While the debate rages on regarding the role of social media technologies within the Egyptian revolution of 2011, and more generally the larger wave of ‘Arab Spring’ protests, the more relevant question of today is whether the 18 days of revolt may have done more for social media than vice versa. In different manners, social media technologies appear to be central to this discussion. From the Muslim Brotherhood’s use of technology to engage global publics, to activist uses of social media to build grassroots networks which bypass the barriers of infrastructure and access, or blogger uses of social media to impact older top-down media, social media technologies represent critical sites for analysis and critique. Building on two years of ethnographies and interviews, this paper identifies three key themes by which social media technologies shape political power: 1. Moving Past Bubbles, 2. Linking Older and Newer Media, and 3. Digital Subversion.
Dr. Ramesh Srinivasan, Assistant Professor at UCLA in Design and Media/Information Studies, studies and participates in projects focused on how new media technologies impact political revolutions, economic development and poverty reduction, and the future of cultural heritage. He recently wrote a front page article on Internet Freedom for the Huffington Post, an Op/Ed in the Washington Post on Social Media and the London Riots, an upcoming piece in the Washington Post on Myths of Social Media, and was recently on NPR discussing his fieldwork in Egypt on networks, actors, and technologies in the political sphere. He was also recently in the New Yorker based on his response (from his blog: http://rameshsrinivasan.org) to Malcolm Gladwell’s writings critiquing the power of social media in impacting revolutionary movements. He has worked with bloggers who were involved in overthrowing the recent authoritarian Kyrgyz regime, non-literate tribal populations in India to study how literacy emerges through uses of technology, and traditional Native American communities to study how non-Western understandings of the world can introduce new ways of looking at the future of the internet. He holds an engineering degree from Stanford, a Masters degree from the MIT Media Lab, and a Doctorate from Harvard University. His full academic CV can be found at http://rameshsrinivasan.org/cv