The murmuration in the Arab World

Back to blogging on MixedRealities. I’ve been very busy covering Egypt for my other blog (Dutch language) at the newspaper. I used Storify to integrate blog and twitter content, for instance here for the March of a Million. I also went to Geneva, Switzerland, for the LIFT conference “what can the future do for you.” I did send out a few tweets about the conference, but I felt I needed time to think it all over. In the next few days I’ll post about some remarkable presentations and conversations.

Let me start with Egypt again.


Don Tapscott
specializes in business strategy, organizational transformation and the role of technology in business and society. His fourteenth book is Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World, co-authored by Anthony D. Williams.

At the LIFT conference he showed us this video, about the “murmuration”:

The murmuration seems to protect the birds against predators such as the hawk in the video. It’s also a way to exchange information. It’s an impressive image of self-organization with shifting leaders.

The image also seems to describe the self-organization of the protesters in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere. Don Tapscott said that there is a revolution in revolutions. There is no party or charismatic leader to command the revolutionaries. There is a tsunami of digital natives (not in Japan or Europe though because of the demographics) and quite a lot of those digital natives seem to be very upset about what the old leaders in their countries are doing or failing to do.

“Change is sweeping though the Middle East and it’s the Facebook generation that has kickstarted it”, Mona Eltahawy said in the Guardian. The new generation dares to say “I count”:

Most of the people in the Arab world are aged 25 or are younger. They have known no other leaders than those dictators who grew older and richer as the young saw their opportunities – political and economic – dwindle. The internet didn’t invent courage; activists in Egypt have exposed Mubarak’s police state of torture and jailings for years. And we’ve seen that even when the dictator shuts the internet down protesters can still organise. Along with making “I” count, social media allowed activists to connect with ordinary people and form the kind of alliances that we’re seeing on the streets of Egypt where protesters come from every age and background. Youth kickstarted the revolt, but they’ve been joined by old and young.

The internet technologist and journalist Ben Hammersley also mentioned Egypt at LIFT:

Over the past few days and years you will have seen the same bewildered look on old people’s faces. Hosni Mubarak, a Swiss industrialist that has just seen the internet, a media mogul whose empire has imploded.

Those same bewildered looks are shared by world leaders who are supposed to be leading the way to the future but don’t have a freaking clue about the present.

(using Mark Littlewood’s report on The Business Leaders Network)

The video of the presentation by Ben Hammersley:

Those speakers do not claim that we’re witnessing Twitter revolutions in the Arab world. What they say is that old people’s worldview is focused on distance and hierachical organization while young people – digital natives – have networks, and sheets of interest. Of course, there is a generation in-between, and Hammersley suggests that those in-between should translate the new visions of the young for the old guard.

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About rolandlegrand

I'm social media manager at Mediafin, the publisher of Belgium's leading business newspapers De Tijd and L'Echo. I have a special interest in the intersection of immersive media, business and philosophy.
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