Winner's Edge

Focused on strategic communications

Pro-Democracy Movement in Egypt: A Convergence of Social Media and Grassroots Organizing

Much has been written and discussed about the effective use of Twitter in the pro-democracy movement in Egypt. Here is a fantastic map on the Egypt influence network on Twitter:

Egypt Influence Network

The map is arranged to place individuals near the individuals they influence, and factions near the factions they influence. The color is based on the language they tweet in — a choice that itself can be meaningful, and clearly separates different strata of society.

Many fascinating structures can be seen. Wael Ghonim, a pivotal figure in this self-organzing system who instigated the initial protests on January 25th, is prominently located near the bottom of the network, straddling two factions as well as two languages. The size of his node reflects his influence on the entire network.
The lump on the left is dominated by journalists, NGO and foreign policy types; it seems nearly gafted on, and goes through an intermediary buffer layer before making contact with the true Egyptian activists on the ground. However, this process of translation and aggregation is key; it is how those in Egypt are finally getting a voice in Western society, and an insurance policy against regime violence. Many of the prominent nodes in this network were at some point arrested, but their deep connectivity help ensure they were not “dissapeared”.
Most of those in this network speak both English and Arabic, and their choice of language says a lot about both the movement and about Twitter. Some may choose to primarily communicate with their friends, while others make an effort to be visible to the rest of the world on purpose. They want to reach out, and connect with, the rest of the global society. The structure on the bottom, near Ghonim, seems entirely composed of this free intermingling.
In a case of ironic symbolism, the far left-most satellites are the Whitehouse, State Department, and Wael Ghonim’s employeer, Eric Schmidt, who is merely a speck on the map. And that’s probably how everyone in the rest of the network would like this future to look.
The media has covered at length the effective use of Twitter and Facebook in the Egyptian pro-democracy movement. While online social media were effective tools, these elements alone did not make the revolution. And the protests did not originate as a spontaneous uprising following similar events in Tunisia. In fact, the pro-democracy movement in Egypt was founded on traditional grassroots planning and organizing. Leaders of the movement were educated by the Center for Applied NonViolent Action and Strategies, or CANVAS, an organization run by young Serbs who had cut their teeth in the late 1990s student uprising against Slobodan Milosevic.
Following is a link to a fascinating article by Tina Rosenberg at Foreignpolicy.com on the history of CANVAS.
About these ads

February 21, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: