Activism and Counter-Activism
Behavioural Dynamics in Cyberspace
WITH SYRIAN ARCHITECT KINDA AL SAYED
|Mon 2011-05-30, 21:00 at the Metalab main room
|Kinda Al Sayed is from Syria, she is working as an architect in London
and has closely followed the political changes in Syria.
The exercise of democracy in societies has always been the product that tradeoffs between two forces; emergent bottom up expressions of individual interests and top down decisions made by authorities. This equation maybe imbalanced in systems where power and decision-making is exercised by the authority rather than by the people.
In authoritarian regimes, when people make attempts to exercise their democratic rights they will be faced by coercion for which media machinery and communication tools are either devoted to mislead the public or disabled to avoid exposing authoritarian actions. This form of suppression of media machinery is only maintained through having control over the centralized form of media. The despotic enforcement of media control has been evidently busted throughout the Arab spring phenomena as an effect of decentralizing and personalizing media tools. This new instrumentalization of the media by the public allowed individual’s emission of information by exploiting all the affordances of the WWW medium. Social media networks have particularly contributed to a great extent to the dismantling of authorities’ suppressive activity. Within this process new forms of emergent behaviors have evolved as a by-product of togetherness in cyber space that would never have been enabled in the physical space. Different types of behavioral dynamics were identified within the flow of messaging between anonymous activists raising individual’s awareness towards communal values and disrupting activities exercised by counter-activism machinery. Time as a fundamental component of the medium’s affordances started playing an essential role in the regulation of action-reaction dynamics within the messaging flow. In this way the medium became the message by means of time and the social networking interface was made value-laden by means of its structure that embraces different affordances towards time and space. The partitioning of space and time in these interfaces together with the network structure that builds up between the different partitions left a huge impact on the influence boundaries of the message. This is where time as a construct of cyberspace starts to build a reciprocal relationship with time in the physical space. Through this reciprocal relationship differences can be identified between the affordances of Physical and Virtual spaces towards the rise of social organizations. The phenomenon of twitter journalism casts a very substantial impact on individuals’ actions and reactions due to its brief and instant messaging power. Where there are benefits to such medium of communication there are also risks that are posed by control and distortion of information. The persistence and spreading of the Arab spring phenomena and the partial success of it suggests that emergent self-driven reporting activity will eventually prevail. This suggestion is reasoned by the simple realism that the powers to control its emergence and contain its spreading won’t be affordable once passed a certain threshold.