From Tehran to Tahrir: Social Media and Dynamics of Collective Action under Authoritarian Regimes
Zeynep Tufekci, University of North Carolina
Tuesday, September 27, 12:30 pm
Berkman Center, 23 Everett Street, second floor
This event is now at capacity; it will be webcast live at 12:30 pm ET and archived on our site shortly after.
What role did the new media ecology play in the ouster of long-standing dictators in Egypt and Tunisia as well as the continuing unrest across the region? In this talk, I present data from a large protester survey (n=1050) undertaken in Tahrir during February of 2011 and conceptually examine how the new media ecology, composed of satellite TVs, social media and cell phones, upsets the erstwhile stable dynamics of repression under “durable authoritarianism.” (Data collected by the Tahrir Data Project, run by the Engine Room research collective.) In short, authoritarian regimes often survive by creating a collective action problem for their citizenry through isolation, censorship and repression of dissent (“whack-a-protest”); social media introduces novel dynamics to this old game by changing the shape of connectivity networks, by facilitating information and action cascades, by undermining censorship and by facilitating the formation of new publics.
Zeynep Tufekci is an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill at the School of Information and Library Science with an affiliate appointment in the Department of Sociology. She is also a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. Her research revolves around the interaction between technology and social, cultural and political dynamics. She is particularly interested in collective action and social movements, complex systems, surveillance, privacy, and sociality.