Did digital media really “cause” the Arab Spring, or is it an important factor of the story behind what might become democracy’s fourth wave?

An unlikely network of citizens used digital media to start a cascade of social protest that ultimately toppled four of the world’s most entrenched dictators. Howard and Hussain find that the complex causal recipe includes several economic, political and cultural factors, but that digital media is consistently one of the most important sufficient and necessary conditions for explaining both the fragility of regimes and the success of social movements. This book looks at not only the unexpected evolution of events during the Arab Spring, but the deeper history of creative digital activism throughout the region.

What People Say

Democracy’s Fourth Wave? guides readers through the avalanche of factors that meshed with digital media to produce the Arab Spring. The authors subtly adapt traditional methodologies to decode mysteries of complex causal effects. In doing so, their book brings clarity and insight to the conundrums of new technologies as factors in regime fragility and protest success.

Monroe E. Price
Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania

This unprecedented multidisciplinary approach to the examination of the Arab Spring situates itself in digital revolutions and political transformations. I highly recommend it for students, activists, and policy makers seeking to understand how modern communication technologies are driving the Fourth Wave of Democracy in the Arab world.

Imad Salamey
Associate Professor of Political Science, Lebanese American University

This book represents the first serious effort to transcend the polarized debate between cyber-utopians and tech-skeptics regarding digital media’s role in the 2011 Arab Uprisings. Carefully argued and documented, it is of landmark importance and should be required reading for all those who seek to understand the interface of technology and political change and the future of democratization.

Peter Mandaville
George Mason University

Philip N. Howard and Muzammil M. Hussain’s study implies that… digital media played a much longer term role in creating favorable conditions for uprisings, helped to publicize key igniting events, and then facilitated those uprisings and their diffusion; but digital media did not do this alone or as suddenly as some observers have claimed… There are a number of other unique contributions, but there is insufficient space to review them all. Overall, I predict that future research will look kindly to the authors’ key findings, particularly the book’s central claim that digital media were one essential ingredient in larger casual recipes for revolution and democratization.

Jennifer Earl
University of Arizona

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Technology and Society
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