Here's the result of an interview I did with John FaganHe used my "Facebook for the War, Twitter for the Battle" quote for one of the titles of his dissertation, which i'm proud of. :-) I've never met John in person.
Thibaud Smerko, 21/08/2012, 12;16p.m.
Q-Could you state your name, current occupation, your current location, your country of origin and your location at the time of the Egyptian Revolution please.
Thibaud Smerko.Student/unemployed. Cairo, Egypt. FR/USA. Cairo.
Q-Did you have a role to play in the Egyptian revolution? If so, what was your role? If not, what is your connection with Egypt?
I did not have a direct role to play in the Egyptian revolution. Although, I believe that just by talking with Egyptians about problems in the country, this plays a small role and influences their thoughts. I had only been in Egypt for a total of about 6 months before the revolution. I was/am working studying Arabic in Egypt.
Q-Where were you at the initial stages of the Egyptian Revolution? i.e. January 2011
In Egypt. Mainly in the Dokki neighborhood.
Q-How did you first hear about the revolution?
By talking with friends and television.
Q-When did you first encounter information about the Egyptian revolution on social media websites? What social media websites?
On facebook probably sometime in February. I had not been using twitter much at that time.
Q-As a mobilisation tool how effective was Facebook in your opinion?
Facebook was one element which helped galvanized opinions and harden spirits of youth. When you see there are one million plus Egyptians in the same “ we are all Khaled Said” group, you are emboldened. The real mobilization “tool” was the fact that the 25th was a national holiday (police day). So everyone was off of work and had been inspired by what happened in Tunisia.
Q-As a mobilisation tool how effective was Twitter in your opinion?
I don’t know for twitter concerning the initial phases. Later on it was the main tool used by activist in Tahrir and surrounding areas to get supplies, share info.
Q-Which do you feel was more effective as a mobilisation tool, Facebook or Twitter?
Facebook was more effective to build up support in the long run, through groups. Twitter was/is highly effective in the short term.
Q-How effective was Facebook for making the international audience aware of the situation in Egypt?
I don’t know, I wasn’t abroad at the time. I feel like most people living abroad are not connected to Egyptians on Facebook so would not see any posts in their newsfeed. I feel like most of their info would be gotten from traditional news outlets. That being said, a lot of news channels just had their anchors quoting Facebook and twitter the whole time.
Q-How effective was Twitter for making the international audience aware of the situation in Egypt?
More effective than fb because twitter is more public/open.
Q-Which do you feel was more effective as a tool of dissemination or broadcast, Facebook or Twitter?
Q-What was the exact role of social media websites during the Egyptian revolution?
As mentioned above, galvanizing, grouping youth. Showing them that they’re not alone, and that there are millions others like them out there.
Q-In your opinion did social media become a primary media tool at any stage for Egyptian activists during the Egyptian revolution?
I think activists are usually more concerned with immediate happenings on the ground. They’re not connected to the TV stations and don’t have influence on TV stations which is still where most Egyptians get their news from.
Q-Do you feel there were any barriers to using social media as a dissemination or broadcast tool or disadvantages to the use of social media during the revolution?
The masses don’t have access to it. Look up internet penetration numbers in Egypt. They’re still low, and of that number, much less use Facebook and twitter actively.
Q-Were there particular organisations or people responsible for organizing the use of social media as a mobilisation and dissemination tool during the revolution?
I don’t know. I think these things mainly happen organically, word of mouth.
Q-How much of a role do you think social media had to play in the Egyptian revolution? What was its primary use?
Taken from above:
Facebook was one element which helped galvanized opinions and harden spirits of youth. When you see there are one million plus Egyptians in the same “we are all Khaled Said” group, you are emboldened. The real mobilization “tool” was the fact that the 25th was a national holiday (police day). So everyone was off of work and had been inspired by what happened in Tunisia.
I don’t know for twitter concerning the initial phases. Later on it was the main tool used by activists in Tahrir and surrounding areas to get supplies, share info.
Q-Which do you feel was more effective as a mobilisation tool, Facebook or Twitter?
Facebook was more effective to build of support in the long run, through groups. Twitter was/is highly effective in the short term.
Q-What would you consider was more important to the Egyptian revolution, Facebook or Twitter?
Facebook for the war. Twitter for the battles.
Q-Has social media brought about a change in how traditional media relays news, what’s your opinion?
I mentioned this above. They now tend to oftentimes quote social media as unofficial sources. i.e. YouTube videos of Syria. Tweets per second on a certain topic.
Q-Do you think social media was more important than traditional media for the sake of the Egyptian revolution?
Q-With regard to social media, do you believe that transnationalism is on the rise due to the increasing popularity of social media websites?
transnational |transˈnashənl; tranz-|
extending or operating across national boundaries : transnational advertising agencies.
a large company operating internationally; a multinational.
not really, but it is going in the direction of transnationalism. Still though, most people are only connected to others from their own country. And we’re talking about virtual connections, not actually real people you’ve met (especially for Twitter)
Q-Was it an important aspect of the issues in Egypt reaching a global audience?
That question is a bit off. But yes, it was paramount for the Egyptian cause to be heard abroad. This offered pressure on the regime to “play nice”. (it was still bad, but could have been so much worse ). The USA’s “call for democracy” (BS in my personal opinion) came about because of the international pressure, thus pressure on Mubarak, etc, etc.
Q-In your opinion was the use of social media more relevant to the Western media and getting the issues in Egypt recognised internationally than it was to Egyptians?
No. more important to Egyptians. It helped get around the state controlled media.
Q-Do you think social media can be an effective tool during times of political unrest?
Duh. Yes. Especially in a state controlled media environment.
Q-Do you think social media can be trusted to depict the truth at all times?
No. just as activists can use it to distort their truths, so can political leaders. More and more political leaders are using SM, especially in the Middle East. There was an article written about this recently.
Q-Have social media websites overtaken television, newspapers, radio and other forms of media in terms of importance and dissemination?
No. maybe yes for newspapers, but times are changing, economic/business models are changing. We’ll see what new models emerge in the next decade or two.
Q-What do you think the future holds for social media websites? Have they become important political tools?
Yes. While leaders have held on to traditional media, they are now grasping this new form of media and beginning to use it to their wiles. But in general, it’s definitely leveled the political playing field and allowed more transparency.
Q-Do you believe social media was responsible for the revolution or was it merely a tool to build support?
A tool to build support.Obviously. Social media is just a tool use by groups of people with common interests/causes.
I hope this helped. Also, good luck with this. It would be better if you were in Egypt for this research. I might recommend trying to see historical data about the sizes of groups, the frequency of tweets during certain times, peaks, etc. to provide some more data. I’d be curious/thankful to get a copy of the final dissertation too if that’s okay with you. Also, if it’s okay with you, I might publish these answers on my blog. Thibaudsmerko.blogspot.com. let me know.