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Cyber-active! Civil Society, Technology, and Contemporary Revolution

Robert Imre
Tampere University
Robert Imre
Tampere University
Open Panel

Abstract

A major challenge to governments seeking to control the politics of their respective nation-states is the rise of communication technologies [CT] on a global scale. Recently Egypt and Tunisia have experienced demonstrations in which a serious challenge the ruling party in particular, and the ruling elites in general, has taken place. In both cases, the precursor to this civil uprising has been access to CT by a disenfranchised ‘middle class’. Further, Al-jazeera as a news organization has provided access to current events in the region, and regular communications among people in Egypt and Tunisia with friends and relatives in other countries has developed a decidedly open and diverse view difficult to contain by quasi-dictatorships. In contrast to the ‘coloured revolutions’ in the Ukraine and Georgia a few years earlier, the current facilitation of a civil uprising appears to have permanently overthrown the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia [although at the time of writing Mubarek is still technically in power]. In this paper I explore the link between the post-Cold War ‘revolutions’ and capacity for CT to facilitate major political change. Given these links, there are three questions I address in regards to ‘revolution’: can CT universally facilitate this kind of change in the harshest of regimes [N. Korea, Burma]; does there need to be a ressentiment by an aspiring middle class to achieve a highly developed civil society [Egypt and Tunisia]; will this open the door to negative majoritarianism [collective neo-fascism in Europe, fundamentalism in the Middle East]?