New media is a broad term that emerged in the later part of the 20th century. For example, new media holds out a possibility of on-demand access to content anytime, anywhere, on any digital device, as well as interactive user feedback, creative participation and community formation around the media content. Another important promise of New Media is the “democratization” of the creation, publishing, distribution and consumption of media content. What distinguishes new media from traditional media is the digitizing of content into bits. There is also a dynamic aspect of content production which can be done in real time, but these offerings lack standards and have yet to gain traction.
Most technologies described as “new media” are digital, often having characteristics of being manipulated, networkable, dense, compressible, and interactive.Some examples may be the Internet, websites, computer multimedia, computer games, CD-ROMS, and DVDs. New media do not include television programs, feature films, magazines, books, or paper-based publications – unless they contain technologies that enable digital interactivity.
Recent events have shown that social media is without mincing words, is a tool for revolutionary change if people can harness its potential. Egypt is a clear example of a society that has had to endure many years of tyranny and the suppression of dissenting voices. All of these however changed with events culminating in the revolutionary march of a million people in Egypt at the now famous Tahrir Square in Cairo. This revolution was however made possible by the deployment of new media; the likes of twitter, facebook and other social networking platform was used as a tool to galvanise and mobilise the people into action.
Even in the face of a total clamp down on access to the internet, people still found a way to communicate. Of course, the role of conventional media in the Egyptian revolution is quite commendable particularly that of Al-Jazeera who dedicated a line solely for Egyptians and people the world over to share their views and experiences during the revolution and also post pictures and videos via twitter and facebook.
New media in modern times is turning out to be the weapon of choice for people who clearly understand that violent confrontation is really not a choice they want to make. The world is a global community and new media is paving the way for the hitherto unheard and unseen, who now have a veritable platform to air their views and share their opinions on diverse issues. The Egyptian revolution I daresay is unprecedented, being the first revolution in modern times where new media was the tool for galvanising people as opposed to propaganda. The revolution in Egypt although not the first one in North Africa in recent times, did in fact started in Algeria with some protests and demonstrations by citizens and later spread to Tunisia where the people where able through peaceful protests albeit, not without violent confrontation especially from government forces, loyalists and supporters, force their President to step down and go into exile.
In late January, Manar Mohsen, a student of journalism at the American University in Cairo, watched as the regime of Zine El Abiden Ben Ali crumbled under the weight of a populist revolt in Tunisia. Despite official dismissals that the Tunisian uprising would not be repeated in Egypt, Mohsen joined the Facebook page announcing protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on January 25, 2011.Mohsen was but one in a virtual army of citizen and student journalists who covered Tahrir Square armed with the latest technologies that enabled them to immediately report on events despite the former regime’s best efforts to shut them down. In the 18 days that it took to topple former President Hosni Mubarak, it was not only the political landscape but the individual – particularly the youth of the country – that metamorphosed.
Mohsen says that she saw that transformation first-hand as protesters began to believe their voices should be heard; citizen journalism became a culmination of that belief. Social media became the protesters’ most instrumental medium of communication. While State-owned media continued to confine itself to Soviet-era reporting by ignoring events in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria, it was young students and activists resorting to twitter and to a lesser degree, Facebook, who broadcast to the world the reality of the situation.
Dodging rubber bullets, live ammunition, tear gas canisters and hiding from state security in alleyways and strangers’ homes, young Egyptians used social media to forcibly deliver a message that is still resonating in the Middle East and North Africa: Authoritarian rule in the region is over. University-age Egyptians, many of whom have known no other president and political system, went online and expressed anger at their disenfranchisement and rampant corruption.
Ultimately, and since January 25, it is young Egyptians who are increasingly using social media to inform, dissent, and mobilize, thereby increasing transparency and accountability of government. This form of self-expression and empowerment also changed the media landscape that had until then been void of the interaction and engaging element characteristic of social networks.
New media is easily accessible, relatively cheap, can guarantee to some extent some level of anonymity and above all, it is universal.