Tag Archives: social networking sites

Social networks, digital technologies and political change in North Africa


Much has been written about the potential of new ICTs, and particularly mobile technologies and social networking software, to transform political and social systems.  A fundamental question that underlies all work in ICT4D is whether new ICTs can indeed be used by the poor to overthrow oppressive regimes, or whether, like other technologies before them, ICTs are used primarily by the rich and powerful to maintain their positions of power.  Until very recently, it seemed that despite the potential of ICTs to undermine dominant political structures, most attempts to do so have been ruthlessly crushed.  The ruling regime in Iran was thus able to suppress the ‘Twitter Revolution’ of 2009-10, and the Burmese government likewise maintained its grip on power despite extensive use of mobile ‘phones and the Internet during protests in 2007.

Recent events in North Africa, with the overthrow of President Ben Ali in Tunisia and the continuing protests against President Mubarak in Egypt, have widely been attributed in considerable part to the agency of mobile ‘phones and the use of social networking environments over the Internet.  Whilst it is too early fully to judge their importance in fueling such political protests, the following reports provide evidence in support of such claims:

Tunisia

Egypt

Wider ramifications

Much research needs to be undertaken on the real role of ICTs in these ongoing political processes.  What seems apparent, though, is that many participants do indeed believe that these technologies are helping them achieve their objectives.

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Filed under 'phones, Accessibility, Africa, Development, Ethics, Social Networking

Are social networking sites encouraging infantilism?


A recent report in the Guardian has highlighted the lack of research and understanding of the impact of social networking sites such as Facebook, Bebo and Twitter.  The report comments that:

“Social network sites risk infantilising the mid-21st century mind, leaving it characterised by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise and a shaky sense of identity, according to a leading neuroscientist. The startling warning from Lady Greenfield, professor of synaptic pharmacology at Lincoln college, Oxford, and director of the Royal Institution, has led members of the government to admit their work on internet regulation has not extended to broader issues, such as the psychological impact on children. Greenfield believes ministers have not yet looked at the broad cultural and psychological effect of on-screen friendships via Facebook, Bebo and Twitter. She told the House of Lords that children’s experiences on social networking sites ‘are devoid of cohesive narrative and long-term significance. As a consequence, the mid-21st century mind might almost be infantilised, characterised by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise and a shaky sense of identity’.”

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Filed under Ethics, Social Networking

Social networking sites and surveillance


Christian Fuchs has recently published the results of a fascinating survey of the ways in which students in Salburg use and know about the surveillance implications associated with the use of social networking sites.  It presents a balanced critical account of the wider issues surrounding this important subject, as well as empirical evidence of student use.  In essence, they suggest that although students are generaly aware of surveillance issues, they are willing to take the risk because of the value they place on such communication.

Fuchs, Christian. 2009. Social Networking Sites and the Surveillance Society. A Critical Case Study of the Usage of studiVZ, Facebook, and MySpace by Students in Salzburg in the Context of Electronic Surveillance. Salzburg/Vienna: Research Group UTI. ISBN 978-3-200-01428-2.

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Filed under Ethics, ICT4D