.

In Egypt, the greatest growth

in the protests occurred

after the government

shut down the Internet.

I think social media starts the idea.

It gets people involved.

But then,

the protest will take a life of its own.

The Egyptian government

shut down everything it could.

Everything from the Internet

to the train system.

The idea was to try to paralyse

this movement, but it didn't work.

These revolutionary movements

develop a kind of momentum

and once they get rolling it doesn't

matter what the government does.

Political change: What social

media can do and can't do.

As people rose up in North Africa,

Time Magazine, HuffPost,

even the New York Times,

asked if events there could be

called a Facebook Revolution.

While these revolutions may have

occurred without social media,

the speed at which

they have occurred

would have been much,

much different.

I think social media

has been very important.

Social media gives them a safe place.

They don't need to know anything

about you on Twitter or Facebook.

At a time of crisis I think people

are searching for information

wherever they can find it.

If they have Internet access,

Facebook is a place

to which they turn.

One of the darlings

of the movement, Facebook,

was created

on the East Coast of America.

But only when it reached

the West Coast, in California,

its explosive growth took off.

So how does California

see the role of social media

in effecting change?

When you look at revolutions,

you usually have a leader.

You usually have a cadre

of individuals who are the cause,

the motivation.

But now we are seeing

revolutions without that.

We see democratic change, or

what we hope is democratic change,

occur in a very broad base

of support that is leaderless.

So how does social media

help bring about this change?

Social media, what it has done

is to really, suddenly show the light

on perhaps the vastness

of the wealth at the top.

And also on

what is possible in other countries.

Once you allow people

to begin expressing themselves

and then when they find other people,

who they might not meet

in their day-to-day life,

who have the same feeling,

that's a very powerful process.

You get a point where suddenly,

you know, the cauldron boils over

and people suddenly see

that they are not the only ones.

It's like a rapid wild fire,

in a sense, with a big wind,

which suddenly brings people

in contact

who realise

that many feel the way they do,

and that it might be possible

to do something about it.

And why has use

of social media spread so quickly?

The good thing is that the tools

are free or very low cost.

Facebook and Twitter are free.

You can start a Ning website

which is another

social media website.

Individuals can now organise

almost costlessly,

share information almost costlessly,

and that allows them

to share ideas, to gather,

to call for change

in a very short order,

whereas before it would

have been much more difficult.

But this is only part of the picture.

How much credit can social media

take for the recent

political changes in North Africa?

Social media is much broader than

sending 144 characters over Twitter

or updating your status posts

on Facebook. Those are useful,

but if you look at how people

are sharing videos and information,

in Egypt, in Tunisia, in Libya,

it's primarily through SMS.

It’s not primarily through Twitter.

So how did the phrase

Facebook Revolution come about?

There is much about these uprisings

that people cannot understand.

They are looking for some sort

of rationale. How did this happen?

I think they are jumping

onto this bandwagon of…

Here are the latest toys, and look

at everybody playing with them.

This is not to denigrate

the role of social media,

but as people try

to figure it all out they are saying:

Here are the tools that made

it happen. I think that's not true.

We observe Twitter

so we give Twitter a lot of credit,

but there’s a lot more

communication going on.

For those people who call this

the Twitter or Facebook Revolution,

I think that's a misnomer

that is unfair to the people

who went onto the streets

and risked or even lost their lives

in the cause of these revolutions.

The facts on the ground

in North Africa seem to confirm

the limits of social media’s role there.

In Egypt, the greatest growth

in the protests occurred

after the government

shut down the Internet.

I think social media starts the idea.

It gets people involved.

But then,

the protest will take a life of its own.

The Egyptian government

shut down everything it could.

Everything from the Internet

to the train system.

The idea was to try to paralyse

this movement, but it didn't work.

These revolutionary movements

develop a kind of momentum

and once they get rolling it doesn't

matter what the government does.

Read more: new media
Share this    DiggIt   MySpace   Facebook   Delicious   Permalink