140 characters or less: How did the Twitter mediascape influence the Egyptian Revolution?

Ginger Johnson, Brant Tudor, Hasan Nuseibeh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The globalization of media allows for the images and stories of marginalized and excluded groups to be seen and heard by more people than ever before, creating ‘mediascapes’ in which such populations compete for visibility on an imagined global stage. We liken 140-character Twitter messages, sent and received regarding North African social protests, as one such mediascape providing a slice of reality into the political ideology of Egyptian youth. Informed by anthropological theory and utilizing the powerful data collection techniques available to computer systems technicians, this research explores the possibilities of analyzing Twitter data related to Egypt’s 2011 political protests. In consideration of the role of Twitter in 2009 Iranian elections, this was chosen as the media platform to analyze Egyptian events. Five properties make it an ideal form to express political protest. Twitter is: 1) quick, providing real-time information in 140 characters or less, 2) free, 3) personal, 4) highly mobile and resistant to government control and 5) it can be anonymous. In seeking to answer our research questions on the role Twitter continues to play in Egyptian protests, we analyzed Twitter feeds to test for the existence of ‘authorities’ and ‘hubs’. Authorities can be considered the leaders of social protest movements (those persons creating original content in Twitter and playing an active role in setting up meeting days, times and places), while hubs serve as data dissemination points with large Twitter followings.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberhttps://doi.org/10.1163/18739865-00503006
JournalMiddle East Journal of Culture and Communication
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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