Mobile Revolution: Toward a History of Technology, Telephony and Political Activism in Egypt

Author(s) Kira C. Allmann
Contact Kira C. Allmann, University of Oxford, Pusey Lane, Oxford, OX1 2LE, UK, E-mail:
Issue CyberOrient, Vol. 8, Iss. 2, 2014, pp. 46-71
Published November 10, 2014
Type Article
Abstract This article examines the use of everyday mobile technologies, and mobile telephony in particular, in political activism and protest during the 2011 Egyptian uprisings and throughout its continuing aftermath. The Arab revolutions have their own, now familiar, nomenclature, derived from the semantics of revolution and the digital age. Much of the language used to describe and analyze events in the Middle East has emphasized the “newness” of the technologies of protest and coordination and the uniquely 2.0 characteristics of these political movements. This article confronts this narrative, exploring the role of mobile telephony in Egypt during an ongoing period of political upheaval by moving away from the question of what is “new” or “revolutionary” toward what is ordinary put toward revolutionary ends. The article argues that the Arab Spring presents a crucial opportunity to interrogate and deconstruct the hybrid ecology of people and technological tools. By exploring several specific ways in which mobile telephony has played a role in the Egyptian revolution, this article demonstrates how a fixation on newness not only tells an incomplete story of this technologically mediated revolution but also undermines the ongoing practices of historicizing it.
Keywords communication studies, social media, Arab Spring, public sphere, Egypt, activism, information and communication technology, democracy, mobile phones