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Media Ecologies, Social Media and the Egyptian Revolution

The recent revolution in Egypt or “Revolution 2.0”, as it has been labelled by Wael Ghonim – the founder of Facebook page, ‘We are all Khaled Said’, is indicative of the power of rapidly developing social media and its uses in society.

One method of understanding how this event was able to take place and technology and society’s role in it is by looking at it through the concept of media ecologies.

There are currently two main theories, which dominate the study of media ecology. These are generally referred to as the North American and European schools of thought. The North American understanding draws much of its theory from Marshal McLuhan’s concept of technological determinism.  Focusing on the development of technologies and how their developments effect each other and society. But, this seems to ignore the effect, which society, politics and culture have on the development of the technology and its reception (Murphie and Potts, 2003).

The European school of thought takes much of its understanding from Gregory Bateson and Felix Guattari. Bateson believed that everything is interconnected. He explained media ecologies as a “pattern” of relations (Harries-Jones, p 123). Describing the media ecology as ‘three cybernetic or homeostatic systems: the individual human organism, the human society, and the larger ecosystem’ (Murphie and Potts 199, 2003). This suggests media is not static but, a constantly changing environment that is effected by everything which surrounds it.

Guttari expanded upon Bateson describing a media ecology as ‘nonlinear systems governed by feedback loops and nonlinear casualty'(Guttari in The Three Ecologies – Felix Guttari 2008). In other words each system has an effect upon the other, which in turn effects each system.

With this understanding of both views of media ecology it is possible to reach the conclusion that a media ecology is a broader term which looks at all human activity as the ecosystem. Within this there are several ecologies (cultural, political, social, media). All ecologies are interconnected and like the traditional environmental ecosystem unable to survive without the other. Operating in constant feedback loops between each other and within itself.

Therefore a media ecology is all media technology, its developments and uses. When studying or understanding a media ecology it is important to take into account its surrounding ecologies as none can exist without the other and each are constantly effecting the other.

This idea of media ecologies can then be used to examine the Facebook beginnings of the recent Egyptian Revolution. As seen in the chart below.

Illustrates some of the ecologies involved in Egypt's Facebook Revolution





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Levinson, P 1997, ‘The First Digital Medium’ in Soft Edge; a natural history and future of the information revolution London: Routledge, p 11-20

Murphie, A and Potts, J 2003, Culture and Technology London: Palgrave Macmillan, p 11-38

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The Three Ecologies – Felix Guattari 2008, Media Ecologies and Digital Activism: thoughts about change for a changing world, accessed 16th of march 2011, <http://mediaecologies.wordpress.com/2008/10/07/the-three-ecologies-felix-guattari/>

‘Wael Ghonim: Inside the Egyptian Revolution’ March 2011, Online Video, TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, accessed 16th of March 2011, <http://www.ted.com/talks/wael_ghonim_inside_the_egyptian_revolution.html>

Wikipedia 2011, Media Ecology, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_ecology>





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