Distant Witness: Social Media, the Arab Spring and a Journalism Revolution

Andy Carvin
Andy Carvin. CUNY Journalism, $20 (318p) ISBN 978-1-939293-02-2
Reviewed on: 02/11/2013
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The intense, ebullient energy of the Arab Spring is captured in this debut focusing on the role of social media in the uprisings that swept the Middle East in 2011. Carvin, a senior strategist at NPR, distills the ineffable quality of the revolutions as they played out in real time – from the safety of his Washington, D.C.-based computer. Separating his coverage by country, the author successfully spins a narrative that feels as if we readers are "feeling our way through the smog to find the truth" as he did. A cast of characters, most of whom Carvin has never met, connect with him through shared video, Tweets, and e-mail. The author's physical distance, but not detachment, brings unexpected emotion to a book stuffed with 140-character Tweets. Never denying his privileged position, he exposes his own, often painful, errors, while also highlighting the importance of his virtual connections in raising awareness of the revolutions around the world: they helped translate from Arabic, identify misinformation, and put Carvin in touch with other sources in the Middle East. This is an impressive, engaging look at new possibilities for both journalism and political activism in the era of social media. (Feb.)
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