The Arab Spring| Extra-National Information Flows, Social Media and the 2011 Egyptian Uprising

Adrienne Russell


This article examines two emerging and related characteristics of digital networked-era journalism highlighted during the Egyptian revolution. First, the ability to retain centralized control of communication eroded both because contemporary networked communication thrives on increasing grassroots pervasiveness and because it retains a malleable or hackable quality, where users can rework the technology to their advantage with relative ease. Second, the influence of the networked decentralized reporting of the revolution on mainstream news outlets altered both the nature of the news products and the professional norms and practices of journalists. More precisely, the purpose or main task of the traditional news outlets shifted. In covering the story of the revolution, they turned— unabashedly, and to a significant degree—not to their own reporters to relay events on the ground, but to what networked participants in the drama were reporting and saying about what was happening. The mainstream outlets, in effect, were delivering a meta story about the story being reported by people hooked into digital social networks.

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