New Media and Revolution: Syria’s Silent Movement towards the 2011 Uprising
Brownlee, Billie Jeanne
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Nearly five years have passed since the political upheaval that swept through many Middle East and North African (MENA) countries began. Syria was caught in the grip of this revolutionary moment, one that drove the country to a civil war with no apparent way out. Analysts advanced a number of explanations for this event, which included the demographic profile of the younger generations and the economic difficulties they experienced, corruption of the government, the use of techniques from successful campaigns and the coordination of dissent through traditional/offline and new/online forms of contention. The employment of the new media by anti and pro-government groups has reached an unthinkable scale, to the point that the media have become instruments not limited to the purpose of informing, planning and coordinating the protest, but “performing” in the conflict, exacerbating the fight, instilling fear in the enemy and intimidating the adversary, while proselytising. By going beyond the dichotomy that frames the media as a deus ex machina of the uprising or, conversely, as a means of its expression, this thesis demonstrates how the new media did not simply play a crucial role at the time of the uprising and subsequent civil war, but an even more decisive role in the years that predated the uprising. The underlining argument of this research is that during the decade leading up to the uprising in Syria a (silent) form of mobilisation got underway as an effect of contextual factors (economic, institutional and social conditions), conditioned by people’s access to the new media. The new media became the mobilising structures of Syria’s pre-uprising social movement, the tools that changed people’s access to information and encouraged civic engagement in a period of structural friction and social ferment. The media are here contemplated as a microcosm, which affects and is affected by other different, hitherto unrelated (f)actors. Ultimately, in light of the growing popular mobilisations that are taking place around the globe and the leading role that the new media technologies are playing within these, the thesis offers perspectives of analysis on the role that the new media technologies are offering citizens to contest political authority as well as opposing social and economic inequalities worldwide.
PhD in Middle East Politics