After nine days of protesting in Egypt which began with large crowds taking to the street organized by youth using the social media tools of Facebook and Twitter we are NOW seeing images of people throwing stones at one another while a strange group rides through the crowds on horseback and camels brandishing whips and sticks…a grim reminder of the reality of the pace of change when it comes to its implementation…
I am reminded of the metaphor of cars driving down the road. The fastest car belongs to the young tech savvy man – let’s call him Mark Z. The slowest car on the road (a camel special??) belongs to a government worker, who, in this case, works for the Egyptian regime. These are the two extremes. When worlds collide – moving at two different speeds in two different spaces…empires can fall. The blogger Danny Ramadan took the picture above on February 2, 2011 on his way out of Egypt… For me it sums up the reality of Egypt written on the face of a sculpted lion’s pedestal – Facebook – the social network…the global citizen. As Mcluhan said “In the electronic age we wear ALL mankind as our skin”
Without a doubt the use of Social Media was a key strategy in the organizing and exchange of information for the initial protests. The government then shut down the Internet providers in order to stop the expotential growth of protesters and its world wide amplification. Within a week Twitter and Google and a team of engineers joined forces to create Twitter Speak. as an alternative work around so that protesters could continue to connect and express themselves. This demonstrates the “speed to market” in which social media platforms can serve their users – one unparralled by those who maintain a business as usual mindset in the face of social change.
One of the hardest lessons for those of us who are “agents of change” in the field of technology, art and business is that change does not happen NOW, it takes time. Humans are creatures of habit and old forms of behaviour die hard. Yesterday, the ruling dictator of Egypt asked for 7 months to pack his bags while The President of the USA said change “should begin NOW”. The gap between the two timelines will be filled with chaos.. sticks and stones, broken bones and loss of life.
The good news is that technology speeds up the flow of information and the change in Egypt will happen much quicker then ever before in the recorded history of mankind.