This is a follow-up piece from Br. Scott's Viva La Revolucion: The Changing Face of Global Activism. In that article Scott writes about the impact of the online media forms (google, facebook, twitter) that helped fuel the recent social uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.
The video below, pulled from a conversation on the Beams and Struts facebook page, offers another side to the story. In it, Evgeny Morozov (who Scott actually quotes in the article), explains why the internet may not be the revolution tinderbox some claim it to be. He distinguishes between "Digital Renegades and Digital Captives" and belives that Maslow's Hierarchy has as much to do with how we use the internet as anything else.
On this last point I'm in agreement with Morozov. While the internet allows for unprecedented information flows and connectivity between like-minded individuals, it's only a platform for the information and values that people are already expressing. Those of us most interested in politics are going to frequent that subject matter, those who want porn can find plenty of places for it, and so on. Most of us aren't going to be deeply moved and become online revolutionaries overnight.
However the net does make it easier to come across new information, outside our usual stomping grounds. The kind of information we might not have known about otherwise (like gathering points for revolutionary activities or alternative sources of news media, for example). So although the net can only ever be a platform for the information and values already being expressed by society, as individuals we may get exposed to some new info and values that we didn't have before.
This begs some obvious similarities to the printing press and the unprecedented social changes that new device enabled (as described by that most trustworthy of sources, Wikipedia):
"The unprecedented impact of Gutenberg-style printing on the long-term development of modern European and then world history is difficult to capture in its entirety. Attempts at analysing its manifold effects include the notion of a proper Printing Revolution and the creation of the Gutenberg Galaxy. The ready availability and affordability of the printed word to the general public boosted the democratization of knowledge and laid the material basis for the modern knowledge-based economy.
In Renaissance Europe, the arrival of mechanical movable type printing introduced the era of mass communication which permanently altered the structure of society: The relatively unrestricted circulation of information and (revolutionary) ideas transcended borders, captured the masses in the Reformation and threatened the power of political and religious authorities; the sharp increase in literacy broke the monopoly of the literate elite on education and learning and bolstered the emerging middle class. Across Europe, the increasing cultural self-awareness of its peoples led to the rise of proto-nationalism, accelerated by the flowering of the European vernacular languages to the detriment of Latin's status as lingua franca."