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Technology and Game Zeitgeist in Libya and Beyond

February 27, 2011

It can’t really have escaped many people’s attention that there is an uprising going on in Libya.  The Guardian has been doing a great job of covering it and while I’m working I often have one of their live-blogs open (e.g. here) to keep one browser-eye on events.  I was also interested in their recent article around the technologies that were catalysts for change – in Tunisia it was Facebook, in Egypt it was Twitter, in Libya – we don’t really know yet.  (But in all cases its brave people taking to the streets to demand democracy that really makes the change!)

Instead, that defining image is this: a young woman or a young man with a smartphone. She’s in the Medina in Tunis with a BlackBerry held aloft, taking a picture of a demonstration outside the prime minister’s house. He is an angry Egyptian doctor in an aid station stooping to capture the image of a man with a head injury from missiles thrown by Mubarak’s supporters. Or it is a Libyan in Benghazi running with his phone switched to a jerky video mode, surprised when the youth in front of him is shot through the head.

All of them are images that have found their way on to the internet through social media sites. And it’s not just images. In Tahrir Square I sat one morning next to a 60-year-old surgeon cheerfully tweeting his involvement in the protest. The barricades today do not bristle with bayonets and rifles, but with phones.

You can see the Twitter Zeitgeist in this image of a protest sign – its nothing more than the Twitter hashtags you’d need to follow and join the discussion.  What is interesting about this sign is that it assumes knowledge and assumes connectivity – it’s not saying listen to the protestors point of view – it’s saying, “get involved”;

Protest Hastags

This is another image that struck me.  This time its a games one.  It shows how gaming is now a mainstream idea, something so universal that it can be used to communicate another universal idea – freedom.

Pacman Protest Sign

(These images come from this great article on Buzzfeed.)

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