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Collective action under autocracies


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Slides of my talk in Cairo University, Egypt on May 30th. Talk organized by IDRC

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Collective action under autocracies

  1. 1. Zeynep Tufekci, Ph.D. Organized by IDRC in collaboration with Cairo University and UNDP Cairo University, May 30th
  2. 2. I nternet and social change Social Media and Collective Action Under Autocracies
  3. 3. A Little About Me <ul><li>Zeynep Tufekci </li></ul><ul><li>Assistant Professor of Sociology </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter: @techsoc </li></ul><ul><li>Honored to be here! </li></ul>
  4. 4. A Little About the Talk <ul><li>The credit, of course, goes to the amazing people of Egypt </li></ul><ul><li>But tools/methods always have an impact </li></ul><ul><li>Analyzing/presenting mechanisms </li></ul>
  5. 5. Challenges to Collective Action <ul><li>Information diffusion </li></ul><ul><li>Shaping the public sphere </li></ul><ul><li>“ Hidden Preferences” -what do others think? </li></ul><ul><li>Synchronization </li></ul><ul><li>Mass action </li></ul>
  6. 6. Social Media and Impacts <ul><li>Does social media give us the same results, maybe just faster? </li></ul><ul><li>Or, does it qualitatively change the dynamics? </li></ul>
  7. 7. What Does Social Media Change? <ul><li>Network -level effects </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Shape/structure of the network </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Speed of transmission </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Field effects </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reshaping/recreating a public sphere </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Network to field effects </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Information cascades </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Revealing of hidden preferences </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Information/Censorship <ul><li>Autocracies traditionally hold monopoly on broadcast, TV, radio, print </li></ul><ul><li>Effective Censorship </li></ul><ul><li>Propaganda </li></ul>
  9. 9. Connectivity Revolution
  10. 10. Connectivity Revolution
  11. 11. Anti-censorship/citizen media <ul><li>Spread of cell-phones with cameras </li></ul><ul><li>Al-Jazeera, itself plugged into social media </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Dailymotion, Blogs, SMS, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Game-changer </li></ul>
  12. 13. Society-level Prisoner’s Dilemma <ul><li>How do I know what my neighbor thinks? </li></ul><ul><li>Does my neighbor know what I think? </li></ul><ul><li>How does my neighbor know that I know what she thinks? </li></ul><ul><li>Does my neighbor’s neighbor understand that we are both against the autocracy? </li></ul><ul><li> (Trans)formation of the public sphere </li></ul>
  13. 14. Public Sphere(s) <ul><li>Through Facebook/Blogs/Twitter, people crossed the redlines and taboos in Egypt, Tunisia, elsewhere </li></ul><ul><li>New discourses emerged as public discourses </li></ul><ul><li>Different than being an individual dissenter </li></ul>
  14. 15. Hidden Preferences <ul><li>When there is mass dissent... </li></ul><ul><li>But everyone is afraid to stick their neck out! </li></ul><ul><li>Information/politicization can occur cascades – once the floodgates open, it roars. </li></ul>
  15. 16. Syncronization of Actions/Beliefs <ul><li>H ard for people to synchronize their beliefs or their actions in a one-to-one manner </li></ul><ul><li>Slow, dangerous </li></ul>
  16. 17. Mass Action <ul><li>Requires a ready public </li></ul><ul><li>Requires information diffusion </li></ul><ul><li>Requires synchronization </li></ul><ul><li>Requires ... Courage! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>No shortage of that! </li></ul></ul>
  17. 18. Social Media and Autocracies <ul><li>Social Media has an impact on all these challenges to collective action under autocracies </li></ul><ul><li>Mechanisms combine and interact </li></ul>
  18. 19. Social Media: <ul><li>Increased participation </li></ul><ul><li>Faster information diffusion </li></ul><ul><li>Changes to shape of connectivity networks </li></ul><ul><li>Audience reshuffling: (re)uniting and (re)segmentation </li></ul>
  19. 20. Increased Participation <ul><li>Strengthens dynamics on-the ground </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can result in consolidation or polarization </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Opens door to oral culture – people who might not have traditional “high” literacy </li></ul><ul><li>Emotional Transference (via Mahmoud Salem) </li></ul>
  20. 21. Social Media <ul><li>Does not just allow communication </li></ul><ul><li>Allows rapid, many-to-many communication </li></ul><ul><li>Which is a qualitative change </li></ul><ul><li> People could always talk to each other, but one or few at a time </li></ul>
  21. 22. The shape of the network <ul><li>Existing: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>One-to-Many (Broadcast) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Powerful to the powerless </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>One-to-one/few (Face-to-face, telephone, etc.) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Peer-to-peer </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Addition: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Many-to-many </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Peer-to-peer </li></ul></ul></ul>
  22. 23. One-to-Many Network (Broadcast)
  23. 24. One-to-Many Network (Broadcast)
  24. 25. First Target in a Coup!
  25. 26. First Target in a Coup!
  26. 27. Demonstrators, too!
  27. 28. One-to-One
  28. 29. Many-to-Many Networks
  29. 30. Lessons from Epidemiology <ul><li>Speed of Transmission </li></ul><ul><li>Speed of Recovery </li></ul><ul><li>Shape of Network </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Hubs and connectivity increases contagion </li></ul></ul><ul><li>These factors determine </li></ul><ul><li>whether a quarantine will work </li></ul>
  30. 34. Altered Dynamics <ul><li>State is a resource-constrained actor </li></ul><ul><li>Autocracies often have evolved to play “whack-a-protest” </li></ul><ul><li>Social media, by allowing mass coordination and rapid information diffusion, complicates “whack-a-protest” </li></ul>
  31. 35. Audience Reshuffling/ Reorganization <ul><li>Segmentation of audiences </li></ul><ul><li>The attention economy and speed </li></ul><ul><li>Counter-broadcast and attention monopoly </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(was Tahrir empty on #May27?) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>From Wikileaks to Facebook to #Jan25 </li></ul>
  32. 36. State Responses <ul><li>Surveillance </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Numbers versus hiding </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Propaganda </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Television versus social-network based </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Muddying the waters </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Censorship </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Dictator’s (and Bin Ladin’s Dilemma) </li></ul></ul>
  33. 37. Dictator’s Dilemma <ul><li>Internet/mobiles integrated into daily life </li></ul><ul><li>Used for many purposes besides politics </li></ul><ul><li>Cut it off and everyone is upset, business suffers </li></ul><ul><li>Leave it on and it allows for dissent </li></ul><ul><li>Game changer – it can be censored, but that requires a lot of effort </li></ul>
  34. 38. Polarization and Civil War <ul><li>Social media does not guarantee unity </li></ul><ul><li>Social media does not create dissent where there is none </li></ul><ul><li>Social media strengthens dynamics on the ground </li></ul><ul><li>Bahrain, China, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Civil war and brutal repression </li></ul>
  35. 39. Hierarchy <ul><li>Social Media / Open Networks can create hierarchies </li></ul><ul><li>“ Power Law” or the 80/20 rule – a few people/blogs/webpages get most of the links and the attention </li></ul><ul><li>The process can become self-perpetuating </li></ul>
  36. 40. Preferential Attachment
  37. 41. Hierarchy/Governance <ul><li>Shuffling the network around </li></ul><ul><li>Transparency </li></ul><ul><li>Accountability </li></ul><ul><li>Self-organization – as in #May27 </li></ul>
  38. 42. Example: Tunisia <ul><li>Gafsa: 2008. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Mining town, protests over corrupt hiring </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Isolated, crushed (quarantined) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>28,000 Facebook users in Tunisia </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sidi Bouzid: 2010 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Mohamed Bouazizi ’s self-immolation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Protests spread (viral) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Almost 2,000,000 Facebook users in Tunisia </li></ul></ul>
  39. 43. Thank you! Questions? <ul><li>Zeynep Tufekci </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>twitter: @techsoc </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>