Arab Revolution 2.0. The “Real Square” and the “Virtual Square”.


“The Arab spring, and the riots that are shaking the Arab world, causing the falling of the regimes, are marked by the impact of social networks and the birth of the young Arab people of the web”.

We are people of the land. (Egyptian Tweet quoted on Washington Post)

In the beginning  was the Image and the image was with Twitter, even before getting owned by  Mainstream Media. 
Every revolution of the past century has been made, as well as represented, even (sometimes especially) with the images, and today digital information adapt technically to their dissemination through the world.


Social Networks are like an intangible medium that invite us to live in a simulated world, where everything is built, fabled and invented according to our needs. The difference is that we can choose, customising the contents and the meanings in the flow of information that invades us, anytime we connect to internet, as soon as we “turn on” our computers.
 The aesthetics digital realism of the images is the same of the pictures, more complex perhaps, which “metaphysics” of the real is always linked to the attempt to represent the matter the dreams are “made of”.

The image of the boy offering a flower to the soldiers at the funeral of Jan Palach in Praga, 1968; that of the Berlin wall pickaxed by the crowd; the student who stops the tanks in Tien An Men square; the woman who stops the SUV on which travels Ahmadinejad, showing him the middle finger; are images that mediate the real, occupying the imagination, and become social relationships, become reality. Today, those images, may be disseminated by anyone through the web, using simply a Tablet, a laptop, an Iphone, or a Blackberry.

The Arab spring began with a photo, taken by a mobile phone, of Mohammed Bouazizi, a Tunisian boy of 26 years, a bachelor’s degree in computer science, unemployed, who on December 17, set himself on fire to protest against the dramatic conditions of poverty in which he was forced by the economic crisis.

The image, retweeted thousands and thousands of times, like a spark, exploded as a fractal within the circuit of the “multiplier media”  in a few days, occupying the pages online, and then has been printed on the main newspapers, invading the imagination of young people in the Arab world thanks to the news of the main TV broadcasting the Tunisian revolt. The “sensationalism of the invisible” became a symbol, acquiring a “use value”, evoking the desire of a revolution, overcoming the two-dimensional flat screen logic, the division in pixels of the images.

What did the digital image in the reality of the web exceeded itself. What happened cannot find explanation only with the rebellion for the need to protect the “human values” by the barbaric (‘of the machine’?). 
In Tunisia and Egypt there was already a context with clearly symptoms of a imminent revolution.

In 2008 were brutally sedated the riots in the worker district of Gafsa in Tunisia. In the Egyptian city of al-Mahalla al-Kubra there were a series of strikes of the textile industry, and always in the same country, in 2005, the elections (in a climate of violence caused by the police, even within the polling stations), with accusations of fraud, the Muslim Brotherhood had obtained the historical achievement of 88 seats in Maglis Al-Sha’ab‎ (The People’s Assembly of Egypt). Besides, by 2004, a cartel of 300 intellectuals gave life to the movement Kifaya, in which it has developed an important cross-party opposition to the regime of President Mubarak. General tests of a revolution which was later extended to a large part of the Arab world.

The digital revolution of social networks followed, in a few years, the coverage of Pan-Arab satellite TV Channels. It began in the early 1990s, shortly before the advent of Al Jazeera, the satellite tv that since 1996 broadcasts from Qatar, contributing to the construction of a ‘common language’ between the Arabs, often accused of having caused popular events that have influenced the political choices of Arab governments in more than one occasion.

The same satellite network has also been severely criticized in some occasions, by the movements, for not having offered them an appropriate coverage in the broadcasted news, accusations that have weakened the image of impartiality of the information offered by the Pan-Arab television.

Nevertheless, Invading the news of Al Jazeera continues to be one of the main target of the ”Information Operations” being waged though the Arab world, primarily with the Counter-Information carried out with social networking and blogs.

How to make a revolution is a known dilemma that regards the theorists, and theories never lack, but what is certain (by 17th century onwards) is that from the invention of printing, revolutions have always gone hand in hand with techno-communicative transformations.

Any narration on  2011′s Arab revolutions (year 1432 in the islamic calendar) should measure with the huge impact that the convergence between the Real Square and the Virtual Square, created by social media and web 2.0, have had on regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, by two or three years to today.

The whole language of the revolt has changed. Programmers and activists of social media are participating in the construction of a language between communicating machines, whose access to secret codes opens the door to a real “Science of Chaos”, while the great classical systems of marxism, of socialism and liberalism in their post-nasserian declensions degenerate and lose their credibility.

It is quintessential that the revolution become an international movement, thus ‘globalize’ your acts of dissent. (Tweet)

Tweets traveling in network often have a  rhetorical-operational function more than critical-dialectic. To overcome the limit of 140 characters, “#” included, often invite to another link. The speed of the flow grant just the time to understand the displacement of the sense, in which the tactility  of the keyboard, the characters which appear in pixels on the screen, even when using an Iphone, register the momentary exile of the body, referential paradigm of the very idea of political reality.

The same #OccupyWallStreet movement offers a simulacrum, a virtual representation of an unperformable nature,  but however closer (more than you think) to the functioning of the financial economy of  New York Stock Exchange,  in which nominal value of Shares and Bonds are blowed up,  multiplied,  inflated, and shot in the cyberspace of value.

So, even a hundred occupants in Zuccotti Park, became a powerful imagination which multiplies,  detaching from the actual value, becoming nominal figure in fractal abstract reality of  2.0 social network communication, the centerpiece of a sense, a reason inflated and covered by the desire, a bit like the mantle of Merlin.

I just got teargassed. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. (Tweet from Tahrir square quoted on The Guardian)

Tweeting is like sending a signal in the sidereal space, whose trajectory is unpredictable, and recalls the use of Radio shortwaves that, until the end of the 1980s, brought music and messages beyond the iron curtain, such as Radio Free Europe.

The web 2.0 is a new environment, a neutral space, where an individual inter-act, self-organising through a social interaction that builds new forms of collective action, through the quick exchange of contents, informations and products.

The impact of Information Technology in the Arab world, in societies strongly influenced by the dichotomy tradition/modernity and strongly split under the generational profile, with percentages of young people under 25 close to 50% of the population, including (among them) an increased and impressive level of education about information technology; is producing a deep cultural transformation and destabilizes the State control of the information for internal propaganda purposes.

Most young people have moved, as well as on Facebook and Twitter, toward the services such as YouTube, YouPorn, MySpace, Flickr, Skype, etc. The regime of President Mubarak was not able to exercise promptly forms of control and censorship, while the speed of the impact of most of the contents conveyed by these Media has long-term effects.

To give an idea of the impact of web 2.0 on Arab countries of the southern shore of the Mediterranean sea, it is suffice to say that on a total population of 82 million people in Egypt, the Internet Protocols activated are approximately 14 million (16% of the total population), while about 6 million people have Facebook profiles; in Tunisia, on 10.6 million inhabitants, IPs activated are 3 million and 600.000 around the 30% of the total population.

In this context, where the social actors were not organised around social movements linked to political parties or trade unions; social media, blogs, are representing a fundamental vehicle of information allowing to young leaders of the movements visibility and international solidarity before unthinkable, evading censorship and filters, accelerating the process of empowerment and politicisation of the public sphere.

Of course, with the expansion of internet, these instruments and their effects on Arab societies, is however by years subject  of sociological and security monitoring activities by the governments.

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Quest’ opera è distribuita con licenza Creative Commons Attribuzione – Non commerciale – Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia.

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1 commento
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