Constructing Revolution in Egypt

Drawing on thousands of Facebook media posts and comments from June of 2010 until February of 2011, this project explores the ways in which online activists constructed a dynamic framing system that made 2011’s revolution possible, but also set it up for later failure.

The Discursive Construction of Revolution: Frame Dynamics in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution
The combination of two earlier papers, presented at the ASA and SSSP annual meetings in 2015 and further refined based on peer review feedback, this paper examines the unfolding of collective action frames on social media (particularly Facebook) in the lead-up and immediate aftermath of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in 2011. Read a working draft of it here.

Abstract: On January 25, 2011, spurred on by the actions of online activists, tens of thousands of Egyptians turned out in the streets to protest Egypt’s police state, and eighteen days later, Egypt’s president resigned, bringing about a revolution. The Egyptian Revolution was conceptualized and organized primarily online before moving to the streets. This paper examines the role of social media in the Egyptian revolution through a content analysis of Facebook pages heavily involved in promoting the revolution, which provided a relatively safe space for politically active Egyptians to gather and discuss Egypt’s problems. These Facebook pages developed powerful collective action frames that both directed and inspired collective action, through emotional stories of martyrdom, escalating blame frames, and an inclusive apolitical identity. However, the strategies that these pages used to mobilize people also made it difficult for the Facebook youth who drove the revolution forward to take charge of the situation after Mubarak stepped down, and the framing employed failed to challenge the underlying logics of the Egyptian state system. As a result, the revolution brought only limited changes to Egypt, though it had remarkable affects on other protest movements worldwide.