Do we need the Internet for a revolution?

In today's episode of Loaded, Natali Morris questions the Internet as the force behind the Egyptian uprising.

In the last two years I have read at least a dozen books that champion the Internet as the key to personal and political freedom. Scholars and academics have come to see digital communication as a near messiah in power and prescience.

However, I believe that the current revolution in Egypt should temper our faith in the Internet.

The Egyptian government has cut off the digital tools that we have come to rely on. All ISPs are shut down, cell phone service has been cut, and Al Jazeera has lost its license to broadcast within the country.

Yet the people of Egypt have found a way to organize the largest protest in the country's history with remarkable valor.

So maybe we shouldn't deem the Internet our lifeline? Maybe this should give us some sense that the Internet is an important, but not only, way to exercise freedom and voice?

In "Share This!," Deanna Zandt says the Web "is just now starting to realize some of its disruptive potential, and the digitization of our social networks give us a great opportunity to shift power dynamics away from those hierarchical constraints."

I agree, but I also think there is an inherent danger in ceding too much power to this medium. We risk minimizing organic and offline power if we stake too much on online sources of it.

As Matthew Hindman states in "The Myth of Digital Democracy": "The Internet's successes at democratizing politics are real. Yet the medium's failure in this regard are less acknowledged and ultimately just as profound."

Google and Twitter have come up with a workaround to the Internet clampdown in Egypt that allows Egyptians to send tweets over landline phones. This is a nice gesture, but it seems that the revolution could move ahead without the ability to tweet.

Communication is important, whether through digital or analog means. But we must remember what lies behind communication: people. This revolution seems determined to get around whatever roadblocks the government instates. The people of Egypt have dug their heels in.

Twitter and Facebook and the Internet are fun and useful, but this is a revolution fueled by people, not technology.

Other links from Tuesday's episode of Loaded:

 

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