Tools of a Revolution?

By Gordon Adler

We recently witnessed history being made in Egypt. But the role of the Internet, particularly  social media,  remains unclear – wild generalizations litter the blogosphere. Was it really Revolution 2.0?

There’s some truth in every analysis I’ve heard: social media enabled the revolution, propelled and accelerated it, but protestors would have toppled Mubarak without the Internet. The killer app was people demanding their freedom.  And so forth.

In a well-known New Yorker piece, Malcolm Gladwell claimed that social media – Facebook and Twitter – can’t create the strong bonds social activism requires. “People with a grievance will always find ways to communicate with each other.” So maybe Facebook and Twitter are useful tools, but not the tools of revolution.

Maybe the tools of the Egyptian revolution are the Egyptian people themselves. Maybe if Mubarak had been forced to step down five years ago,  we would have been celebrating the power of cell phones.

But then again, maybe the Egyptian protests were not only a Facebook event, but an Internet uprising. As a post from the communications Edelman Digital suggests, if the Internet didn’t matter, why did Mubarak’s cronies pull the plug?

Until the fiber optics went dark, the Internet served as a kind of communication cloud – where the cell phones, satellite phones, land line phones, fax machines, Facebook and other tools like Google and Twitter’s collaborative phone-to-twitter application Speak2Tweet basically created a huge flashmob (some say eight million) on Cairo’s streets.

Maybe we need to see the social media, not as the cause  of the revolution, but as the accelerator.  The propellant. The leaflets of the 21st century.

One thing is sure:  social media made the events in Tahrir Square into an international public spectacle. This increased pressure on the Mubarak regime. And empowered those with their feet on the ground near idling tanks.

Another thing is sure: Facebook and Twitter have become one of the ways many people communicate. Twitter has 600 million users. The Internet has an estimated 2 billion users. We should have been surprised if social media had not been used.

If you were amazed by the apparent power of social media in Egypt, you should be asking what took us so long to open our eyes. Grade school children wouldn’t be surprised!

All the arguments I’ve heard are probably right – in some degree.  Twitter and Facebok probably helped. They weren’t the only fuel. And certainly not the cause. I’m betting the revolution would have happened without the tools. But the tools are here to stay.

As I write this, images of protesting Libyans fill my TV screen. “Khaddafi out” read the signs on the videos uploaded from mobile phones. Keep your eyes on Libya, Iran, Oman, Jemen, Bahrain. We need more facts. In the meantime, events we thought impossible now seem possible.

Dr. Gordon Adler,

is member of the facutlty at the Lorange Institute of Business.

He is the managing director of Adlerway, his communications and consulting company.



The Power of Images

J. Francis Davis*) said on images:

“We see them everywhere: on billboards, in magazines, on bus placards. They come in the mail and in our Sunday newspapers: glossy pictures of women and men in silk robes, pictures of electric twin-foil shavers and Dirt Devil hand-held vacuums. And we see them on TV: living rooms with two sofas, white-lighted football stadiums, even Wild West gunfight and bloodstained murder scenes.

Images. They are so compelling that we cannot not watch them. They are so seductive that they have revolutionized human social communication. Oral and written communication are in decline because a new form of communication, communication by image, has emerged.” (read more; with friendly permission)
*) J.F. Davis, an adult educator and media education specialist, was on the staff of the Center for Media Literacy from 1989 to 1992. He currently works in the computer industry.

We are not setting a trend. But we are walking on a path nobody can ignore: the path of the power of images.

Shortly we will publish our recently shot image movie about our Institution. Moreover, each member of the faculty will present him/herself in a short video clip.

I myself was convinced once more about the power of photography, when I saw what the great photographer Peter Hebeisen made out of my, let’s say, weathered countenance…
Peter Lorange

Get connected!

Facebook engineering intern Paul Butler has created the stunning map of international human relationships above, using a ten million friend pair sample size from Facebook social graph data. The result is stunning. From an optical point of view. But also what it’s distribution is concerned.

Paul Butler: I defined weights for each pair of cities as a function of the Euclidean distance between them and the number of friends between them. Then I plotted lines between the pairs by weight, so that pairs of cities with the most friendships between them were drawn on top of the others. I used a color ramp from black to blue to white, with each line’s color depending on its weight. I also transformed some of the lines to wrap around the image, rather than spanning more than halfway around the world.”