Social media aided but didn't cause Arab Spring, study finds

Jan 14, 2013
Social media aided but didn’t cause Arab Spring
Egyptian protests in Tahir Square. Credit: Dan H Creative Commons: BY NC

Social psychological research led by Murdoch University has concluded that social media accelerated but did not cause the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

Undertaken with the University of Bath and Monash University, the study involving Professor Craig McGarty, Dr Emma Thomas and Girish Lala from Murdoch University found technologies such as YouTube helped mobilise mass support in weeks, which in similar cases, such as South Africa, took decades.

Professor McGarty said social media could be viewed as a platform for change.

"The first video of protest in showed three minutes of people sitting down in a square, whistling and chanting. On some levels, this seems unremarkable, but mass public dissent was virtually unknown on the streets of Tunisian towns," Professor McGarty said.

"Rebroadcast of this event through social media and satellite TV bypassed government controls and enabled viewers to see the level of support for the cause."

Professor McGarty said this enabled new opinion-based groups to form, which increasingly contested ownership of national identity.

"Opposition movements can appear illegitimate when they attack a government who – wrapped in national symbols and in control of national institutions – can represent opponents as being disloyal to the country," he said.

"The fact that the emerging opposition fought the government for ownership of national symbols gradually allowed citizens to perceive their governments as outgroups with whom they could no longer identify."

Professor McGarty said national flags proliferated in shared videos as protest movements grew.

These include a video by Freedom4Tunisia (2011) with 487,000 views featuring an audio track over the Tunisian flag and one of Tahrir Square in which became the most popular video in the country.

"By adopting these symbols, the new political opinion-based groups came to stand for the nation. The result was the mass protest action that was the cause of regime change," Professor McGarty said.

"Had opposition remained in the domain of , the regimes would still be in place."

'New technologies, new identities, and the growth of mass opposition in the 'Arab Spring'' will be published in Political Psychology.

Explore further: Professional majors strengthen the mission of liberal arts colleges

More information: au.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTit… /productCd-POPS.html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New study quantifies use of social media in Arab Spring

Sep 14, 2011

In the 21st century, the revolution may not be televised – but it likely will be tweeted, blogged, texted and organized on Facebook, recent experience suggests. After analyzing more than 3 million tweets, ...

Contemporary protests are embracing an 'open door' policy

Oct 24, 2011

As the "Arab Spring" turns to fall and New York's "Occupy Wall Street" protest continues to draw international headlines, a new model of social and political protest has emerged. Based on informal leadership and a multitude ...

Yemenis use Facebook in anti-regime revolt

Apr 21, 2011

Young and educated, like most protesters in Sanaa, the Shamakh brothers shoot videos of demonstrations and post them on the Internet as part of an uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Recommended for you

Revealing political partisanship a bad idea on resumes

8 hours ago

Displaced political aides looking for a new, nonpartisan job in the wake of the midterm power shuffle may fare better if they tone down any political references on their resumes, finds a new study from Duke University.

Is dark money dimming the light of democracy?

11 hours ago

The week before the general election, UNM Political Science Associate Professor Mike Rocca presented a primer on campaign financing and a troubling change in the way political campaigns are being financed ...

Scholar traces cultural history of obsession with youth

14 hours ago

How old are you? There's the biological answer, of course, but a cultural perspective gives us another way to respond. If we believe Robert Harrison, a professor of Italian literature at Stanford, people ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.