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David E. Sanger ’82, Chief Washington Correspondent for the New York Times and adjunct lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and Micah L. Sifry, co-founder and editor of the Personal Democracy Forum discussed the role of the Egyptian people and social media in the country’s recent revolution last night.
The new generation of wired and networked youth behaves differently from the generation that did not have access to these tools, which changes the dynamic of modern politics, Sifry said during the event at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at the Institute of Politics.
“If I had to pinpoint a factor, I would call this either a blogger revolution or a network revolution,” Sifry said, attributing the significant role of youth in the recent events to the phenomenon of social media. “They tweet and respond back and forth in this hyper-transparent way.”
Sanger added that he feels it is unlikely the revolution would have happened in 18 days without social media as a tool.
Sifry noted that while previous public opinion had been that youth are apathetic, observers now see something new developing among politically active young people.
“Right now hopes have been ignited,” he said.
But both Sifry and Sanger said that they could not make predictions about the future in Egypt or in other countries in the area.
“No one knows what the trigger mechanism is,” Sanger said.
As for the role of Facebook in the formation of revolutions in the future, Sifry was cautionary.
“I think it’s a double-edged sword for Facebook, If I’m Facebook, I don’t really want to be seen as something that disruptive,” he said.
Sifry, who is currently working on a book entitled, “WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency,” runs the Personal Democracy Forum, an website that acts as a hub for the conversation between political practitioners, technologists, and others interested in the burgeoning movement to engage citizens online.
Alexandra M. Harsacky ’13 said she chose to attend the event because a history course had given her an interest in the topic of Egyptian politics.
“Knowing what was going on in Egypt’s past, I wanted to hear more about what’s to come,” she said.
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