Local voices to global audiences | Social media and online activism

''She is the Muslim, the mother, the soldier, the protester, the journalist, the volunteer, the citizen,'' - The Age

”She is the Muslim, the mother, the soldier, the protester, the journalist, the volunteer, the citizen,” – The Age 2011

 

Social media has change the way the world communicates, making it easier to mobilize for collective action (Woldsfeld et al 2013). With technology as the driving force of online activism, social networks roles are to mobilise, coordinate and disseminate content, thus its use in recent protests and civil unrest is justified. Cited as a significant event, techno utopists saw social media as inherently liberatory (Salter 2014), giving the marganlised a voice, by identifying and showing support for specific efforts, reaching beyond the contained status of traditional journalism (Newsom & Lengel 2012).

Participation is important in allowing an exchange, this participation is also addictive, which is why these platforms have been so successful in facilitating a connection. Conversation about the revolution often preceded major events (Woldsfeld et al 2013) and social media has carried inspiring stories of protest across international borders. Facebook and Youtube heightened the recent corruption in Egypt. The most famous case would be of Asmaa Mahfouz, a 25 year old Egyptian Vblogger, who posted a video on Youtube calling for mass demonstrations against the government. To put it into context, women in these countries are not to be seen driving let alone spear heading a movement. Women as a driving force of activism plays into the narrative within the western paradigm (Salter 2014).

Conversely, in order for the marginalised to be heard, their voice must reach and audience outside of their normal range. As Newsom and Langel (2012) describe “The citizen journalism and other related efforts evident in Arab Spring activism have been reconstructed and re-created by global institutions and power brokers that act as gatekeepers of information flow so that the message can reach a wide audience”. This view juxtaposes the utopian idea that anyone can use social media to share their voice. The potential for empowerment is restricted by those who control the content. Governments, corporations, gatekeepers… If your voice isn’t being heard, where does it end up, lost with the millions of others in cyberspace?

Wolfsfeld (et al 2013) details that “Cyber-skeptics downplay the significance of the new technology, arguing the using the Internet gives people a false sense of participation and keeps them from actual physical protesting”. This is a particular intriguing argument as in regards to recent conflict in Turkey, where the government denied access to Social media. An adverse affect occurred, pushing citizens to the street searching for answer physically, rather than scrolling their Newsfeed. Furthermore, the blockage of social media in Turkey feeds into the idea that Twitter is used to disrupt or marganalise governments and overthrow regimes (Salter 2014).

 

Reference list

Newsom, V, Lengel, L (2012). Arab Women, Social Media, and the Arab Spring: Applying the framework of digital reflexivity to analyze gender and online activism. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 13(5), 31-45.

Salter, C 2014, Social Media Practices, DIGC335: Electronic Cultures, Lecture, Wollongong University 28 April, viewed 28 April 2014 via UOW Moodle

Wolfsfeld, G., Segev E., Sheafer, T (203), Social Media and the Arab Spring: Politics Comes First, The International Journal of Press/Politics, 18 (2) 115-137, Sage Publications, London. Accessed va UOW Summon 27 April 2014.

 

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About Nicola Salter

Nicola. 20. Third year UOW student studying a Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies.
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