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The "Arab Spring" in Social Media: Possibilities and Perils in a Networked Age

UKAA Auditorium, William T. Young Library
Speaker(s) / Presenter(s):
Professor Todd Presner


While the role of social media has been feverishly debated in fomenting, planning, and sustaining revolutions since twitter was first hailed—somewhat exaggeratedly—as a revolutionary technology in Moldova in 2009 and YouTube became a people's archive for election protests in Tehran during the summer of that same year, it seems incontestable that broadcast media (often singular, uni-directional, and hierarchical) are being supplanted by decentralized, multi-directional "public utterances" from social media. The result is a significantly more adaptable, amorphous, global, but also ephemeral public sphere. However, even with the best intentions, social media can amplify misinformation on a global scale, creating an echo chamber of falsehoods that are easily accepted as truths by virtue of their sheer repetition.  And more ominously, social media can be tracked and used to squelch the very voices that use it.  In this talk, Todd Presner will discuss a series of projects that analyze the role of social media in the Middle East, starting with the 2009 Tehran election protests and going up to the 2011 "Arab Spring," including twitter projects such as the "Voices of January 25th" (Egypt), "Voices of February 17th" (Libya), and HyperCities as examples. 

Todd Presner is Professor of Germanic Languages and Comparative Literature at the University of California Los Angeles.  He is the Chair of UCLA’s Digital Humanities Program and also the Sady and Ludwig Kahn Director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies. With Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, and Jeffrey Schnapp, he is the co-author of Digital_Humanities (MIT Press, 2012). His most recent book is HyperCities: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities (Harvard University Press, 2014), with collaborators David Shepard and Yoh Kawano. Projects can be seen at this website:

A reception will follow the program in the Alumni Gallery.