Political Economy of the Network Society: Effects of the Internet on the Arab Spring

2319 words (9 pages) Essay in Technology

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Question: Think about the rise and rise of the Internet: were its shape, its form and its function inevitable? Could it have been different? If so, how?

As the development of the Internet, it is meant to be the primary source of communication, which can be clearly seen in everyday life around us. It gives us the opportunities for real – time interpersonal communication and data retrieval without the limitations of time and space cooperate with offline social interaction (Maratea 2014, p. 3). Moreover, it delivers news and information to everyone across the globe very quick and on time (Maratea 2014, p. 3). As part of society today, we are adapting and engaging in a broad variety of online environment such as we communicate with people, get news, pay bill and other online activities. The Internet becomes a central source for us to do these activities in global scope. Notably, within the development of the Internet day by day, it shapes the way that we communicate with each other, it provides new spaces for us to do many things such as pay bill, getting news and information, debate and discussion, and many more. This essay will argue how the use of the Internet effects on the politic and economy within Egypt during the Arab Spring 2010.

As Castell (2009, p. 70) argues the information technology innovation shapes and interacts with economy and society. Indeed, by using the Internet nowadays, it is a central platform to conduct business, connect people to people and provides government services. Huang and Sun (2015, p. 94) demonstrate the relationships between the Internet and globalisation. In this case, Huang and Sun (2015, p. 94) argue that dispersal of the Internet effects on economic and financial globalisation, social globalisation and political globalisation in every nation. Clearly, the Internet influences on trading both good and services, which Huang and Sun (2015, p. 94) explain that the Internet technology will effect on the development of global markets for goods possible. In addition, the trade of services will be influenced as the new services will receive the transmittable via the Internet that “can now be traded almost at no cost, irrespective of location” (Huang and Sun 2015, p. 94).

In the political perspective, the Internet is certainly to decrease the costs of organising and communicating information. Papacharissi (2002, p. 9) explains that the Internet allows us to access any information; especially the political discussion that never available on the official media. Secondly, the Internet gives us a space to discuss between person and person on far sides of the world; however, it also “frequently fragmented the political discourse” (Papacharissi 2002, p. 9). Last but not least, in term of the patterns of global capitalism, the Internet – based technologies will engage itself in the current political culture, rather than creating a new one (Papacharissi 2002, p. 9). Undoubtedly, since the Internet appears, it changes the way that people communicate with each other and the way people accumulate news and information. We used to live in the development of World Wide Web (also known as Web 1.0), which allows us to get information such as texts, sounds, videos, and animations on the websites, interlinked with other websites (Fuchs 2007, p. 126). Nonetheless, we cannot communicate with each other on time.

With the development of new technologies, it allows us to access any information and real – time interpersonal communication, which connect a person to the public and the social and political arena (Papacharissi 2002, p. 10). The increasing of new platforms such as MySpace, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter and much more has significant features of the web in term of communication cooperation (Fuchs 2007, p. 126). As many theorists argue, communication is an act of the sharing or exchange information. The process of communication through technology communication can be defined as “the characteristics of the senders and receivers of information, their cultural codes of reference and protocols of communication, and the scope of the communication process” (Castells 2013, p. 78). Given this, the two – way communicate is established, and people get news and information and response on the current issue at the same time. For example, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites provide spaces for us to communicate with each other and to get news and information as quickly as possible and easy to access to any information.

As we acknowledge that the appearance of Facebook and Twitter had strongly influenced on political issues in the global scope. At present, the new light on the information technology can be considered as human engagement and sociality. In this case, the Egypt’ Revolution in 2010 is the best example when we discuss the relationship between the Internet, political issue, economic problem and civic engagement.

The Egypt Revolution is not new, but it is always mentioned when we talk about the impact of the Internet and political issues. It remarks the turning point of the use of the Internet is the use of social media sites. As Maratea (2014, p. 7 – 10) reveals six key effects of Internet users. The author demonstrates that by using the Internet, users are free to provide their claim – makings and protest locations, a large platform to accumulate information and deliver information to the world. In addition, the Internet helps activists with greater flexibility and creating claims and managing protest action that catch the public attention. Furthermore, the Internet provides a space for every user freely to control and search any news and information that they choose to read. However, there are some concerns regarding the credibility of news and information on the Internet as well as the stability concerns in cyberspace. The movement first starts in January 2011, which all Egyptians call for an uprising across the country to against poverty, unemployment, government corruption and overthrow the current president Hosni Mubarak. There are millions of Egyptian in the downtown in Cairo on the national holiday, and heading to the ruling National Democratic Party.

 Arthur (2011) reports that in 2011, there are around 19.2 million of Egypt’s 80 million population have the Internet access. They usually access through Internet café, mobile internet or public information technology clubs (Arthur 2011). Thanks to the development of Internet, the first movement started on January 25, 2011, which heavily organised on social media sites, are Facebook and Twitter. According to Attia et.al. (2011, p. 370), they illustrate that Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo and other social media sites are playing the significant role in every country nowadays. It is because it gives many opportunities to use the power of a community to engage in the democratic process in order to change or try to make the world a better place (Purdy 2017, p. 319). In the Egypt Revolution case, Egyptians have created many pages as well as many events, which tried to catch Egyptian attention. As consequences, the movements attracted millions Egyptian on the first day of protest.

Purdy (2017, p. 319) argues since many people view information on the Internet, the issue becomes more popular, and the Internet is the democratising agents. In other words, the Internet is an agent to facilitate participation in many aspects of civic life, organising the online meeting, the connections between group members in offline communities or even a tool to monitor data from companies (Purdy 2017, p. 319). In the Egypt’s case, the use of social media sites, as well as the Internet, had caught many international attention regarding the Egypt Revolution in 2011. Therefore, after three days of the protest, the Egyptian authorities had to shut down the Internet access as the Egyptian use it to access to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to gather protests. Arthur (2011) reports on the Guardian newspapers that Egyptians cannot access to Facebook and Twitter as the authorities of Mubarak’s regime “tried to prevent social media from being used to foment unrest.” Consequently, Egyptians within the country and people from outside the country cannot deliver the news and information about the movement on any social media sites. Despite it happened during the movement, Egyptians found the other way to access to the Facebook, Twitter and any social media sites by using some proxy sites, VPN and software such as hotspot shield (Lavrusik 2011).

Indeed, the new tools of social media sites have shaped the way people organise movements. The occurrence of Facebook, Twitter and so on has changed the traditional relationship between political authority and their citizens (Gladwell 2010, p. 2). As revealed by Shirky (2011, p. 28), social media sites are the mirror of the fact of our civil society worldwide, which is engaging by many factors such as activists, nongovernmental organisations and so on. Indeed, Egyptian activists communicated and connected with each other through Facebook and Twitter to coordinate the rallies. For example, they indicated the purposes of doing as under Mubarak’s regime; it was controlled the political process by exchanging phases of relatively, even though limited, opening, to phases of deepening authoritarian and harsh repression (Paciello 2011, p. 6). As consequences, there are limited civil and political rights, repressed political opponents, and managed carefully the electoral process (Paciello 2011, p. 6).

Thanks to the viral of news and information on social media sites regard to the protests in Egypt, after 18 days of massive protests, Hosni Mubarak stepped down after more than 30 years being the Egypt’s president. Obviously, this political transition had significantly influenced the economy of this nation. In the economics aspect, president Hosni Mubarak controlled “the implement market – oriented reforms gradually, resisting deep structural reforms that would have both harmed the ruling’s elites’ economic interests and entailed disrupting social dislocation.” In this case, it led to the increasing of inequalities, worsening poverty levels, rising the younger generation unemployment among educated and so on (Paciello 2011, p. 6).

According to the Harding (2016), it states that before the revolution, Egypt’s economy was quite healthy. At the mid – the 2000s, the development of the gross domestic product (GDP) was 7% annually and by 2010, Egypt got foreign currency up to $35 billion and stood at $2,600 GDP per capita. In contrast, after the revolution in 2011, Egypt became a lower middle-income country due to the political transition (Overview 2016). Kingsley (2013) demonstrates that after the political crisis, Egypt had experienced a dramatic fall in both foreign investment and tourism revenues. Kingsley (2013) indicates that “60% drop in foreign exchange reserves, a 3% drop in growth, and a rapid devaluation of the Egyptian pound.” It led to the increasing of food prices, unemployment for the younger generation and a shortage of fuel and cooking gas (Kingsley 2013). Afterwards, the economy in Egypt is slowly improving from 2014 according to the World Bank’s report in 2016. It indicates that “the annual rates of GDP increases up to 4 percent in 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 up from an average of only 2 percent during the period 2010/2011 – 2013/2014” (Overview 2016).

In conclusion, the Egypt Revolution is the great example to illustrate the impact of the Internet on both politics and economics within the nation. The Internet is an agent for activists and other citizens to communicate and connect with each other to coordinate movements. In other words, it shapes the way people contact with each other. The development of the Internet means the rise of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, which provides new spaces for everyone communicate with each other. In the political perspective, it delivers news and information regarding the political issues inside and outside the country. Consequently, citizens have new spaces to discuss, debate and rise their own voices. Likewise, in January 2010, the US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton states that the United States would promote Internet freedom abroad, which means “the freedom to access information, the freedom of ordinary citizens to produce their own public media, and the freedom of citizens to converse with one another” (Shirky 2011, p. 30 – 31). In the economic aspect, it influences in term of declining the GDP, unemployment in the younger generation, food prices and the prices of fuel and gas if the crisis happened within the country.

References     

  • Arthur, C 2011, ‘Egypt blocks social media websites in attempted clampdown on unrest’, The Guardian, January 27.
  • Attia, AM, Aziz, N, Friedman, B & Elhusseiny, MF 2011, ‘Commentary: The Impact of social          networking tools on political change in Egypt’s “Revolution 2.0”’, Electronic Commerce Research & Applications, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 369 – 374.
  • Castells, M 2009, The rise of the Network Society, with a New Preface: The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture Volume I, Honoken: John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
  • Castell, M 2013, Communication Power, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Fuchs, C 2008, Internet and Society: Social Theory in the Information Age, New York: Routledge.
  • Gladwell, M 2010, ‘Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted’, Annals of innovation.
  • Harding, H 2016, ‘Analysis: Egypt’s Economy five years after the revolution’, Middle East Eye, January 23.
  • Huang, TT & Sun BQ 2015, ‘The impact of the Internet on Global Industry: New Evidence of Internet Measurement’, Research in International Business and Finance, vol. 37, pp. 93 – 112.
  • Kingsley, P 2013, ‘Egypt’ suffering worst economic crisis since 1930s’, The Guardian, May 16.
  • Lavrusk, V 2011, ‘How users in Egypt are bypassing Twitter & Facebook Blocks’, Mashable Australia, January 28.
  • Maratea, RJ 2014, The politics of the Internet: political claims-making in cyber space and its effect on modern political activism, Lanham Lexington Books.
  • ‘Overview’ 2016, World Bank, October 1.
  • Paciello, MC 2011, ‘Egypt: Changes and Challenges of Political Transition. MEDPRO Technical Report No. 4/May 2011.’
  • Papacharissi, Z 2002, ‘The virtual sphere: the Internet as a public sphere’, New Media & Society, vol. 4, no. 1, p. 9.
  • Purdy, SJ 2017, ‘Internet use and civic engagement: A structural equation approach’, Computers in Human Behaviour, p. 318.
  • Shirky, C 2011, ‘Political Power of Social media – Technology, the Public Sphere, and Political Change, The [Comments]’, Foreign Affairs, no. 1, p. 28.

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