SOCIOLOGY PROFESSOR ZEYNEP TUFEKCI
The massive protests in the wake of Iran’s disputed election demonstrate how many-to-many communication technologies have the potential to radically change the nature of civic participation. Iran is not the first instance where these tools have been deployed to challenge a regime – from the Philippines to Burma, from the pro-immigrant rallies in the United States organized through text-messaging to Iran where Twitter has emerged as a central information dissemination channel, people are turning to their cell phones and their computers during times of upheaval.
Repressive regimes everywhere have long depended on their monopoly over one-to-many communication –i.e., they, and only they, can broadcast– and their ability to keep their population isolated from each other and the world. However, the genie seems to be finding it easier and easier to escape from the bottle. In Iran people are coordinating protests, organizing rallies and informing each other and the rest of the world of the latest developments through Twitter, Flicker, YouTube, Blogs and Facebook. In tumultuous times, these tools provide the opportunity to focus and direct the energy and the anger of millions of people.