There's been much talk the past months over the power of social networks and the role they play/are playing in the revolutions in Egypt and other middle eastern nations. Some have deemed these the "Facebook Revolutions" or alternatively the "Twitter Revolutions". This is on the basis that large parts of the organizing, planning, and mobilizing was done through these social networking and their ability to instantly connect people in a decentralized and rhizomatic (hence network) way.
However these lines of analysis were shown to be highly premature and quite shallow when Mubarak essentially "turned off" the internet for the Egyptian population and the revolution kept barreling forward. To the surprise of Mubarak (and those in the FB/Twitter camp) people were still able to mobilize in the same instantaneous decentralized patterns they were before. There were two main reactions to this new development. The first ,by those singing the praises of social networking, was that the internet blockade had come to late, social networking had already done its job. The second, mostly hedged by the Left, was that it proved that social networking was indeed a useful tool for organizing people but the same things would of been accomplished without they just might of been slightly more difficult.
I think however that there is a third much more metaphysical way of thinking about social media's role in the Winter of Dissent. Jean Baudrillard brings up an interesting quote of Heidegger's in the lecture The Murder of the Real:
...to quote a very mysterious phrase of Heidegger: “When we look into the ambiguous essence of technology we behold the constellation, the stellar course of the mystery.”... It so far refutes the very conception by Heidegger himself of technique and technology... This would be that at the extreme horizon of development, of technique, perhaps something other happens, a reversibility.This quote by Heidegger is so very intriguing because Baudrillard is right this does seem to go against much of Heidegger's project. Heidegger was no Luddite but his ideas about how technesis enframes the dasien into standing reserve is quite a gloomy one. However the above quote makes it seem that if we are to behold this constellation of technology perhaps we can invest in a strategy that instead of retreating from technology strives to push it to it's limits past the horizon, a reverse enframing.
The protests in Egypt provide a pretty good example of how this reverse enframing can ideally function. When looking at the revolution in this light both the Left and the social media cheerleaders were wrong: Facebook and Twitter were did not start a revolution, but they also were not merely helpful tools of protesters.
The majority of the original protesters and organizer of the Egyptian protests were the youth of Egypt. A generation of people for whom being constantly integrated and connected is a daily function of life (I know, I'm one of them).A generation whose default mode of being is not one static identity but rather one that is constantly in motion and concert with other identities in an interconnected world, similar to how stands of DNA collide into each other and come away with bits of foreign code causing recombinants, cross-overs, and mutations.So when these individuals have a goal (oust Mubarak) there is not a need for them to study social networkings to see how decentralized networks are created because it is how they normally function in everyday social life.
This is why simply shutting down the internet didn't stop the protests- the Egyptians were not using Facebook, they were being Facebook. Heidegger and Virillo got it correct that speed and technology could easily turn the social into an apathetic silent majority, but they failed to see beyond that mysterious horizon were these would be the new methods to turn an standing reserve into a mobile one.