Al-Magal Al-Iftirady lel-Thawra Al-Soureyya (The Syrian Revolution's Virtual Realm) by Hamzeh Al-Moustafa, Doha: ACRPS, 2012. 206pp.
The Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies has recently published a book entitled The Syrian Revolution's Virtual Realm: Specificities, Directions and the Mechanisms for the Creation of Public Opinion by Hamzeh Al-Moustafa. The book is an attempt to understand the impact of social media networks on the trajectory of the Syrian Revolution.
In this regard, it presents a critical review of the way in which this influence has been exaggerated by the media in what Al-Moustafa describes as "the Facebook Myth."
Al-Moustafa examines the factors that drove the revolutionaries in Syria to take up the virtual realm of cyberspace. This was driven, he argues, by the complete monopolisation of the traditional public sphere and political spaces by the authorities. This drove young Syrians to the internet in a bid to reclaim their political agency.
Al-Moustafa says the revolutionaries' use of social media succeeded in turning the tables on the traditional media, replacing it as the premier source of news and information, and establishing a space in which values were contested and semiotic significance was bestowed.
The book builds on the corpus of existing scholarship on the media and ideas of the public sphere, presenting its impact on public opinion, with special focus on the following websites: Sham News Network (SNN), The Syrian Revolution, and Ugarit News. One of the major contributions of the book, however, is the way it collects and collates empirical evidence from the Syrian media landscape and history, such as a history of Syria's new-old flag, which rapidly became a symbol of the revolution (the old flag differs slightly from Syria's official, UN-recognised flag, and has come to renewed prominence within the revolutionary movement).
The book includes a discussion of the Local Coordination Committees and the interplay among them, including their role in the emergence of local leaders on the ground, and the founding statement of the Union of the Local Coordination Committees of the Syrian Revolution and other relevant documents. In addition, the book offers a list of the names of consecutive "Friday protests" and presents a qualitative analysis of debates in online discussion boards frequented by supporters of the revolution. This adds to its value as a tool for researchers interested in the Arab Spring, Syria, and how the internet became a venue for social and political activism in the region.