October 21, 2011
Quelling Unrest by Way of Media Connectivity: From Egypt to the UK to AALL
Remember the outcry by government officials from Western democracies when the Mubarak regime shut down the Internet and moble cell phone networks in an attempt to silence communications which eventually led to the overthrow of his government? Didn't work. In Media Disruption Exacerbates Revolutionary Unrest: Evidence from Mubarak’s Natural Experiment, [SSRN] Yale's Navid Hassanpour argues it had the opposite effect. From the abstract:
Conventional wisdom suggests that lapses in media connectivity - for example, disruption of Internet and cell phone access - have a negative effect on political mobilization. I argue that on the contrary, sudden interruption of mass communication accelerates revolutionary mobilization and proliferates decentralized contention. Using a dynamic threshold model for participation in network collective action I demonstrate that full connectivity in a social network can hinder revolutionary action. I exploit a decision by Mubarak's regime to disrupt the Internet and mobile communication during the 2011 Egyptian uprising to provide an empirical proof for the hypothesis. A difference-in difference inference strategy reveals the impact of media disruption on the dispersion of the protests. The evidence is corroborated using historical, anecdotal, and statistical accounts.
Perhaps the member of Parliament who wanted to ban social media during the UK's recent violent street riots would think twice about that position if he read Hassanpour's article.
Perhaps AALL will learn that the best way to quell membership unrest is to open up its official meetings by way of media connectivity. I'm thinking live (and then achived) webcasts of the Executive Board's upcoming meeting might be a good place to start if "AALL is all about transparency" in the 21st century. [JH]