Thursday, March 31, 2011

The "Arab Spring"

The paper that I referred to in my previous post also has a remarkable prediction of the Twitter revolutions that we are seeing in the Middle East and North Africa. Sternberg (1980) found that the sudden connection of previously unattached individuals or small groups can lead to widespread protest. Sound familiar? I think the introduction of Facebook and other social networking has allowed lots of small communities that were all oppressed but isolated to become suddenly connected. And just what Sternberg predicted came to pass.

But he also predicted that sustaining the protest requires strong ties within the group. If the protesters in Egypt, Libya, etc. don’t develop strong ties, then it remains to be seen if they can keep up the momentum needed to create working democracies. In Egypt, luckily Mubarak stepped down quickly. But a new dictator can easily step in if society lets its guard down. In Libya, a lot more dedication will be necessary. Even with NATO’s no fly zone, the Libyans will have to get a lot more organized if they want to take Tripoli.

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