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Reading the Tweets of the Revolution

May 15, 2011

One of the most interesting aspects of the revolution is how much data historians are going to have to work with. The role of social and other media provides a thick series of ongoing texts being produced moment-by-moment as the uprisings were occurring.

The first book to take advantage of this phenomenon, Tweets From Tahrir: Egypt’s Revolution As It Unfolded in the Words of the People Who Made It Happen (O/R Books, 2011) has just been released. The book is edited by Alex Nunns and Nadia Idle–the latter herself a protester and Tweeter.

The book is pretty much what the title says: a picture of the uprising unfolding in real time through the Twitter accounts of activists heavily involved in its planning and organization.  Of course, thousands of people documented on cell phones every stage of the uprising;  this book brings together a selection of tweets by key actors redacted to create a compelling narrative. Some Tweeters were “citizen journalists”, using social media to report what was happening. Others were organizers, using social networks to help plan events and activities.

The structure of Twitter–with its limit of 140 characters–shapes the nature of the narrative. News, requests, alarms, outbursts of emotion all occur in short bursts of writing, providing a very different kind of historical resource from those with which social scientists usually work.

Cell phone photographs by the Tweeters provide the book’s illustrations.

You can order the book from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other on-line booksellers, or from the publisher:

Any book on social media must have a Facebook page, of course

And here‘s a review and excerpt from The Guardian.

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