Why Kyrgyzstan’s Social Media Matters

by Sarah Kendzior on 4/8/2010 · 36 comments

The pundits have spoken, and, contrary to my earlier prediction that Kyrgyzstan’s uprising would be labeled another “Twitter Revolution”, they are now insisting the opposite — that the Kyrgyz tweets, videos and blog posts are irrelevant. The main proponent of this theory is Evgeny Morozov, who, as Michael noted earlier, views the internet activity of Kyrgyzstanis as meaningless because the country is of little global interest.

I’m not going to argue that the international news media are invested in Krygyzstan — the CNN transcripts I posted earlier make their lack of interest all too clear. What bothers me about Morozov’s argument is how he determines the value of online dissent. Once again, Central Asia is deemed irrelevant because it is Central Asia. The tweets, blog posts, and news articles written by people in Kyrgyzstan — often with great emotion and care — are dismissed because they were written for people in Kyrgyzstan. But for whom, may I ask, are people in Kyrgyzstan supposed to be writing?

As Registan readers well know, Central Asia is the black hole of international media. It is not the “other” but the other’s “other” — Russia’s orient, a region whose history and political complexities are poorly understood even by some who proclaim to be experts; a region whose best-known ambassador is Borat. In the world media, Central Asia is most notable for its absence; the only region not even worthy of inclusion in the international weather report. No one cares if it’s raining in a place that doesn’t, as far as the media are concerned, exist.

Yet as Registan readers also know, a lot happens in Central Asia. And I would argue that, over the last few years, a great deal of what happens in Central Asia happens online — not only what is reported on websites that boldly defy government censorship like Ferghana.ru, but what is written by ordinary people who share, as we do, their thoughts on the internet. The problem, of course, is that they do not generally do this in English. There is another internet, a secret internet, in which meaningful political conversations take place in Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Turkmen, and Tajik, yet the majority of the world remains none the wiser. (Russian, of course, is less of a barrier in this respect.) In numerous cases, Central Asians are talking about issues that could never be discussed in public in their home countries. They often do so in a way that would make little sense to a foreigner even if he or she could read it. They focus on internal politics, national concerns, personal grudges. In short, like most people in the world, they write about each other, and for each other.

I would argue that when most Kyrgyz posted on Twitter, they did so for each other. They searched for meaning and answers, using the internet to forge a connection to their countrymen as chaos reigned outside. And through it all, they evaluated Kyrgyzstan’s politics, providing a rich and ongoing commentary of events. In Morozov’s view, this is irrelevant. He compares Kyrgyzstan unfavorably to Iran, noting that the Kyrgyz did not use the internet for strategic purposes, but merely to spread information. He notes that Kyrgyzstan did not rate as highly as a “trending topic” in Twitter as did Iran in the summer of 2009 (while failing to mention that Iran has a population more than ten times larger than Kyrgyzstan’s). Such an evaluative perspective, in which countries are judged winners and losers by virtue of their search ranking, leads to headlines like Andrew Sullivan’s “This Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted” (an article about Morozov’s article). This revolution was tweeted. But unfortunately, the significance of those tweets is decided not by the people who wrote and read them, but by observers in the West. As a result of this, Kyrgyzstan becomes relevant only in its relation to other nations and other revolutions. This is the virtual equivalent of the Great Game, with Central Asia but an afterthought to which people can apply their pet theories.

What we make of Kyrgyzstan’s internet content may seem irrelevant in light of the enormity of what has happened. But it is indicative of a deeper problem — a refusal to consider Central Asia in terms of Central Asia, a refusal to see the actions and ideas of Central Asians as meaningful in their own right. Central Asia is no longer an inaccessible hinterland. Thanks to the internet, the world can hear what innumerable Central Asians have to say. The question is whether they care to listen.


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This post was written by...

– author of 22 posts on Registan.net.

Sarah Kendzior is an anthropologist who studies politics and the internet in the former Soviet Union. She has a PhD in cultural anthropology from Washington University in Saint Louis and an MA in Central Eurasian Studies from Indiana University. Her research has been published in many academic journals and media outlets, including American Ethnologist, Central Asian Survey, Demokratizatsiya and the Atlantic. She is currently an instructor at Washington University, where she teaches a course called "The Internet, Politics, and Society." Follow her on Twitter.

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{ 36 comments }

Michael Hancock April 8, 2010 at 11:12 pm

Best post on Registan (regarding Central Asia) in recent memory, Sarah – you said it all, and it needed saying.

Michael Hancock April 8, 2010 at 11:13 pm

:P And not because you referenced little ol’ me!

Joshua Foust April 8, 2010 at 11:19 pm

What we make of Kyrgyzstan’s internet content may seem irrelevant in light of the enormity of what has happened. But it is indicative of a deeper problem — a refusal to consider Central Asia in terms of Central Asia, a refusal to see the actions and ideas of Central Asians as meaningful in their own right. Central Asia is no longer an inaccessible hinterland. Thanks to the internet, the world can hear what innumerable Central Asians have to say. The question is whether they care to listen.

This is brilliantly and eloquently put, a statement I agree with wholeheartedly. I’ve tried to make this argument before, with much less persuasiveness.

On a related note, I can remember how, in early 2008 or so, all the Afghan-written blogs began drying up. I couldn’t figure it out: the country was becoming more important than ever in America’s consciousness, but these crucial portraits of what life was like there were vanishing!

It took me a long while to realize that most of the Afghan-oriented bloggers had transitioned to blogging in Persian and, increasingly, in Pashto. In one way it’s a huge loss—this is perhaps a topic for another time, but I often wonder if the biggest value blogs in out-of-the-way places play is to humanize the area for a Western audience (it is a perpetual theme of the internal discussions at Global Voices, for example), and not really to communicate with each other.

Of course, for online and social media to have the same transformative affect in Central Asia as it has in the U.S., they have to do it in their own languages. In Afghanistan, it’s resulted in a flowering of discussion between people from different areas whose normal contacts wouldn’t bring them into touch with each other—a somewhat banal happenstance in America today and not necessarily as revolutionary in Afghanistan… but it still has a huge effect (for good or ill, we don’t know).

I would imagine the growth in Central Asia is the same. I’ve really only read the dispatches about the Turkmen internet over at neweurasia.net, because it’s in English and my Russian is barely adequate to understand even the general thrust of news articles and I don’t speak any of the Turkic languages. But I know that growth has played a huge role in how and why people communicate in these places.

I’ll stop rambling now. I just wanted to say huzzah for some great work today and yesterday—I’m truly grateful you’ve been covering this.

KZBlog April 8, 2010 at 11:49 pm

I would argue that when most Kyrgyz posted on Twitter, they did so for each other.

Absolutely. What I saw on #freekg and #newkg were posts of rumors, eyewitness accounts, phone numbers, spreading info about whether it was safe or not–information that is more useful for insiders than outsiders. I also saw hostility toward foreign Tweeters (particularly Russian and Chinese ), indicating that most Kyrgyz were not interested in being the news story du jour. The point was to report to each other facts and needed information.

I don’t remember anyone saying that Howard Dean or Barack Obama’s use of social media to organize flashmobs and meetings was irrelevant because the Russian media didn’t take an interest.

Noah April 8, 2010 at 11:51 pm

Great piece, Sarah–it needs to be said. It’s remarkable the way a few pieces written independently of one one another today interact with one another in different ways about more or less the same topic.

People unfamiliar with Sarah’s work that’s been published the “old fashioned way” (or, um, the professional way I guess you would say) should really look for it if they’re interested in what Central Asians say about themselves. I’ve been plugging Sarah’s work in this space for a couple of years now I think, and I’m really glad that she (you) decided to start posting.

Noah April 8, 2010 at 11:53 pm

I thought one of the most interesting things was they way people used it to help one another and to urge others to help. I can’t count how many times I saw people saying they had gone to donate blood on diesel.elcat.kg and always urging others to do the same, even while acknowledging that it was dangerous to go out into the streets on the night of the 7-8th.

Catherine Fitzpatrick April 9, 2010 at 1:31 am

I’ve been thoroughly challenging Evgeny Morozov on my blog.
http://3dblogger.typepad.com/osce_unbound/2010/04/yes-kyrgyzstans-red-blood-tulip-revolution-is-a-twitter-revolution.html

And while I don’t think we can credit any automagical abilities to technology, Twitter and other social media like Youtube and Facebook have played a role, and one that’s easy to see merely by following the tags #freetg #newkg #Bishkek and others.

But I think people’s perception of Twitter can vary wildly literally depending on who they follow or who they talk to, that makes a conversation space with various news and views and links and mining of others followers — and if you are only following the hashtag, you may miss those social circles that form and expand.
I started translating many of the Russian-only tweets on two accounts to try to throw some more light on the events there by people who don’t read Russian.

Morozov’s problem is deeper, as I explain on my blog and in other writings where I’ve challenged him. It’s not just Central Asia; he says this about Iran, Moldova — any place in the world where people are using Twitter during a time of unrest. I find it part of a troubling quietism combined with a statism that concedes the field to authoritarian governments only, as if they are never challenged, and as if their disinformation campaigns are always successful.

I agree that the Kyrgyz, like other people just starting to use Twitter, treat it more like a party line or a group chat than they do an international dialogue very much in public. And you get these funny net nannies or what I call these park-bench babushki that start ordering others around, telling them what to cite, what hashtag to use, what they shouldn’t say, etc. Read @kgsystem for a eyefull of that sort of behaviour, which I see among Russians too and others — it’s like shepherds emerge in the herds, but in some cases, you can’t tell which of these people are in fact bad actors disinforming for secret police, and which are just people who wish their country well and want people to be united and focused.

I don’t believe in being too precious about people having essentially a national conversation. The world is connected. It’s ok to criticize even a beleaguered opposition taking power and ask them why they used violence, and why some of them are urging we read only some news outlets. That’s what Twitter is for.

#freekg didn’t make it to the trending topics, but that would be surprising if it did, given there are only a few hundred Kyrgyz and perhaps at most a few thousand foreigners on Twitter following this. But that’s ok. It’s still a Twitter Revolution in my book because people used Twitter to accomplish a dialogue and a connection they couldn’t have made otherwise.

What has been particularly plaguing this discussion is the overemphasis on the American base, both by mainstream media like Clifford Levy at the New York Times, and by lefty blogs like Enduring Freedom — and that leads to lack of consideration about Russia’s and China’s role. But most of all it’s a story about Kyrgyzstan and few outside seem willing to let Kyrgyz tell it.

Turgai Sangar April 9, 2010 at 5:25 am

I agree with Morozov about the irrelevance of twitter, blogs etc… is what is happening in Kyrgzystan. For a start, the use of these media is limited to a relatively small, urban and more westernized minority not only in Kyrgyzstan but in Southern Eurasia in general.

And in current events, these groups just don’t have the initiave or even much relevance for that matter. Just look at the protesters: the large majority of them is a) male and b) rural or recent urban immigrant or otherwise clearly more ‘working class’ or from ‘the real people’ (to put it simple). Many of them do have mobile phones and use text messages though.

But for the rest, it’s a far cry from the ponytailed yuppie, neo-hippy and babe bevvy jamborees in Kiev, for instance.

Matthew April 9, 2010 at 7:01 am

Central Asia actually is an inaccessible hinterland, and there is no reason we should expect western news media, especially American, to give a hoot about the area or the people. Let’s be honest, in the larger sense of international affairs and global economics, basically no one cares about Central Asia. Sure, it’s dandy for those of us interested in the region to whine and complain that more people should pay attention. Obviously we all think the place is important. We’re not disinterested parties, however – the majority us have academic and/or professional connections to the region, and the more people care the better it is for us. Let’s face it, in the circles of U.S. foreign policy (which is where a lot of the focus and funding for academia originates), Central Asia doesn’t matter. Natural resources from the region make up an incredibly slim amount of what’s consumed in the U.S and could be cut-off without any consequence. The geographic, economic, and political situation of the region limits opportunities for development or multinational investment. We need to work with the area because of the war in Afghanistan, sure, but that’s actually part of U.S.-Russian relations. Central Asia is still Russia’s backyard, that’s a fight we lost years ago, so when it comes to maintaining the Northern Distribution Network our concern is with Russia, not the Central Asia governments who will almost always roll over if we shut up about their human rights violations and pay the right price. Both through government efforts and through NGOs, the West has blown millions of dollars on civil society efforts in Central Asia for jack diddly squat. Sure, you can find “success” or “opportunities” if you need to, the same way Ahmed Rashid can find scary Uzbeks if he needs to, in order to keep himself relevant and his services selling. In the big picture, though, we’ve have two decades of failure in Central Asia, in promoting more open government, pushing the region away from Moscow/Beijing and towards the West, and developing the economy, investment, and trade networks. As a result, U.S. policy makers, news editors, and corporate leaders, all of whom were interested in the region if you look back at 1991/1992, have moved on now. And rightly so. The polices of the Central Asian leaders have ensured the area is a backwater for the West (yes, even Nazarbayev). Finally, the American public decries the support of dictators, so if there’s no real reward and potential domestic political risk working with the authoritarian Central Asian governments nowadays (save on one or two Afghanistan-related matters), why bother? All of these factors combine to make the region (appropriately) irrelevant to much of western media, and in turn to most of the public. The point is, while it might make us feel better (superior, even) to laugh at or decry news anchors who don’t know or care about some revolution in wherever-a-stan, it’s a pointless exercise. The majority of the American public (including the well-educated elite) have no reason, absolutely no reason, to know or care about Central Asia or the people there, and honestly it’s childish to demean people who have a perfect normal and well-founded apathy about the region.

reader April 9, 2010 at 8:13 am

“I would argue that when most Kyrgyz posted on Twitter, they did so for each other. They searched for meaning and answers, using the internet to forge a connection to their countrymen as chaos reigned outside. And through it all, they evaluated Kyrgyzstan’s politics, providing a rich and ongoing commentary of events.”

Sarah, brilliant post, and that’s why these messages are so important. They aren’t English language fluff for western audiences. It’s feels like we are eavesdropping on a private family conversation.

Toaf April 9, 2010 at 8:24 am

Really appreciate the time and effort you’ve put into these recent posts, Sarah. Big thanks.

cxw April 9, 2010 at 10:20 am

Great post. My objection to talk of a “Twitter revolution” or other term is that all too often there is the implication of causality and agency, i.e. events were driven by Tweeters/social media. This does not deny the relevance and importance of social media, which this post has clearly shown. Similarly, it is lazy to simply say that people used Twitter/social media and therefore it is a “Twitter revolution”. Catherine Fitzpatrick rightly describes Twitter as a tool – we need to focus not just on whether people are using it, but how it is being used, by who and for whom, and with what aims/purposes. Accusations that those of us who have urged caution in applying labels such as “Twitter revolution” are unwilling to let Kyrgyzstanis “tell their story” are disingenuous and untrue (in my case, at least; I cannot speak for others). Rather, I am calling for people to be more circumspect about the assumption that online practices are the same the world over and consider how social media has been used specifically in relation to this case – exactly as this post has done.

Josh April 9, 2010 at 10:49 am

I took Evgeny’s point to be that the protests in Kyrgyzstan were not, in any meaningful way, organized by Twitter or any other social-networking site. Notwithstanding a few phone numbers or rumors exchanged, is there real evidence that the crowds were gathered via any social media? Based on the little I know about Kyrgyzstan, and every account I’ve seen of the protests, that seems very unlikely. I know the author of this post is a much greater authority than me, but I still haven’t seen any evidence to argue against Evgeny’s most important point, which is that twitter didn’t have anything to do with what has happened in Kyrgyzstan.

brent April 9, 2010 at 1:00 pm

I think that this is a worthwhile distinction to tease out. And doing so, doesn’t undercut Sarah’s important argument.
I assume (with zero evidence) that sms was used to a much greater degree than twitter to coordinate between agents on the street…does any one know whether this was the case?

If true, it would imply that if we want to “understand” these recent events in a broad sense, we need to engage with the online voices as Sarah suggests. However, if we want to understand the technical details regarding how the protests spread or how different groups knew when and where to meet, we need to look at other technologies.

cxw April 9, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Josh, Brent – no, making the distinction in no way undermines Sarah’s argument. It does however offer a rebuttal to Catherine Fitzpatrick’s blog post, which is extremely dismissive of Evgeny Morozov’s argument. Not sure about how widely mobile phones were used – I think there were some problems with the network on the 7th and one person I’ve heard from has mentioned that buying credit for phones was a problem on the 8th. Agree it’d be useful to know more about it.

zarathustra April 9, 2010 at 11:37 am

really thank you sarah! Exactly, exactly, exactly.

reader April 9, 2010 at 3:10 pm

All the coverage here has been about HOW the Kyrgyz revolution happened but not much about WHY it happened, WHO the players are, WHAT happens now? It would also be interesting to know if Islamic extremists are pouring in to take advantage of the situation.

Michael Hancock April 9, 2010 at 5:08 pm

What Islamic Extremists? Are you referring to Hizb ut-Tahrir? I think the reason we’re not talking about it is that we know better than to assume they will be a factor. This is not FoxNewsistan.net.

not the same reader April 9, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Hancock is right; Islamic extremism is not the cause of everything. Muslims have the right to be mad over things like the rest of us. Don’t drag Allah into this.

Jon H April 9, 2010 at 3:22 pm

If I remember correctly, the media in the US pretty much sat on their hands for the first few days of the Iranian protests, then they picked up coverage as the protests continue.

By contrast, the Kyrgyz events seem to have happened so fast that they seem to have been largely over and won by the opposition on the second day (4/7).

I suppose, if the Kyrgyz situation was more like the Iranian one, a long series of mass protests extending over days or weeks, we’d see more social media activity.

I also wonder how many Kyrgyz exiles/ex-pats are out there and active on the net. There may be a larger, more active, more established community of Iranian expats, which would result in a lot of social media communication between them and the people still in Kyrgyzstan.

Michael Hancock April 9, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Yeah, Metin, I think you’re totally off on that one. Maybe your phone might not be representative? I saw plenty of SMSing in both Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and that was between 2005-2007. I imagine it’s a much bigger deal now – considering that all plans made in Almaty while I was there last summer were made over SMS — and some of those were made with people IN Bishkek on their SMS-phones.

cxw April 9, 2010 at 5:15 pm

“It would also be interesting to know if Islamic extremists are pouring in to take advantage of the situation.”

Instinctively I very much doubt it – regardless of political affiliation, the vast majority of Kyrgyzstanis have no time for extremists of any ilk.

Metin, I’m with Brent about the use of SMS in KG – certainly while I was there in 2005-2006 it was very widely used, while actually calling was less popular (even before the 60 tyin connection charge that is now apparently being repealed). One could also send a “mayak” to someone when one wanted to contact them but didn’t have enough credit.

DePetris April 9, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Sarah, although I share your optimism about Central Asia in particular, I have to be a bit more reserved in whether the world will actually care about Kyrgyzstan one way or the other. Europe cares far less about Russian influence in Kyrgyzstan than say, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, or Turkey. I have yet to hear one reaction from any European institution (the EU, NATO, etc) about the violence, at least from the main media outlets on the web.

As far as the United States, I’m assuming that they don’t care either way, unless the U.S. base in Manas stays open for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, I’ve heard the new Kyrgyz Government is somewhat opposed to America’s presence in the country, which will probably require Washington to pay an extra twenty or thirty million dollars to obstruct the base’s closure.

At least today, the only actors that care about the revolution (or uprising, or discontent, or whatever people want to call it) is Russia, the immediate Central Asian republics, and possibly China. Russia in particular, because the strife gives Moscow a golden opportunity to save face and expand in its near-periphery.

I will be curious as to whether world leaders- other than Ban Ki-moon- put out some sort of statement other than “were concerned about the violence and we urge all parties to abide by the rule of law.” My guess is that if press releases do trickle out of Washington, Beijing, Brussels, Tehran, Islamabad, or Tashkent, substance will be lacking.

not the same reader April 9, 2010 at 6:41 pm

I wonder if the Russians could use this base issue, assuming the new Kyrgyz government is willing to be used, in their backdoor negotiations with the US vis-a-vis Iran and Afghan opium. Depetris, I think you are right. Poor Kyrgyzstan has no resources and a small population who aren’t “radical”, so, excepting the Manas base issue, they are of no real interest to the powers that be.

Grant April 10, 2010 at 6:38 am

In a way, the stability of the nation itself could become reason enough to focus on it. When much of a region becomes chaotic the powers tend to value the stable nations that much more. Additionally, as long as it’s close to Afghanistan it’ll probably have importance in that regard even if the U.S pulls out.

jane April 9, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Love this post, love it.

Hans April 10, 2010 at 9:21 am

One point about Morozov that’s easy to forget. He’s deeply committed to empowering citizens with social media tools. By design, his provocations stir up debate (and, hopefully, action) on how these tools can facilitate citizen engagement across the globe.

Jesse Wilson April 10, 2010 at 3:48 pm

“Thanks to the internet, the world can hear what innumerable Central Asians have to say. The question is whether they care to listen.”

Great post. Wonder to what degree the world in general actually hears what is said on the internet. What fraction of the population is listening to social media? What type of impact does it have? How can we measure that type of thing?

Thanks.

Sarah Kendzior April 11, 2010 at 8:39 am

Thank you for all these comments. I appreciate the interest. In response to a few of them:

Regarding Morozov, I appreciate that he turns a skeptical eye towards the romantic view that internet discourse always leads to democratic flourishings in authoritarian states. My problem is less with his general outlook than with this specific piece, which I thought was built on flawed comparisons with other countries and needlessly dismissive in tone.

I thought the discussion about SMS was very interesting and I wish someone would write a longer follow-up article for Registan about this.

As for the issue of whether social media is representative of public opinion, I don’t think so – but I also don’t think that talking to a few people on the ground (as reporters do) is indicative of public opinion either. (On that note, I am skeptical of the idea of “public opinion” in general, but that is for another day.) I believe that internet writing often offers a richer and more varied narrative of current events than brief on-the-ground engagement, because people are writing it themselves without someone else asking questions and deciding what topics are worth being discussed. On the internet, Kyrgyzstanis are telling their story in their own words. Of course we should listen to what they have to say. Will their views and experiences be representative of every citizen of Kyrgyzstan? Of course not, not any more than your own view is representative of every American. Is their opinion completely worthless as a result? Of course not, not any more than your own is. We are all participants in a public sphere that is loosely defined at best.

The other important thing to note is that online media travels offline. Most Central Asians do not have regular interest access, but once someone has read something online, it can travel through word of mouth. I can think of several cases where critical articles about the Uzbek government made it from the internet to the general population through gossip or because people printed the articles out and distributed them. The other thing to note is that the Central Asians who do have internet access are part of a broader society; what they write online is informed by their experiences in their homeland. We should not try to siphon out “representative opinion” but consider each view as a very small part of a much larger story.

Finally, there are two questions which seem to emerge in every English-language discussion I’ve seen on Kyrgyzstan. The first is, “Is Kyrgyzstan really worth the attention of the international community?” The second is, “Why can’t anyone explain what is happening in Kyrgyzstan?” The reason the second question is being asked so much is that the answer to the first question has traditionally been “No”. Let’s make it “Yes”.

J. Otto Pohl April 12, 2010 at 8:17 am

On mobile phones, texting both in cyrillic and in latinized Russian or Kyrgyz is common in Bishkek. I often get texts in in latinized Russian even though my Nokia does support cyrillic texts because I have it set to latin for English texts. I got one in latinized Russian from the provisional government today telling me they had set up a “hotline.” The keyboard itself is in latin/arabic.

That said, I do not know how much mobile phones played in the recent events. Megacom, my service and the largest one in Kyrgyzstan was not functioning for much of the seventh of April. Repeated calls got the message “network busy” even when the receiver was not busy. Buying phone credit was difficult on the 8th in that only a few places sold the cards with numbers needed to purchase Megacom units. Normally you can have the units put directly on your phone withouth dialing any pin codes.

I hope this helps. I am keeping a daily record of my mundane and American observations on my blog. But, it may be of interest to some people. If not you do not have to read it.

http://jpohl.blogspot.com

Turgai Sangar April 12, 2010 at 9:11 am

Wanna bet that soon we will get one of these Nigerian con mails from ‘Maxim Bakiev’ (or his spouse or mother) asking for help in transfering hundreds of thousands of $/€ to this or that account in exchange for a juicy commission? :)

Victor April 12, 2010 at 10:05 am

Well done kirgs! well done! With or without twittering, with or without the outside interest they get rid of dictator. russia can smear as much as it wants – it does not matter. Freedom matters.

Metin April 17, 2010 at 5:09 pm

branding the regime change in Kyrgyzstan ‘twitter revolution’, scholarly investigating the role of SMSing in revolution are definitely interesting for Americans. That’s understandable, they live in a very advanced high-tech society and think the life is similar in other countries, in Kyrgyzstan as well.

On this issue Russian media seems to have better quality coverage.
Here is an interesting look at revolution, which calls it
“Peasants’ revolt”. That sounds more relevant than ‘twitter/sms revolution’.

Metin April 9, 2010 at 3:10 pm

just an observation from UZ (think relevant to Bishkek or KG): most people do not use qwerty typing mobile devices like in USA. Instead, they (‘ordinary people’) use cheep chinese made devices or low cost nokia phones which are very uncomfortable for SMSing. Besides, many devices have Latin/arabic keyboards (imported from Middle East) which make them useless to type in cyrillic.
SMSing is not as popular in this region as it is in US or Europe.
I just thought this might be informative for those not familiar with region.

brent April 9, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Metin, this doesn’t jive with my experience in Kyrgyzstan (or Tajikistan for that matter). In both countries, I found smsing to be fairly common because of its relative low cost.

jane April 9, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Unfortunately, so much of the (little) focus the mainstream media here in the US has on Kyrgyzstan right now focuses about 95% on how this will affect the base @ Manas, and thus, the US war effort in Afghanistan. It’s maddening to me, because I don’t care in the least about what does or doesn’t happen @ Manas; I want to know how this is going to affect Kyrgyzstan as a whole, and my friends and former coworkers there in particular. Sigh.

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