Concepts Week 1: Perils in Egypt

February 5, 2011

I think, if the Egyptian revolution happened when I was 6 years old, I would know almost nothing about it. For two major reasons: 1) I would be 6 years old and more interested in Saturday morning cartoons than world events and 2) the only information coming out of the country would be through the news networks. Now, I have a deep and abiding respect for the journalism world. Though there is a lot of corruption and almost every story has an agenda behind it, the men and women who enter into this profession have a desire to get some form of truth, the best available at least, out for others to see. And that’s admirable. It’s also, if William Randolph Hearst taught us anything, incredibly easy to control if it is done by the wrong people. So, as much as major network and local network news is valuable to the people at large, I’m afraid that it is also imperfect and I feel that, if Mubarak, the (soon-to-be ousted? I hope?) president of Egypt, had any say in the matter, no one would know anything more than there’s a scuffle among the malcontents in Egypt that would be speedily resolved.

In this brave, new world (that has such people in it!), we have technological oddities and curiosities that make information all the more accessible and a lot more difficult to corrupt. We have Facebook, originally made by college kids for college kids. What is it really, except a place where friends can share pictures of their post-adolescent misadventures and tell everyone how their day is going at any given moment? Eventually it grew to accommodate people of all ages, and with that growth came something unexpected. Now anyone who has an Internet connection can share things with their friends and family all over the world and all at once. So, a person here in the U.S. who is Facebook friends with a relative or neighbor in Egypt, will suddenly see a lot of pictures of what is going on in Cairo. They are posting about what is going on with their families, so that no one worries. Whatever the news cannot provide, these people fill in the gaps, just by wanting to share their lives with the people they love. With the evolution of Youtube, it also went from a website that just hosted random videos to a place that allows others to post up the events of the day as it happens. And what about Twitter? It’s just an archive of quotes and yet members are able to get out quick messages to others, keeping people informed. And the idea of “retweeting,” sending out a copy of someone’s message to everyone they know, is like a marvelous game of Telephone, but without the garbled misunderstandings. News has become garbled and messy and much more complete than it ever was.

All of this makes me wish that we had all of this when I was 6 years old. Because, while I’d still be more interested in this week’s new Darkwing Duck episode than what is showing on Aljazeera, the fact that I can do a search on Google a few years later, or if a friend of a friend posted about the revolution on Facebook, I can find a goldmine of information on this, down to cell phone videos of the events as it happened. There is no glossing it over with pretty words, or polite fictions. No, we’d find out about the peaceful protests, the self-immolations, the police sent out to provoke the masses, and everything else. It’s all out there for everyone to see,the danger and the joys, whether they want to or not. In my mind, that makes the evolution of media that much more powerful and impressive. And it makes me incredibly curious about what comes next.

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