- Series: Oxford Studies in Digital Politics
- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (March 29, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199936978
- ISBN-13: 978-0199936977
- Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.6 x 6.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,192,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Democracy's Fourth Wave?: Digital Media and the Arab Spring (Oxford Studies in Digital Politics) 1st Edition
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Q&A with Phillip Howard, author of Democracy's Fourth Wave?
Q. What is democracy’s “fourth wave”?
A. It has been 15 years since the last “wave” of democratization. Between 1989 and 1995, many remnants of the Soviet Union and failed authoritarian regimes in other parts of the world turned themselves into variously functional electoral democracies. But as a region, North Africa and the Middle East were noticeably devoid of popular democracy movements—until the early months of 2011. Democratization movements had existed long before technologies such as mobile phones and the internet came to these countries. But with these technologies, people sharing an interest in democracy built extensive networks, created social capital, and organized political action. Whether or not this Arab Spring leads to long-term entrenchment of democratic institutions and cultures in the Arab state-system is a question-mark, but one which requires a critical examination of the tools and infrastructures being used to organize and mobilize political change in one of the world’s last remaining authoritarian strongholds.
Q. What role does new information technology play in the modern day democratic struggles?
A. In many parts of the world, mobile phones and the Internet have provided civil society actors with new avenues for collective action. Since the commercialization of digital media, information infrastructure has become a formative space for nurturing and organizing social action. And since 2007, social media have added the additional dimension of allowing individuals to manage their own social networks and to push and filter political information along these links to family and friends. Prior to the Arab Spring, past cascades did not have the benefit of commercialized communication networks and technologies, such as social media and mobile telephony, to draw in the wisdom of the crowd and smart mob mobilization. In contrast, the Arab Spring is one of the most impressive examples where laterally organized collective action projects combated vertically organized state bureaucracies.
Q. Are these uses of technology more successful in some countries over others?
A. Perhaps the best evidence that digital media were an important causal factor in the Arab Spring is that dictators treated them as such. The months during which the Arab Spring took place had the most national blackouts, network shutdowns, and tool blockages to date. Yet authoritarian regimes have come to value digital media, too. Security services in Bahrain, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria observed how democracy advocates were using social media in Egypt and Tunisia and developed counterinsurgency strategies that allowed for them to surveil, mislead, and entrap protesters. Over the last 15 years, states (both authoritarian and democratic) have become increasingly willing to interfere with the links between nodes of digital infrastructure, but our examination finds that the existence of long-term online civil society with connections to transnational observers, including international news media and transnational diaspora networks helped outmaneuver many authoritarian regimes, this time. These days authoritarian regimes around the world take their Facebook and Twitter strategies seriously.
"Democracy's Fourth Wave? guides readers through the avalanche of factors that meshed with digital media to produce the Arab Spring. The authors subtly adapt traditional methodologies to decode mysteries of complex causal effects. In doing so, their book brings clarity and insight to the conundrums of new technologies as factors in regime fragility and protest success."--Monroe E. Price, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania
"This unprecedented multidisciplinary approach to the examination of the Arab Spring situates itself in digital revolutions and political transformations. I highly recommend it for students, activists, and policy makers seeking to understand how modern communication technologies are driving the Fourth Wave of Democracy in the Arab world."--Imad Salamey, Associate Professor of Political Science, Lebanese American University
"This book represents the first serious effort to transcend the polarized debate between cyber-utopians and tech-skeptics regarding digital media's role in the 2011 Arab Uprisings. Carefully argued and documented, it is of landmark importance and should be required reading for all those who seek to understand the interface of technology and political change and the future of democratization."--Peter Mandaville, George Mason University, author of Global Political Islam
"Philip N. Howard and Muzammil M. Hussain's study implies that... digital media played a much longer term role in creating favorable conditions for uprisings, helped to publicize key igniting events, and then facilitated those uprisings and their diffusion; but digital media did not do this alone or as suddenly as some observers have claimed... There are a number of other unique contributions, but there is insufficient space to review them all. Overall, I predict that future research will look kindly to the authors' key findings, particularly the book's central claim that digital media were one essential ingredient in larger casual recipes for revolution and democratization." --Political Science Quarterly
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