Political Economy of the network society Essay Example

РОLITIСАL EСОNОMY OF THЕ NETWORK SОСIЕTY
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Роlitiсаl eсоnоmy of thе network sосiеty

Political economy of the network society

Introduction

The Arab Spring was an essential event whose occurrences have not been forgotten even today. It was an aspect that involved a number of nations in the Middle East including Egypt, Tunisia and Libya among others. These nations fought against their oppressive regimes of government with an aim of putting the power back to the people. The effects of the Arab Spring can never be underrated since they spread to nations all over the Middle East. It was a revolutionary spring that involved both violent and non-violent riots, protests and demonstrations in the Middle East and North Africa. Although the revolution started in Tunisia, its effects spread rapidly to other nations such as Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Egypt and Syria. Insurgences and civil wars could also result in some instances. At the end of it all, the Arab Spring was in a position to attain a certain level of success with regard to empowering the people and making the governments realize the need to listen to the people. Despite the fact that instant changes such as the replacement of authoritarian regimes with stable democracies and enhancement of living standards could not be achieved, the Arab Spring uprising acted as a catalyst for long term change whose outcomes will be seen gradually.

Media and social media in particular, are thought to have played a role in the uprising, either positive or negative, as stated by various parties. To some, social media played a support role during this time. This piece of paper will give an in-depth discussion of the Arab Spring event and various aspects associated with it. Some of the particular areas that will be highlighted include the new media in the rising of so many people in the Arab Spring of 2011 and the function of new media in politics in the contemporary times.

The role of new media in the rising of so many people in the Arab Spring’ of 2011

New media is one of the crucial factors when it comes to the Arab Spring uprising. This is more so with respect to social media. This is despite there being some debate that the social media could not necessarily be a major factor in the uprisings since they happened in countries with extremely high levels of internet usage as well as those associated with quite low internet penetration.

There was an increased rate in the use of social media networks in most of the Arab nations during the times of protests. The dynamics associated with the crowd in social media and other participatory systems as well as collective intelligence have great power when it comes to supporting a collective action such as advocating for a political change. Digital democracy is also an aspect that has been experienced in areas that faced the uprisings. According to Gerbaudo (2012, p.112), social media played a significant part in the Arab uprising. For instance, networks that were formed online were essential in the coordination of influential groups of activists, particularly in Egypt. Social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook played a fundamental role in the movement of the Tunisian and Egyptian activists in addition to spreading awareness and organizing protests. Also, leaders of civil society in most Arab nations stressed on the role of social media, the internet as well as mobile phones in the demonstrations and protests. Among other uses of new media by the Arabs during those times and even in the present days is to exercise freedom of speech. Digital media has also been used as a space for civic engagement. The availability of a vast range of information on social media allows individuals to make informed decisions particularly on the political field.

Khondker (2011, p. 677) agrees to the fact that new media is an aspect that cannot be underrated when it comes to the discussion of the of the Arab Spring of 2011. This is more so since social media played a critical role in the coming together of a vast number of people. It particularly allowed for effective communication and interaction among political participants and protests. During the Arab Spring uprising, social media was widely utilized to pass different information, organize protests and keep the populations updated on the ongoing events on a local as well as global level. Social media acted as a tool through which political campaigns and agendas were driven, an aspect that is still witnessed even in the contemporary politics.

Anderson (2011, p.6) asserts that the most important role that social media played during the Arab Spring uprising was the communication of various information to the rest of the globe. This was with regard to what was happening on the ground during the Arab Spring. The different social media platforms are in a position to spread information widely and at a very high speed, sometimes in real time. Social media and the Internet were seen as a means through which democracy reached Northern Africa and the Middle East. During the early stages of the Arab Spring, social media, the Internet and other technologies platforms such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook were used as means of accelerating social protest. This is more so in Tunisia and Egypt. Not much fact can be said about the use of social media in facilitating the Arab Spring uprising in areas such as Libya whereby the government was in control of the internet and Yemen where there is low Internet penetration.

Graham (2010, p.28) argues that the social media played a fundamental role in influencing political debates in the Arab Spring. For instance, it is observed that online revolutionary discussions resulted in mass protests on the ground. The governments were also in a position to manipulate the use of social media for political gains. For example, the governments could use social media to engage with the public and promote their participation in their activities and processes. At times, the governments could also control and limit access to part or the entire internet platform especially when some threat could be detected.

It is worth noting that the excitement that existed on the aspect of the role played by social media in political activities and processes especially in the Middle East is no longer there. It is true that social media platforms brought about social and political mobilization. Nonetheless, it did not play an independent and decisive part in it but rather acted as a catalyst for revolution. There are various reasons have been cited as to why social media may not be deemed as a factor that is associated with real social change. For instance, social media is thought to complicate the decision making process that is attained through consensus due to lack of inherent hierarchy. There is also the aspect of social media resulting in low-risk activism as a result of weak ties that exist among participants. This translates to the fact that social media users may create the feeling of political action while in reality; they do not attain anything (Lotan, Graeff, Ananny, Gaffney and Pearce, 2011, p.31). The vast volume of information that is available on social media could also act as a disadvantage as it distracts individuals and divert their attention.

In summary, various social media platforms played a critical role during the Arab Spring uprisings. This is more so with respect to shaping opinions, public empowerment, mobilization and effecting change among others. However, this was made possible through the combination of other forces but not solely on social media. For example, nations characterized by low internet penetration and limited access to social networks such as Libya and Yemen made use of the mainstream electronic media devices such as cell phones, video clips and emails when it came to casting the light on the situation in the nation as well as spreading information about protests all over the world. Other platforms that were used in raising awareness to the public and coordinating protests include meeting in mosques for instance in Egypt.

In as much as other forces played a role in the Arab Spring, social media was not without some effects and its role cannot be underrated.

The function of new media in politics

New media cannot go unmentioned when it comes to politics today. The aspect of the Arab Spring and the use of new media back then can be understood by looking at the use of new media in politics in the contemporary times. According to Baker, Warburton, Hodgkin and Pascal (2014, p.476), social media has speedily grown in significance as a platform for political activism in its various forms. Social media networks such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter offer new means of stimulating citizen engagement when it comes to political life whereby electoral campaigns and elections have a fundamental role. There is also the issue of personal communication through social media whereby it brings parties and politicians closer to their supporters and potential voters. In addition, it makes it possible for politicians to communicate widely and easily and at the same time keep in touch with the citizens in a more targeted way. Social media and other digital technologies also make it possible to get feedback and reactions as well as follow debates and conversations online with respect to various political agendas.

According to Williams and Gulati (2013, p.63), media play a major role in politics and elections in particular. Media in different forms, both traditional and new media, play an incredible role in appropriate functioning of a democracy. One of the major roles is that of watchdog. The scrutiny and discussion of the positives and negatives associated with different electoral management bodies, governments as well as candidates by the media works by informing the public of the manner they have performed and hence help in holding them accountable. There are other ways through which the media allow for full public participation in elections. They include voter education on various election issues and exercising democratic rights, reporting on campaign matters and offering a platform through which the public can voice their concerns to various parties and interact on issues concerning them. The media is also involved in reporting results and monitoring the voting and counting processes and providing the public with adequate information to avoid election-related violence. The media also offer a platform for candidates and parties to debate with each other and scrutinize the electoral process as a way of enhancing efficiency and fairness for all.

It is worth noting that in as much as the media is not the only source of information for the voters, it is quite crucial in a world that is dominated by mass communications. It therefore plays an essential role in determining the political agenda globally particularly in nations that are more technically developed. The media is involved in keeping the citizenry up to date with current events as well as raising awareness of different issues affecting the society. During the Arab Spring uprising, individuals created pages on the Facebook network as a way of raising awareness with regard to alleged crimes against humanity. An example is the police brutality that was experienced during the Egyptian revolution. North Africa and the Middle East used means such as blogging and emailing to organize and disseminate information regarding internal domestic protests (Eltantawy and Wiest, 2011, p. 18). Through this, new media shaped the way of thinking of the public and its opinions and views. Public opinion is shaped and manipulated through media.

Wright (2012, p.248) asserts that new media has been playing a significant role in elections in America and other parts of the world since they appeared in the late 20th century. Despite the fact that television is still the major source of election-related information for most voters and the public at large, digital communication platforms have become popular. To a large extent, new media have prompted changes in the campaign strategies associated with political organizations, candidates as well as political parties. It has also influenced voter engagement and reshaped election media coverage. Social media platforms and Facebook in particular offered new sources of information that the government regimes could not control in any way. The information was essential in influencing the manner in which citizens made personal decisions regarding participating in demonstrations.

Vergeer (2013, p.12) affirms that the importance of new media in elections cannot be underrated. Its influence on elections has been extensive. Campaigns act as a laboratory when it comes to the development of political applications which in turn carry over to postelection politics and come up with new norms for media politics in successive contests. For instance, the social media innovations that were popular in the 2008 presidential contest were widely utilized in the midterm elections held in 2010. The case was even more pronounced in the 2016 elections.

The internet has reached great relevance as a political tool and for this reason, many political units and groups utilize the internet as a means through which they can attain and implement their political agendas. This has been through internet activism, an aspect that is closely linked with rebels during the Arab Spring. Today, social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook are used in the coordination of political revolutions and movements. Information is disseminated, protests organized and grievances put across through different social media platforms. Politics online is also an issue of concern when it comes to the use of new media in the political scene. A wide range of population is reached at a go. Young people who are more into technology advancement and social media in particular are best captured through online politics. Online politics allows for effective campaign analysis and hence facilitate suitable political strategies (Baker, Warburton, Hodgkin and Pascal, 2014, p. 469). Speed of information and cost effectiveness are a plus for online politics.

A good example of the role the internet in politics is on the presidential campaign of Dean Howards in the year 2004, particularly in soliciting donations. President Obama was also successful in leveraging social media for political gains. This was a move that aimed at reaching the young voters as well as the minority groups and it proved to be extremely efficient in the 2008 and 2008 elections. The successes have prompted the use of social media in subsequent campaigns by candidates and political parties. The 2016 US elections also made extensive use of social media to execute various political agendas. According to Williams and Gulati (2013, p.68), social media played a major role in politics in America than ever before. Social media has achieved great success in targeting and reaching the millennial population since the young population are now more into social networks. It has also kept people informed on different issues that surround them, including their political and democratic rights. Online discussions and debates also allow the citizens to make informed decisions.

A look at the use of new media in the contemporary times helps in getting a deeper understanding of the role that social media played in the Arab Spring uprising.

Conclusion

From the above discussion, it is apparent that the Arab Spring is an event that is surrounded by a lot of controversy especially when it comes to its causes and effects. More so, the issue of new and social media during this time is an issue that has been widely debated. While some think that new media did not play a major role, others think that it was one of the crucial contributing factors towards the uprising. There is evident that social media played a substantial role during the Arab Spring uprising. This is more so through communication, organizing of activists and spreading information of what was happening throughout that period all over the world.

New media has also been in the forefront when it comes to in the contemporary political world. It is a platform that has been used by many political units such as candidates, government, electoral bodies and political parties to put across their agendas and what they aspire to do to the public. It is also used by the citizens to voice their needs and grievances to those involved. New media and digital technologies have also been influential in the general election process and various aspects associated with it. It has been considered as a means through which opinions are shaped and manipulated with regard to voting and the general election process. The use of new media in the Arab Spring uprising as well as in the contemporary political world translates to the fact that social media plays a critical role in politics and the society at large.

References

Anderson, L., 2011. Demystifying the Arab Spring: parsing the differences between Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. Foreign Affairs, pp.2-7.

Baker, S., Warburton, J., Hodgkin, S. and Pascal, J., 2014. Reimagining the relationship between social work and information communication technology in the network society. Australian social work, 67(4), pp.467-478.

Eltantawy, N. and Wiest, J.B., 2011. The Arab spring, Social media in the Egyptian revolution: reconsidering resource mobilization theory. International Journal of Communication, 5, p.18.

Gerbaudo, P., 2012. Tweets and the streets: Social media and contemporary activism. London: Pluto Press.

Graham, T., 2010. Talking politics online within spaces of popular culture: The case of the Big Brother forum. Javnost-the Public, 17(4), pp.25-42.

Khondker, H.H., 2011. Role of the new media in the Arab Spring. Globalizations, 8(5), pp.675-679.

Lotan, G., Graeff, E., Ananny, M., Gaffney, D. and Pearce, I., 2011. The Arab Spring| the revolutions were tweeted: Information flows during the 2011 Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. International journal of communication, 5, p.31.

Vergeer, M., 2013. Politics, elections and online campaigning: Past, present… and a peek into the future. New Media & Society, 15(1), pp.9-17.

Williams, C.B. and Gulati, G.J.J., 2013. Social networks in political campaigns: Facebook and the congressional elections of 2006 and 2008. New Media & Society, 15(1), pp.52-71.

Wright, S., 2012. Politics as usual? Revolution, normalization and a new agenda for online deliberation. New Media & Society, 14(2), pp.244-261.