Global Thesis Update: Technology and the Arab Spring

Brian Hirschfeld `12

By:  Brian Hirschfeld

Growing up in the past decade and a half, technology has dominated my life and the lives of many others. It has taken us from a place where tradition ruled and you had to work for what you had through a process, which involved education, rising through the ranks and success. The Internet changed all of that. It allowed people to use their creativity to become known and has generated billions of dollars for those with the best ideas.

However in the past couple of years, the Internet has become more of a driving force for change. It originally revolutionized the way we communicate and has since then grown in power. It grew to the point that politicians have twitter feeds and movie stars have websites. While it had changed the lives of people in the developed world (think iPads, Blackberries and Netscape) it had done little to help those in the developing and 3rd world. However, with the proliferation of Internet technology, thanks to smartphone and mobile computing, this has changed.

As we have seen over the past months, the Internet in the hands of people with a message is able to bring about change. The people of Syria, Iran, and Egypt (among others) began to rally using the Internet as a conduit to spread their message and gain support.

The people of Egypt have successfully overthrown their totalitarian regime under which they have suffered for decades. They were one of the most sensational examples of how the use of new media, specifically twitter, allowed people to communicate quickly and efficiently allowing protests like those that happened at Tahrir Square to be organized and come to fruition overnight. Books like the Huffington Post’s “Tweets from Tahrir” show chronologically how the events within the country are illustrated through the tweets of individuals who were attempting to bring about change.

Syria has lead to another interesting development within the techno-revolution paradigm. While in Egypt and Iran, it was individuals communicating with individuals, in Syria, they were more organized. English-speaking Syrian university students who created the Sha’am News Network which effectively uses new media like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, to centralize and constantly push out information about what is happening within their country. Recently, they have had a great success now the UN observers have entered their country.

Iran is entirely different, because although statistically they have more internet access than Syria and Egypt, they have had the most stalled revolution. This is because their government is notably harsh and this ideology of obedience has been engrained into the national character. However, as people within Iran have seen the revolutions occurring in countries around them, internal dissent has grown and the fires of revolutionary spirit have begun to burn.

Looking at the technology used, but more importantly, who is using the technology is important and what I focus on in my paper and presentation. It is about the two working in tandem. There is often the notion that the Internet is some omnipotent god-like being working in mysterious ways, however this is a fallacy. In reality the Internet is a conduit for instant communication, which allows people to communicate in ways never before possible.

I have enjoyed the Global Thesis program because it is a refreshing break from the rigorously structured coursework of GFA, which has come to dominate my view of education over my past 13 years (kindergarten – 12th grade)at GFA.

Global Thesis Update: Technology and the Arab Spring

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