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New Technologies, New Identities, and the Growth of Mass Opposition in the Arab Spring

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Abstract

The recent revolutions known as the Arab Spring have been characterized as the products of social media. However, there is an alternative view that revolution takes place on the street or the battlefield and that the role of social media has been overstated. We argue that some new technologies can serve to facilitate rapid social change when they provide ways to overcome restrictions on the freedoms of expression and association. In doing so, communication technologies enable the formation of new social identities that can challenge existing social orders by promoting the growth of a social movement that is positioned as loyal to the nation and its people but opposed to the government. Our analyses focus on the role of social media in spreading video images of dissent and the links between this video material, satellite television, and mobile telephones in Tunisia and Egypt.

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