THIS REVOLUTION WILL BE TWEETED!
(Image: Joshua 2011)
Gone are the days where audiences are simple referred to as passive consumers. By embracing our new role as ‘prosumers’ in this participatory culture, we have discovered new ways to produce and interact with content. With the growing number of international, self-described organizations, such as Facebook and Twitter, citizens are “playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analysing, and disseminating news and information.” This form of journalism, known as citizen journalism, has played a significant during the modern-day activism in the Arab Springs.
Throughout the Arab Springs debacle, social networking was used as a key tool in expressing thoughts concerning unjust acts committed by the Government. These sites gave citizens the capability to share an immense amount of uncensored information, which played a critical role in mobilization, empowerment, shaping opinions and influencing change during the uprising.
Activists used Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate their numbers, and Youtube to spread it around the world. The speed of communication through digital channels gave activists extraordinary responsiveness during street operations. Some individuals also created Facebook groups such as the “We Are All Khaled Said” group, which stirred up much controversy round the world. The use of these sites permitted activists to brake down the psychological barrier of fear and help others connect and share information. They allowed the spread of public information, vital in establishing the democratic movement that helped guide abused citizens to revolt against injustice. Through social media, the public was given the knowledge they are not alone, uniting them against their oppressor.
In the first three months of 2011, the most popular hashtags were #Egypt with 1.4 million mentions, #jan25 with 1.2 million mentions, #Libya with 990 000 mentions, #Bahrain with 640 000 mentions and #protest with 620 000 mentions. Tweets from Egypt went from 2,300 to 230,000 in the week leading to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. While Facebook usage swelled in the Arab region between January and April, overall, the number of users jumped by 30 per cent to 27.7 million, compared with 18 per cent growth during the same period in 2010. The bulk of 200-plus people surveyed over three weeks in March said they were getting their information from social media sites (88 per cent in Egypt); which outnumbered those who turned to non-government local media (63 per cent in Egypt) and to foreign media (57 per cent in Egypt).
Government attempts to ban such sites ended up backfiring, the vast majority of people said the blocking of Facebook motivated them to press on, spurring people to be more active, decisive and find ways to be more creative about communicating and organising.
The uprising has so far seen governments in Egypt and Tunisia fall, regimes in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain clash with the opposition, and more benefits offered to the people in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Social media has permitted prosumers to organize, debate, plan, and broadcast at a level of coordination that was inconceivable in the past.