Contextualizing the power of social media: Technology, communication and the Libya Crisis

  • Laura Morris The University of Washington & Commons Lab at the Wilson Centre.
Keywords: Libya crisis, social media, internet, Arab Spring,

Abstract

At the beginning of 2011, revolution across the MENA region threw into question the potential power of new media to bring about large-scale revolutionary pursuits. In Libya, the correlation between social media usage and social upheavals seemed, at most, tenuous in light of low levels of Internet penetration generally and in light of the state-sponsored Internet blackout following the nation-wide protests there. This qualitative research intends, through content analysis and semi-structured interviewing of key communicators, to decode the realities of how and why people were communicating through the crisis in Libya from its inception and to overcome misconceptions about social media as a stand alone or predominant factor in liberation across the region. What emerged from this case study was a confluence of actions and tools responsible for communication through the crisis, of which social media featured significantly. This paper will further discuss the significance of the convivial relationships of the Internet-based campaigners working towards a ‘democratic’ outcome in Libya and working beyond the limitations of national Internet connectedness. I conclude that there is a great potential for Internet-based networks to support widespread social upheaval within ripe socio-political settings.

Author Biography

Laura Morris, The University of Washington & Commons Lab at the Wilson Centre.

I'm an independent scholar, researcher and writer whose research focuses on the use of Information and Communication Technologies in crisis management. I'm currently working on a research project with the University of Washington's Geography Department & the Commons Lab of the Wilson Centre to develop an impact evaluation framework for collaboration between Volunteer & Technical Communities (V&TCs) and formal disaster management agencies. I received my Master's in the Social Anthropology of Development with Modern Standard Arabic from SOAS, University of London.

Published
2014-11-22
How to Cite
Morris, L. (2014). Contextualizing the power of social media: Technology, communication and the Libya Crisis. First Monday, 19(12). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v19i12.5318