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Freedom for Egypt: Some tweets, a thought about a future of journalism, and a question about networked leadership

This is such a miraculous day for our sisters and brothers in Egypt. As an American, a father, a Jew, and a fellow human being, I am overwhelmed with happiness for you and what you have so courageously accomplished.

A couple of tweets:

@MOHAMMEDFAS: words of joy will be everywhere only thoes who have oppressed this day will speachless!!

@peterglaser: Heute fängt das 21. Jahrhundert an – nicht am 11. September [The 21st century starts here, not on 9/11]

I learned a lot from Paul Amar’s article that tries to lay out Egypt’s power structure and political landscape. Of course, I cannot evaluate its accuracy. (I heard about it from a tweet by Matthew Stoller.

Andy Carvin [twitter:acarvin] is one of the faces of the future of journalism. He curated and retweeted thousands of tweets, a stream that gave better continuous coverage than was available on any of the broadcast channels. His retweeting of messages from the ground, from other Twitterers, from the mainstream media gave us a Channel of One. Andy’s stream was transparent — he was on the side of the protestors, duh (and, btw, CNN certainly gave up any pretense of objectivity on that score)— and imbued with his personality and his sense of humor.

Sure, Andy’s twitter stream was not a sufficient source of information, but what was? And sure, tweets are only 140 characters long, but they can include links to longer pieces.

Andy became a central part of the media ecology for many of us. While Andy is unique, the role he played is replicable. Smart media companies will be out looking for their own Andy Carvins. Even so, most will get it wrong, because they will assume that being inside a media company helps. I’m not sure that it does, although being paid by a media company certainly must.

(Some people (including me) have made donations to their local NPR stations to support Andy’s efforts. You can donate here. If you do, how about tweeting it with the hashtag #gave4andy so the the motive for your donation will be clear?)

(Later that day: Nieman Lab has an excellent post on the gave4Andy meme.)

A question: We’re going to be arguing forever about the role and importance of social media in the Egyptian revolution, but I want to ask a smaller question: Would the Egyptian Revolution been leaderless without the presence of social media?

I ask this as a genuine question. And I understand that I don’t know how leaderless it was.

14 Responses to “Freedom for Egypt: Some tweets, a thought about a future of journalism, and a question about networked leadership”

  1. Your small question is a great one as we consider the nature of emergent leadership of a complex environment. (And given that ALL organizational environments are actually better understood in complexity these days, it’s an important and salient question.)

    Complexity requires the types of massive interconnections that promote both feedback and feedforward loops. Among individual actors (like people in a protest movement) social media is *a* way to accomplish this type of simple-message information sharing (that is not actually accomplished by mechanisms that promote complicated-message sharing). So much in the same way that slime mould coalesces in a forest and moves towards an emergent common “goal,” so too do simple-message-connected crowds of people coalesce to move towards a common, emergent goal without the overt direction of an explicit leader.

    The army in Egypt was particularly canny in how they handled this, since they enabled relatively small perturbations in the complex system that arguable enabled large systemic change – a hallmark of complex systems.

    There are some great lessons to be taken from these events that can, I think, be applied to UCaPP organizations and their emergent, complexity-informed, leadership.

  2. I had to Google UCaPP, discard the non sequiturs such as University of Connecticut and I came up with ubiquitous connectivity and “pervasive proximity,” which I guess goes with a well networked environment, else how could I be rambling from my desk in Madison and hooking into a conversation originating in Massachusetts? It’s almost as if I’m really there!

    The whole world was watching the events unfold in Egypt, and the word got out despite n Internet embargo. Locally, the word got out and the actions were organized despite the Internet embargo. Poster paint and cardboard were, if not ubiquitous and pervasive, at least in good supply and regardless of the audience, the demonstration itself moved forward in much the same manner of street actions of the last fifty or sixty years.

    Leadership, I believe, emerged and functioned as well without network appliances and software as it functioned when the net was again lit up. I’m assuming that at some point service was restored. Was it, or is service still limited in Egypt?

    The organizers and leaders in the street may or may not have staying power. Will they run for office and be elected? Or will they content themselves with the changeover in governance and hope for improved political and economic circumstances?

    I like the slime mold simile, but I think the question of leadership implies motivation and empowerment so much remains to be revealed.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mathew Ingram, Howard Weaver, Asteris Masouras, Craig Kanalley, James Hritz and others. James Hritz said: RT @mathewi: "Andy Carvin is one of the faces of the future of journalism" — […]

  4. The revolt in Egypt is far from being leaderless. From what I have observed it has a sophisticated leadership that delibrates and reaches decisions democratically. Also, ALJ has on its website a list of demands from the leaders of the revolt.

  5. and a question…

    Joho the Blog » Freedom for Egypt: Some tweets, a thought about a future of journalism, and a question…

  6. […] question has been raised here by David Weinberger who asks the question, and, here, by Charlie Beckett who argues that the […]

  7. and a question about networked leadership…

    Joho the Blog » Freedom for Egypt: Some tweets, a thought about a future of journalism, and a question about networked leadership…

  8. […] language of “self-organization” insulting to the protesters? It slides too easily into this kind of thing: “much in the same way that slime mould coalesces in a forest and moves towards an emergent […]

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