This weeks post I am going to attempt to display the link between the idea of cyberspace and it’s independence, to online activism in the Arab Spring. Although the lecture and seminar were focused a lot around cyber punk, the Arab Spring kept coming to mind when I was sitting and listening to the lecture.
First, just a quick definition of the Arab Spring, because I am sure most of you would have come across the term in other BCM subjects. When I refer to the Arab Spring, I am referring to the wave of revolutions across countries including Egypt, Syria, Libya and many other nations in the Arab world, beginning in late 2010. The use of the World Wide Web and social media played a huge role in creating awareness and organizing mass demonstrations and protests. However, as we have learnt this week, this was not the effect that computers were thought to have when first created. Computers were developed to be used as data processing units, not communication devices. But as personal computers were created and gained popularity, this began to change. A distributed network formed, and the end user was given control. Each node can send information to the network.
Does this not sound like the use of social media in the Arab Spring to you? Any body with access to the internet was able to gain information or spread information about the protests and right to freedom from dictatorship. When reading what fans of the use of social media in the Arab Spring thought of its power, it reminded me of what Barlow had written in the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace. It is all very positive, with a utopian view of the web. I think it is similar, “We are creating a world where anyone may express his or hers beliefs… where anyone can enter”. But, of course, it was definitely not a utopian scenario. Governments did step in and restrict access to the internet, and access to certain social media sites.
Tim Berners Lee wanted the world wide web to be a social creation, “I designed it for a social effect- to help people work together- not as a technical toy”. I think that the Arab Spring is just one huge example of how his vision of the web as just a social creation has been successful (without taking into account control and restriction by governments).
Thanks for reading.
I hope I have explained the link that was in my mind, without too much confusion!