Social media and social movements: The whole world is watching

We’re recording the world around us. The cameras in our iPhones (et al.) make it easy.

Case in point, the protests which continue in Egypt following the events of this past year’s Arab Spring. Video of the « Girl in the Blue Bra » has ignited reactions from around the world, including comments by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, as quoted by The Daily Telegraph:

Recent events in Egypt have been particularly shocking. Women are being beaten and humiliated in the same streets where they risked their lives for the revolution only a few short months ago (…) This systematic degradation of Egyptian women dishonours the revolution, disgraces the state and its uniform and is not worthy of a great people.

Shot by an amateur videographer from a rooftop, this footage is only one of the thousands of videos which have emerged from what has been dubbed the Arab Spring. In a country like Egypt, where mobile phone penetration is at 91%, a camera phone is a powerful communications tool which becomes a weapon in the protester’s arsenal.

While, according to YouTube’s own year-end top 10 list, most Canadians were watching videos of cats, babies and Rebecca Black in 2011, hundreds of protesters were documenting events in their cities and sharing them online. While most are viewed only by a small number, lost in the sea of YouTube videos, some, like that of the Girl in the Blue Bra, touch a particular cord and spread, much as the video of the death of Neda Agha-Soltan had during the Iranian protests of 2009.The moving image remains a powerful thing. It’s even more powerful when coupled with a platform like Facebook and its network of « friends ». Simply by clicking on a share button, we can express our outrage on our Facebook profile. And our 130 Facebook friends can hear about it.

Arab spring. The Occupy Movement. Each now with their iconic videos.

The whole world is watching.

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