A Digital Humanities Approach: Text, the Internet, and the Egyptian Uprising

  • Sakr L
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Can Twitter really bring a dictator to his knees? Does YouTube stream information that is more influential than traditional news providers such as the New York Times? In the mainstream media debate between Clay Shirky and Malcolm Gladwell about whether ?the revolution will be tweeted,? both pundits make confidently totalizing arguments (see Malcolm Gladwell (2010) Small Change: Why the Revolutions Will Not Be Tweeted, The New Yorker (October 4), available online at: newyorker.com/reporting/2010/10/04/101004fa_fact_gladwell; and Clay Shirky (2011) The Political Power of Social Media, Foreign Affairs (Jan./Feb.). In contrast, this article presents a micro-study of the hashtag (#) Tahrir using an emergent method of cultural analytics and a repository developed by a digital Arabic knowledge management system?a body of work that coheres dissimilar elements not into a single idea, but rather into a heterogeneous network. It may be difficult to make direct correlations between the rise of revolutionary movements made manifest through large-scale street actions and the adoption of newly distributed communication practices around information technologies, but researchers can examine how verbal acts of protest can be conceptualized, facilitated, staged, ignored, negated, or thwarted in a culture of accelerated mediation and acknowledge the potential fragmentation of publics, the seeming disappearance of the civic, and, possibly, the dissolution of the nation-state in the shifts of globalization.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Arabic
  • Egyptian uprising
  • Middle East studies
  • big data
  • digital
  • influence
  • knowledge production
  • linguistic
  • semantic

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  • Laila Shereen Sakr

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