Assignment 10 – FOR

Despite the ubiquitous persona social networks have of trivially being a means of staying connected and meeting new friends, the importance of these kinds of networks has brimmed over into other facets. Most recently and most notably, they were attributed with propelling the eventual removal of Egypt’s President Mubarak from power. In light of Jackson’s article, readers get a clear picture of the design, dynamics, and guidelines with regard to infrastructure. He states that “Depending on their form, scale… such tensions can slow, alter, or substantially derail the development of infrastructure…”. Indeed, one developing infrastructure (i.e. information infrastructure) has “derailed” the political infrastructure of Egypt in place for 30 years. It was through these networks that the inhabitants of that country could alert the outside world of their struggle and also to organize (Gaudin). Additionally, an analyst noted that “social networking … a critical part of its infrastructure… once that spark hit social channels, the ability to communicate in real time… reach large numbers of people… was most certainly a significant contributing factor…” It was the only way that Egypt’s citizen could mobilize against their autocratic ruler; by giving legs to social networks, a powerful and necessary change was achieved.  -Mia

Twitter was necessary in the overturn of the Mubarak regime as it provided a rebel communication avenue ideally suited for organizing rallies and garnering local and international support. Twitter develops a new system in cyberinfrastructure that is comparable to the highway system of our national infrastructure, but one that reaches out to and is immediately accessible by any citizen with an internet connection (a very low entry barrier), and where any individual can reach a group of his peers simultaneously and instantaneously. It’s a system that easily attains trans-national reach due to the fact that it’s based on the internet, thereby avoiding any “potential conflict… realized between the objectives of national advantage and those of transnational connection” (Jackson) encountered by more physical communication systems. Egyptian activists “learned how to work with international media and with social networking platforms such as Twitter… that expose Mubarak’s legacy of brutality (Fisher). The rebels were able to expose the truth to the whole world, and channel the resulting international pressure towards the achievement of revolutionary goals. The key institution swayed by the media pressure was the Egyptian military, which “(responded) quickly to public protests and international media attention” (Fisher) despite participating in crimes at the early stages of the revolution. The Twitter connection triggered media pressure, causing “the military police (to) fear CNN more than a gang of rock-throwing Mubarak supports” (Fisher), and thus giving rebels the necessary military support to succeed. -Andy

While the French revolution, American revolution, and the Iranian revolution happened without the use of Twitter, the overturn of Mubarak in Egypt couldn’t have happened without it.  In these previous revolutions change of government often took years of bloody battles to finally declare a winner.  Because of Twitter the protesters of Egypt  were able to coordinate their uprising into a street level blitzkrieg.  This speedy dispersing of information is what separates those other (long time coming) revolutions and the events of Egypt.  The Egyptian call to arms happened so fast the Egyptian government was caught off guard.  The Egyptian police stations were ransacked before the army could reinforce the police.  This strategic victory could only have happened because of twitter.  Twitter was eventually shut off along with the rest of the internet, but with the cities of Egypt already without a police force the protestors were now thoroughly entrenched.

Jackson says in his article that, “in making some things easier, infrastructures will frequently make others harder (or impossible).”  Jackson’s theory of infrastructure can be applied to the situation in Egypt.  While advances in information infrastructure have been thoroughly integrated into policing, and army strategy, these same advances have made the sophistication of opposition groups harder (or impossible) to completely suppress. -TJ

Twitter was definitely necessary for the overturning of Mubarak in Egypt.  While some might argue that   people could have used something else, based on the Jackson article about information infrastructure, Twitter might have been the only infrastructure capable of meeting the needs of protestors.  As the article explains, some infrastructures are embedded within others, in this case most social media infrastructures are heavily reliable on the internet and computer access.  Once internet was practically shut down, Twitter became a champion over other infrastructures because tweeting from smart phones is quite a bit easier than uploading videos or posting to Facebook while at protests.  Twitter might have also been the most intuitive social media outlet, since the Ibrahim article explains that even before the protests the government kept a tight leash on the public’s ability to access information via the internet.  The article goes on to say that individuals who performed acts of expression on the internet would be harassed by theta government, so if people were not used to using social media on the internet, the simple interface offered by Twitter might have been the easiest to use.  Similarly, in Warshcauer’s Dissecting the “Digital Divide,” while the government provided technology to educators, they provided no email, online bulletin boards, or means of communication, only hardware, further implying that people might not have had too much experience with most social media.  Also, since Twitter can search for information with tags, it was easy for people to adapt, and Google made it even more adaptable by allowing voice-to-tweeting.  Google’s support of Twitter can be seen as evidence of Twitter’s importance and consolidation, as described by Jackson, since it was so easy to extend Twitter to other domains.  -Linsey

Twitter, along with other social media and forms of communication such as Facebook and regular cell phone services, were necessary in the overturn of Mubarak in Egypt. In addition to the ability to organize and come together as provided by such communications infrastructures, the actions of the government in stopping such functionalities prove to be an instrumental factor in the overturn of Mubarak and the several decade long dictatorship. With an established communications infrastructure of the form similar to what is described by Jackson, it is clear that the sudden disabling of the internet and cellular communication caused a huge unbalance and disruption in the regular lives of Egyptian civilians and more importantly, protestors. Jackson mentions that an established infrastructure is usually not noticed and instead taken for granted – only when something is not working do people notice the vast implications of which they depend on such infrastructures. Infrastructures, as Jackson states, should “appear as timeless, un-though, even natural features of contemporary life.” (Jackson) With the Egyptian revolution, the sudden crippling of Egypt’s communications and cyber infrastructure caused deep unrest in the already troubled citizens.  Twitter and other forms of social media were used as gathering points and discussion places for the general public, to discuss the recent events and organize protests. More importantly, Twitter and other forms of social media were regularly used in the day and life of the general public, embedded in the lifestyles and daily routines of the public and taken for granted as a necessary and a given right for use. “A worried mother who has not heard from her son or daughter can’t send an email or check Facebook for a status update. A witness to violence can’t seek help, document responsibility, or warn others via Twitter or a blog. Life-saving information is inaccessible. Healthy, civil debate about the future is squashed.” (McLaughlin) The ability to do things such as those described by McLaughlin is vital and necessary in the lives of individuals accustomed to regular internet access and was instead brought to a screeching halt in the matter of a few days. The actions of Mubarak in stopping almost all forms of communication within Egypt and the outside world essentially attempted to go against the inertia and momentum an infrastructure which Jackson points as once established, is costly, difficult, and in some cases impossible. (Jackson) In an already politically unstable environment combined with foreign support from across the world, the last act of a weakening dictatorship in disabling the internet and cellular communication pushed people even more to go to the streets and protest in an effort to stop the massive political corruption and overturn the long-lasting and oppressive dictatorship. -David

Twitter acted as a unifying agent in Egypt’s overthrow of Mubarak. When the Government cut off Internet service providers in Egypt, Google and Twitter launched a service where people could leave a voicemail on a specific number and the message would be converted into the traditional text format of Twitter. This helped people in Egypt stay connected and voice their anger and displeasure of the Mubarak regime. Without Twitter, citizens’ voices would not have reached the mass audience it did, which helped spur a global effort of helping Egypt remove Mubarak. Twitter follows the path Jackson describes as a “a complex path of transfer or translation from one location or domain to another.” Twitter usually is accessed via computers and Internet, but Egyptians were able to use the service through their phones. The “heterogeneous engineers” Jackson describes enabled the speak-to-tweet system to work in a number of ways. They facilitated the technical aspects of the system and adapted the system to meet the social requirements or limitations, namely that the Internet could not be used. The expanded use of Twitter outlines “how successful systems may undergo complex processes of transfer, adaptation, and growth as they are extended to other places.” The systems of using Twitter were modified to fit the needs of the Egyptian people. Jackson also notes that once infrastructure becomes “grooved,” it “becomes hard to shift or displace.” When Twitter became accessible to individuals through their cell phones, it became entrenched in society and was almost impossible for Mubarak supporters to contain. Without Twitter, the voice of dissent would not have spread throughout Egypt and the world over Mubarak. The CNET article notes that social media “transferred the voice of international scrutiny from sovereign leaders to a community of millions.” The consistent and increasing reproach of Mubarak through Twitter was necessary for his ouster as it gave the masses one unifying and powerful voice for the world to witness. Mubarak couldn’t withstand this threat as technology proved to always be one step ahead of him. -Ben

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