‘Caused’ / Enabling

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I get the ’caused’ as opposed to caused, but my tentative reflection is that a distinction without a difference is implied in your remark, Apurr.

We know that social networks don’t cause anything. This would be the cybernetic view against presumptions that an instrumentality is ever wholly/directly/primarily causal. The various instrumentalities are networks for information conveyance in a “minded” system, so the network enables information to flow between instances of human consciousness. In turn a piece of information is propagated via other channels simultaneously, and, propagated as a consequence of, for example, Twitter. It could be said, a piece of information is off-loaded from the network conveyor and set on the, for example, mouth-to-ear conveyor.

In the larger minded system there are various conveyances. Web sites (including forums, al-Jazeera, blogs, newspapers, telephones, cell phones, one-to-one verbal, meetings, etc.. These sum to constitute an ecology. As Phillip Howard puts it:

Digital media didn’t oust Mubarak, but it did provide the medium by which soulful calls for freedom have cascaded across North Africa and the Middle East.

So: Digital media didn’t oust Mubarak, but it did provide a medium by which soulful calls for freedom have cascaded across North Africa and the Middle East.

I.
Influence and effects and consequences and other social results can be measured and assessed. I remember several years ago discussing with a social network expert and graphic specialist what a social network diagram does and does not show. I suggested to him that the qualities of the relationships and their relational effects are not aspects of the network diagram we were talking about. Depictions of network relationships represent implicit schemata. These pictures include and exclude functional aspects, and often also represent slices rather than dynamics.

With respect to a system and the system of systems–and granting Batesonian mindedness–I suspect the question of causality can be addressed only at the point a lot more dimensionality is built into the analysis.

II.

“There’s 80 million people in Egypt, and almost 40 percent are below the poverty line,” Sharma said. “Cell phone penetration is incredibly high, but the majority of the cell phones are not smartphones. A lot of the information that was getting out was from a very small critical mass of people that were able to tweet out of Egypt. Friends of mine in Cairo estimate that it’s less than 200 people who were tweeting from Cairo.”

“The reach of new media is spreading: as of December, 2009, there were over 2,300,000 Facebook users in Egypt. That’s 184 percent growth over the previous twelve months. While Twitter has yet to become the rage in Egypt that it is elsewhere, it has become a popular means for Egyptian activists to alert their friends and followers of arrests and intimidation by security forces.”
(Egypt, Twitter, and the rise of the watchdog crowd By Caroline McCarthy, CNET News on February 14, 2011)

According to a study released by the government-run Information and Decision Support Center in May 2008, blogging provides Egyptian youth “with a refuge where they [can] easily express themselves and their beliefs without restrictions.” The study also asserts that “from 2006 to 2008, a number of demonstrations and expressions of real political protest were associated in one way or another with cyber-protests on the Internet, tapping into the massive public mobilization of youth on political blogs.”

The study estimated that as of 2008 there were approximately 160,000 Egyptian blogs, which accounts for approximately one in four internet subscriptions in the country. The content of the blogs was broken down as follows: 30.7 percent covered a variety of topics, 18.9 percent were political, 15.5 percent personal, 14.4 percent business and culture, 7 percent religious, 4.8 percent social, and 4 percent focused on science and modern technology. Social networking, political action and its real impact in Egypt Sallie Pisch Bikyamasr blog March 21, 2010!

The U.K. government complained to Egypt after Vodafone Group Plc was ordered to send text messages seen to instigate violence as demonstrators demanded the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

U.K. Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt contacted the Egyptian ambassador in London to discuss the order to Vodafone after the company reached out to the government, the Foreign Office said last night. British Foreign Secretary William Hague yesterday issued a statement calling the “abuse” of Internet and mobile-phone networks “unacceptable and disturbing.”

Egyptian authorities instructed the local mobile-network operators, which also include Etisalat and France Telecom SA’s Mobinil service, to send messages under emergency powers provisions. Vodafone, the world’s biggest mobile-phone operator, said yesterday that the messages were not written by the mobile- phone operators. (U.K. Complains to Egypt on Ordered Vodafone Messages By Jonathan Browning and Thomas Penny – Feb 4, 2011 Bloomberg)

Also:

On the Ground at Social Media Week: The Internet & Uprisings in the Arab World: Are We Already In A Post-Social Media World? By Faye Anderson on February 9, 2011

Egyptian Crisis: The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted By Mark Evans – January 31st, 2011 Sysomos blog

III.
I wonder if the critical mass–with respect to social media–for effective social instigation may be a matter of a confluence of early adapters along the spectrum of internet media in a context where there aren’t a lot of internet users overall. In Egypt’s case, there is huge mobile (but not smart) phone penetration. Also, there apparently are longstanding face-to-face ‘network’ regimes too.

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