This is part of a series of posts highlighting the Theorizing the Web conference, April 14th, 2012 at the University of Maryland (inside the D.C. beltway). See the conference website for information as well as event registration.
Last year, at the inaugural Theorizing the Web Conference many of the presentations and indeed conversations outside of the formal panels centered on attempting to understand the role of social media in political movements. Understandably many of these discussions were heavily informed by the events surrounding, for lack of a better term, “the Arab Spring.”
A year later criticism about the role of social media in political protests has matured, for the most part the conversation has moved beyond the reductive and simplistic, “Twitter and Facebook caused the revolution vs. Social Media was the least interesting thing” polarity, instead crystalizing on a more nuanced approach. While scholars have more or less come to terms with the notion that social media can play a role in social protest, contributing to a media ecology which empowers revolutionaries in a way not possible during prior struggles, the ensuing struggle has raised questions about the role social media can play in establishing a new power structure (not just in overthrowing an existing one). In short social media might be good for revolutions, but is it good for democracies?
Indeed a year out critics are now pointing out that the social media enabled protests in Egypt have yet to yield a stable democracy. And in another example critics are also quick to claim that while social media helped to drive the Occupy Protests, the digital network has not been as useful in helping the Occupy Movement produce any substantial policy change.
This session seeks to address these questions, examining the effects of social media on re-building power after a revolution, asking not only what effect has it had, but how might social media technologies be engineered to help with the moments after the revolt.
Panelists after the jump: more...