From the Arab Spring to the Occupy and ‘Indignants’ movements, social networks have played a key role in the unrest that has shaken the world throughout 2011. And some of the most popular viral videos of the past twelve months…
2011: a year of protests
2011 was quite clearly a year of protests. From the uprisings of the Arab Spring, the “Occupy” or “Indignant” movements, (in Europe and North America in particular), against corporate greed and the abuses of capitalism, to the wave of democratic fervor in Russia: the past twelve months have seen a proliferation of protest movements across the globe, with the web, and more specifically social networks playing a major role.
The people of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya made great use of Facebook and Twitter to organize their revolutions, with cyber activists taking to these social media sites to denounce the abuses of their respective and weakening regimes and also to share their iron, unwavering will to obtain political change. By posting comments and videos, web users were able to use these platforms to mobilize support and report in more or less real time on how these popular uprisings were progressing. And social networks continue to play a key role in the Arab World revolutions, particularly so in Syria; they provide an area of freedom where citizens can protest against the government and bear witness to the repression inflicted upon them.
But it is not just the Arab Spring movements turning to the web and social networks, far from it. In Europe and North America, activists have been coordinating mass demonstrations online to protest against the abuses of capitalism and corporate greed. Throughout the year reports of rallies from Spain to Greece to a number of cities across the United States, have been relayed via the web. The so called “indignants” and supporters of the Occupy movement have been using all sorts of online tools to encourage their fellow citizens to take action in this fight against social injustice.
And Russia was also caught up in the wave of unrest that has swept across the globe since the beginning of the year. When Vladimir Putin’s government was reelected, amid much controversy, people took to the streets demanding democratic reforms, the protest movement has grown steadily over the past weeks, and once again this is largely down to the use of social networks, particularly so as they provide a means of bypassing the censorship of official state media.
Although they have different objectives, these movements all have one thing in common: they can all count on the support of various hacker groups, like the “hacktivists” from informal hacker group Anonymous. They stepped forward and offered the protest movements their support by carrying out a series of cyber-attacks and finding ways for cyber activists to bypass censorship and protect their online communications.
The videos of the year
Funny, unnerving, endearing, here are just some of the online videos that have created a buzz over the past twelve months.
In April, one mobile phone company made the most of the excitement surrounding the wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton by releasing this video which went viral. It’s a parody of the wedding ceremony, using lookalikes of the Royal Family dancing their way into the cathedral.
On an entirely different note… this video of an antelope ramming a cyclist in the South African savanna. Fortunately the man was more shaken than anything else and came out unscathed, but he’s unlikely to forget this astonishing encounter in a hurry.
And on video sharing platforms, cats were taking center stage, the little fluff balls were everywhere, but this year it was a fictional kitty that stole the show. “Nyan Cat” with his rainbow and frenzied music has drawn millions of fans and inspired a multitude of parodies.
And finally, throughout 2011, the Internet has provided a platform for musicians and singers to share their talents with the general public. Jorge Narvaez and his 6 year old daughter Alexa for example became online sensations with this rendition of the Edward Sharpe and Magnetic Zeroes track “Home”.