The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted

February 3, 2011 at 10:24 am 2 comments

I’ll blog more on CE21 as I can.  After Jane Margolis made her impassioned plea for a change in culture in CS and CS education, Owen Astrachan said that he has been teaching that computing is about people in his classes with one word: Egypt.

The article below does a nice job of considering both sides of that question: Do social media like Facebook and Twitter play a role in pro-democracy revolutions, or don’t they? There’s an argument that social media can be used to organize protests, but might also be used by state police for tracking down protestors (as it has been used in Iran).  A particularly interesting anecdote for me is the below: That the Internet was turned off in Egypt, but the protests continued.  So what role was Facebook and Twitter playing, really?

A graph of the Internet traffic going to and from Egypt last Thursday shows online activity proceeding at a brisk pace all afternoon — then suddenly collapsing to a bare minimum around 5 o’clock, as the country’s service providers shut access down.

This did not have the desired effect. The protests occurring the next day were bigger than before, and have grown steadily ever since — with labor unions organizing a general strike, and people carrying on with the strangely festive brand of courage that seems always to emerge during this sort of historical episode. A very few Egyptians have managed to get access to Twitter and the like. But nobody can claim that digital technology is driving events there.

How to understand this dynamic, then? In August, the United States Institute of Peace issued a report called “Blogs and Bullets: New Media in Contentious Politics,” co-authored by half a dozen political scientist and media analysts. (One of them is Henry Farrell, an associate professor of political science at the George Washington University, and a friend.) It offers the smartest assessment I have seen of the impact of new media on movements such as the upheavals sweeping North Africa lately – because it makes clear that we just don’t know very much.

“Conclusions are generally drawn from potentially nonrepresentative anecdotes,” the authors write, sometimes combined with “laborious hand coding of a subset of easily identified major (usually English) media.” There’s a tendency to focus on new media as “the magic bullet” explaining the course of events when “at best, it may be a ‘rusty bullet,’ ” since “traditional media sources [may prove] equally if not more important.” Nor is it clear how digital tools affect the various dimensions of political conflict — whether they serve to forge alliances among groups, for example, or tend to make each one close in upon itself more.

via Views: The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted – Inside Higher Ed.

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Science doesn’t need Universities Maybe not-so-much for increasing enrollments

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