Looking at the 2011 Egyptian revolution a decade after
How did social media affect the organisational structures and political outcomes of the social movements behind the revolution?
With the emergence and diffusion of social media in the Arab countries in the first decade of the 21st century, there were high hopes and much optimism around the role of that type of horizontal communication in spurring democratisation. Nearly a decade after the 2011 Egyptian revolution, our project set to explore the role that social media played in shaping the organizational structures and political outcomes of the social movements that led the revolution
As part of this project, I worked as a student research assistant with project leader Vito Laterza, associate professor in the Department of Global Development and Planning at the University of Agder.
I conducted an inductive review of the academic literature in English and Arabic on the project’s topic. Most of the literature focuses on the 2011 revolution, and there are not many academic works available about the role of social media in the post-revolution period. Despite the findings in the available literature suggest that the potential for change unleashed by social media during the revolution has petered out in recent years.
The 2011 Egyptian revolution has been labeled and named after in many ways, such as the "Facebook revolution" or "youth revolution". The provisional findings from the literature review show that these names are not axiomatic and are often contested.
Three trends have emerged in the literature. The first is optimistic about the role of social media and the youth in the revolution and sees the role of social media as a crucial one. The second could be labeled as a pessimistic position towards the role of social media, which sometimes also highlight the negative effects of social media in terms of potential for monitoring and control of citizens and activists by the authorities.
The third one is positioned on a middle ground between the first two positions. According to this strand of the literature, that revolution could not have happened without social media, which provided the infrastructure to organize and coordinate political activities. However, the enabling role of social media does not take away from specific political and socio-economic structural factors that were the underlying causes spurring people to mobilise for political change.
Most of the literature focuses on the 2011 revolution, and there are not many academic works available about the role of social media in the post-revolution period. The limited literature available on the post-revolutionary period suggests that the potential for change unleashed by social media during the revolution has petered out in recent years