Jean Lievens: Social Media and Culture — We Are All Digital Immigrants

Jean Lievens
Jean Lievens

We Are All Digital Immigrants

Does technological progress change the human condition? Techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci took the time to speak with Martin Eiermann about the rise of Al Jazeera, accelerating change and the conventions of online interaction.

Zeynep Tufekci is an American sociologist, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina and a fellow at the Berkman Center at Harvard University. Her research focuses on the intersection of technology and culture. Follow her on Twitter at @techsoc.


Tufekci: The question about causality is not very fruitful when framed as an either/or. First, “online” is part of the real world. What the online does is reconfigure and augment the “offline” to open up new spaces and to allow new forms of connectivity, coordination and collaboration. Second, revolutions are always multi-causal.

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Zeynep  Tufekci
Zeynep Tufekci

Tufekci: Autocratic regimes don’t stay in power for decades by governing randomly; rather, they do so by following a tried-and-tested playbook of strategic censorship, isolation and repression of dissent. And control over information flows and the public sphere is a key element of this model of autocratic regime.

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Tufekci: On January 26th, 2011, the Egyptian uprising needed the internet less than on January 24th,2011 – there was already an uprising, one that had been in the making for at least a decade. This long story involved a changing media ecology: The rise of Al Jazeera, the rapid spread of cell phones with video capabilities, and the rise of social media and other tools which alter the infrastructure of connectivity.

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The other big change along with the Internet and Al Jazeera was when the cell phone camera appeared on the scene. Everyone could document events! Activist bloggers took these photos and videos of events that were not talked about otherwise and published them. It is hard to imagine how big of a red line was crossed:

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So my assertion is not that the internet leads to more democracy but that it leads to more participation. What more participation leads to depends on the context, country and many other factors.

Read full interview.

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