The Arab Spring in Cyberspace

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!


8 thoughts on “The Arab Spring in Cyberspace

  1. I understand what you’re describing! I was thinking the same thing that cyberspace has revolutionized how the world operates. Social theories about how ideas and information change peoples perception towards the revolutions of a country has completely changed in the face of cyberspace. If we look as past revolutions like Cuba or Iran and how they were developed, their dynamics were completely different to that of how a Revolution occurs now and Arab spring is a perfect example of this.

  2. Your post about the Arab Spring reminded me of this article I read the other day on Mashable ( It’s basically about how Twitter and other social networking sites were used by citizens to spread information and organise protests during the Arab Spring, but now the Syrian government has been using the same platforms to spread propaganda. The article says the Syrian government has a government division dedicated to the task of gaining the attention and the support of the people.

    It’s interesting how with the rise of the network our political battles are not online fought on land, but also online.

  3. I really like this post you’ve explained the link well. This also relates to our research project in that the Arab springs was all about online activism as you’ve mentioned :P. I think the Barlow reading is similar to the online activism seen in Arab Springs because the “Utopia” Barlow mentions is shown. In that everyone posted on the internet what they wanted about the protests etc which was a really good way for them to contribute in their own personal way. The way it becomes the most effective is when the posts are shared and many people come together under the one cause an example of this is Kony 2012.

    Thanks for a great post,

  4. Using the Arab Spring as example was a good idea! I definitely think that cyberspace has really created a sense of freedom but it has also created a quick tool of response for regulatory bodies like the propaganda you mentioned. Aspects of cyberspace have really given a voice to people who woud not have been heard otherwise and linked them to like-minded people and I think your post is a great reflection of that.

  5. Your link using the Arab Spring was a great connection. Social media is such a powerful tool now especially for political activism. On a much smaller scale look at how fast Kony 2012 exploded through social media (although it didn’t go anywhere). In mexico, a couple were tortured and killed for trying to raise awareness about mafia violence through social media. Social media has given a voice to even the smallest person and has the ability for this person to remain anonymous. Not something we could do in real life.

  6. It’s so interesting how you mentioned that when computers were first invented they were meant to be used to process data and not to be used as communication devices. Just imagine if computers stayed as only data processing machines, the world as we know it would be completely different. Just think of the jobs that have been created because of the onset of the computer and the internet. Imagine having to communicate with people over a long distance with mail instead of e-mail! Having to wait days to receive the message instead of seconds. And in relation to your post, imagine if Twitter and Facebook weren’t around because the computer wasn’t used for communication, the people of the Arab world would not have a voice.

    • The world would be such a different place if computers had stayed as data processing machines, and the content of our university degree would be so much different (if even existed as it does at all)

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