Un articolo di Christopher Szabla su Maisonneuve interviene su Primavera araba, Occupy e movimento degli Indignados, mettendo in luce come la stretta relazione tra strumenti di comunicazione e modalità organizzative potrebbe aver segnato il destino di questi movimenti fin dall’inizio. Le debolezze intrinseche delle comunità online, così come il loro rapido declino verso comunità di consumatori in una Internet non più aperta e collaborativa come nelle origini, ma segmentata e passivizzante man mano che si espande il paradigma delle app, potrebbero essere le stesse debolezze mostrate da questi movimenti, così fluidi e aperti, da permettere al primo soggetto strutturato che ne approfitta di appropriarsi delle parole d’ordine e di capitalizzarne i risultati.
The rapid, nearly simultaneous rise and fall of these movements suggests that they were linked by more than just timing. Unlike the systems they opposed, each appeared to simulate the decentralized, nonhierarchical networks that characterize life on the internet. And yet it’s this same likeness to the web that may have squandered the protests’ potential from the start.
Pundits began to argue that, beyond simply linking people and enabling demonstrations to expand, the web had also altered the very ways people behaved—changing, in turn, the nature of political discontent.
From Tahrir to the occupiers’ Zuccotti Park to the indignados’ Puerta del Sol, city squares were said to function as autonomous zones that offered templates for a liberated society—laboratories in which people might prove their capacity to govern themselves more directly. As a model for this form of activism, the internet could be seen as the uprisings’ cause: to those living in unequal or autocratic societies, the apparently participatory nature of the web suggested that, to echo the protest refrain, “another world is possible.”
We’ve long liked to believe in the potential of people power, and for many years internet culture seemed to offer the best hope yet for a society based on collaborative, nonhierarchical values.
To the extent that the past year’s protests were really akin to collaborative networks online, they also shared those networks’ weaknesses. Occupy and the Arab Spring drew support because neither movement offered a clear vision of the future beyond the status quo; participants could picture the utopia of their choice. But the question of how to harness the spirit of protest into concrete action forced demonstrators to define their goals more clearly—and presented a threat to the movements’ unity. Total equality proved too unwieldy for the thousands editing Wikipedia, let alone the millions making up a nation-state. And openness carries the same risks that endangered the online encyclopedia: anyone acting in the protest’s name can claim its mantle.
Occupy supporters justifiably say the protests succeeded in spreading their message; Egypt’s activists say that they created the possibility of change. But they were able to do so only by surrendering the galvanizing force of their rhetoric—and opportunities for systemic reform—to more established, cynical players.
In Egypt, an appetite for early elections left liberal groups too disorganized to defeat the mighty Muslim Brotherhood, which now has few incentives to challenge the army.
The explosive growth of smartphone and tablet use spawned the app, a medium that’s grown popular through the same crowd-sourced creativity that built Wikipedia. But apps limit interconnectivity by segregating users from the wider web, and their prevalence makes one wonder whether most netizens ever preferred open interaction to begin with. Silent majorities keep their distance from demonstrations; passive consumerism is still the way most people spend their time online.
If the internet ideal inspired the protest movements of the past year, it’s little wonder they’re struggling: collaborative online culture is fighting for its life.
However much the perceived openness of online existence is an end worth fighting for, it may not be the most effective means.