by rome viharo for media social
“My view is that the people of this most ancient civilization truly deserve a most modern of democracies.” Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.
Social Media has the potential not just for Wael Ghonim’s Revolution 2.0 as witnessed in the events in Egypt, but also a new form of government - Democracy 2.0, an administrative system organized by the same process that organizes social media. Imagine voting via something like Twitter, overturning laws via something like Facebook, and arguing court cases via something like a wiki. Imagine elegant new discussion algorithms sifting through complex administrative debate, creating wiki like solutions to problems that would tap into collective intelligence, bringing society closer to win win resolutions amongst conflicting factions.
As far fetched as it may sound to some, Democracy 2.0 is far more realistic in the emerging 21st century than we might currently be aware of. And it could even happen in Egypt. It would almost be of poetic irony that the most ancient of civilizations could be the first to introduce this highly elegant administrative government to the world.
It’s clear to any analyst that social media played a significant role in the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. Highly instigated by Google’s mid east Director of Marketing Wael Ghonim, Facebook was given the credit for what he calls ‘Revolution 2.0’. Wael become the mainstream face of the friendly revolution, Facebook the ultimate peaceful assassin.
What is far more interesting to consider; social media is something that can not only tear down a government institution, but also something that can rebuild it. With a saavy figure like Wael Ghonim backed by a most advanced modern social technology behemoth like Google, this is something that could easily become a reality.
Media and communication technology have assisted a few notable revolutions throughout history. The American Revolution was able to organize because advances in the printing press assisted farmers in coordinating our violent overthrow of the British with the introduction of the pamphlet. In the 1979 Iranian Revolution, satellite and video broadcast technologies enabled the Ayatollah Khomeini to organize what happened in the Persian squares of Iran from cafes and apartments in Paris. In ‘The Artists Revolution’, which toppled the communist Czech government in 10 days without violence in 1989, protests were orchestrated by fax machine.
So it makes sense, the faster you can reach more people about where to organize across the longest of distance, the quicker and larger the movement can reach critical mass. Social Media is just about sharing information faster than ever before, right? As impressive as social media’s distribution capabilities are - this may be too narrow of a view to consider. All of us can be quick to assume that social media simply facilitated the flow of information coming from organizer to organizer in a way that was exponential due to the tech advances in communication. It’s as if social media is a logical step in a logical progression that began with cave drawings and culminates with Facebook.
Even trend and tech saavy Wired reported this rather narrow viewpoint regarding social media, noting in the article ‘Social Media Sparked, Accelerated Egypt’s Revolutionary Fire by Sam Gustin. At the top of his article he asks “Did Social Media cause the Egyptian Revolution?” and quickly replies “No”. Without providing much argument as to the negative, he jumps to narrate instead how social media was simply a facilitator and quotes Sascha Meinrath, director of the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative. “In the same way that pamphlets didn’t cause the American Revolution, social media didn’t cause the Egyptian revolution - Social media have become the pamphlets of the 21st century, a way that people who are frustrated with the status quo can organize themselves and coordinate protest, and in the case of Egypt, revolution.”
Social media is much more than a novel way to update protestors to various locations and spread information across distance - it does more than just distribute information. If we look at social media simply as a tool of distribution, we may be failing to see a bigger picture. Social media is a new dimension in human administration. The Social Media Administration of Egypt 2.0 has eliminated the Mubarak Administration of Egypt 1.0. It was not just due to sending protestors to city squares, it was because the medium itself allows us to re-adjust the truth value of dominant idea controlled by any centralized power and re organize a more efficient method of administration.
Social media does not just transmit information from user to user - social media transforms information from user to user. Social media makes it far more difficult for politicians, corporations, or any position of power or influence to practice and enforce deception and manipulation of information. Digital technologies capture and social technologies deliver hidden state ‘truths’ – and the lesson diplomats may be learning now is that information itself cannot withhold its truth as easily. What was once believed true now becomes exposed as false almost overnight. The rate and exchange of conflicting information allows social media users to dissect and discern, analyze one paradigm while creating and building a new one based on more open and transparent, i.e. more efficient communication.
Old world organization played diplomatic poker, guided by secrecy and the simple strategy of saying no when you mean yes and yes when you mean no. Social media organization plays ‘chess’ – all moves are out in the open, and the most irrational or deceptive idea cannot take hold amongst the users as easily, therefore it becomes simpler to make irrelevant. Since the Old World political communication practiced for thousands of years the manipulation of truth values as a problem solving strategy, it would make sense that their own ideas about what was happening would be composed of false information compared to the social media organizers. No one could predict the outcome in revolution 2.0 except for the one group whose predictions of outcome were 100% accurate, the organizers themselves. - the CIA again got it wrong on Egypt, Mubarak actually addressed hundreds of thousands of protestors with a delusional assumption that he would maintain his power and send everyone back home. Political deception downgrades into political delusion.
It may very well being considered now at levels far beyond what is merely hinted at in this brief opinion. Egypt came down quick using social media and it can also come up quick using the same technology. Wael Ghonim, with the assistance of nothing more than Google Labs and the Egyptian protestors, may be in a far more interesting position than many of us could ever dream. Having become the social media face of revolution, he could do something further historic in unprecedented terms, he could be the voice of Egypt 2.0 – the first human administrative system and government formed and based on open and transparent social and digital media technologies.
Rome Viharo is CEO and Founder of the Media Social network, social media strategist and producer/developer of new and social media applications and content.