Online and Offline Networks during the 2011 Egyptian Uprising

In: Middle East Law and Governance
Elizabeth R. Nugent Middle East Institute, Harvard Kennedy School of Government,

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Chantal E. Berman Politics Department, Princeton University,

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Analyses of the 2011 Egyptian uprising assign a significant mobilizing role to the interpersonal networks created through Facebook and Twitter. However, these studies fail to investigate online networks in comparison with more traditional “offline” networks, which are similarly theorized to mobilize members to protest participation. In this paper, we analyze nationally representative Arab Barometer survey data from Egypt 2011 to compare the mobilizing effects of memberships in four different types of networks: online, union, community, and religious. We test whether these networks were distinct and operated in competition, or overlapping and operated in tandem to mobilize Egyptians to protest. We demonstrate that different networks mobilized different segments of the population, consistent with theories about the negative revolutionary coalition necessary for successful uprisings. We also show that multiple network membership increases protest propensity, and that individuals at the intersection of online networks and community group networks, such as those formed through membership in charity groups or sports clubs, are most likely to engage in revolutionary protest. These results speak to an important interactive effect between online and offline networks in terms of facilitating successful revolutionary uprisings.

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