A Review of “Clicks, Cabs, and Coffee Houses: Social Media and Oppositional Movements in Egypt, 2004-2011”

Original article written by Merlyna Lim for Consortium of Science, Policy & Outcomes and the School of Social Transformation, Arizona State University.

http://web.ebscohost.com.avoserv.library.fordham.edu/ehost/detail?vid=3&hid=9&sid=ab3e2bbf-e944-4bdb-9355-515a9998dece%40sessionmgr10&bdata=JmxvZ2luLmFzcCZzaXRlPWVob3N0LWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#db=ufh&AN=74043546 (requires Fordham username and password)

I chose this scholarly article because honestly, I knew very little about the recent uprising’s in Egypt, other than the fact that they were occurring and that the opposition leaders were fighting for the usual; better human rights, more job opportunities, less government corruption, etc. I wanted to have a clearer understanding of how social media aided the opposition and really how it all got started in the first place.

To put it bluntly, most people feel that that without the use of social media (particularly Facebook and Twitter), the Egyptian movement to oust President Murabak would not have been a success.

Why was social media so important for the movement?

The argument is that it provided a means for people to “recognize their membership in a relevant collective”. This recognition can only be achieved through high levels of communication, and it was online social networks along with Twitter that provided the fastest, safest and most efficient communication channel available. In countries like Egypt where the government maintains a very high degree of control over the media, protesters decided to go online and use social media tools to better organize their efforts. As technology improved, mobile devices with Internet capability became powerful tools in the hands of protesters as they could now access hundreds of thousands of people instantly- anywhere and at any time.

How did this all get started?

The article argues that the presence and significance of the Internet has been shaping the culture of Egypt’s younger demographic for many years now- similar to Western cultures. According to the author, social media has been involved substantially in over 75% of recorded street protests from 2004-2011. Before Facebook was even allowed in the country however, young Egyptians used blogs to spread their messages among online activists. As more Egyptians would acquire Internet access and as resentment towards the government grew, there became a growing need for an improved set of online tools. Finally, in March 2008 the April 6th Youth movement created their own Facebook page to lead the online strategy for Kefaya Youth for Change, a major opposition group. As the Facebook page grew from 300-3,000 users in a matter of just three days, the April 6th Movement unleashed a battery of coordinated online tools involving blogs, Flickr, YouTube, e-mails, and text messages.

The most popular dissident Facebook group emerged in June 2010. Named “We are all Khaled Said” in memory of the young, middle-class Egyptian who was beaten to death in the street by the police and was charged with a crime he didn’t commit. This page was created after the launch of Arabic Facebook, catapulting the online movement to a much larger audience.

Despite the widespread growth of social media content and the growth of it’s users, some people continue to debate over the ultimate effect it all had on the recent Egyptian political movements.

Can future political/social/economic movements exist without the use of social media?


One thought on “A Review of “Clicks, Cabs, and Coffee Houses: Social Media and Oppositional Movements in Egypt, 2004-2011”

  1. Political and social movements will most definitely occur without the presence of social media but they might not get as much momentum without it. Movements would be more centralized to the root of the cause rather than global as we’ve seen with Egypt.

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