By Donya Alinejad In her latest speech on internet freedom, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared the internet the “town square” of the 21st century. Clinton seized on the widespread attention for Facebook during the Egyptian revolution and used the opportunity to reiterate internet-oriented US foreign policy. Just days earlier the Egyptian people had ousted Hosni Mubarak, their dictator of 30 years. Cairo’s Tahrir Square had been occupied by protesters, stained with the blood of the revolution’s martyrs, and gained iconic status as the center of the 21st century’s most populous revolutionary movement. Soon after, protesters in Libya named the Northern Court in Benghazi “Tahrir Square Two.” If these events show us anything, it is that the town square of the 21st century is still, simply, the town square.
In her earlier post on this weblog, Donya pointed to remarkable transgressions on the eve of the national elections in Iran. In the public protests following the elections we see another major innovation: the unprecedented use of new digital media. The newest digital tools for social networking, especially Twitter and Facebook, turn out to be crucial means to mobilize people and report events to the outside world, as Newsy.com points out in this video:
This raises important questions for anthropologists. What role can new media play in making political agitation effective?
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