Democracy's Fourth Wave?
Fig. 1. Democracy's Fourth Wave? Courtesy of Oxford University Press, 2013.

Oxford University Press publishes a new book titled "Democracy's Fourth Wave? Digital Media and the Arab Spring" written by Philip N. Howard and Muzammil M. Hussain.

Publication Data

Howard, Philip N. & Hussain, Muzammil M. Democracy's Fourth Wave? Digital Media and the Arab Spring. Oxford University Press, 2013. ISBN: 978-0-19-993697-7.


In 2011, the international community watched as a shockingly unlikely community of citizens toppled three of the world's most entrenched dictators: Ben Ali in Tunisia, Mubarak in Egypt, and Qaddafi in Libya. This movement of cascading democratization, commonly known as the Arab Spring, was planned and executed not by political parties, but by students, young entrepreneurs, and the rising urban middle class. International experts and the popular press have pointed to the near-identical reliance on digital media in all three movements, arguing that these authoritarian regimes were in essence defeated by the Internet. Is that true? Should Mubarak blame Twitter for his sudden fall from power? Did digital media "cause" the Arab Spring?

In Democracy's Fourth Wave?, Philip N. Howard and Muzammil M. Hussain examine the complex role of the Internet, mobile phones, and social networking applications in the Arab Spring. Examining digital media access, level of grievance, and levels of protest for popular democratization in 16 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Howard and Hussain conclude that digital media was neither the most nor the least important cause of the Arab Spring. Instead, they illustrate a complex web of conjoined causal factors for social mobilization. The Arab revolts cascaded across countries largely because digital media allowed communities to realize shared grievances and nurtured transportable strategies for mobilizing against dictators. Individuals were inspired to protest for personal reasons, but through social media they acted collectively.

Democracy's Fourth Wave examines not only the unexpected evolution of events during the Arab Spring, but the longer history of desperate-and creative-digital activism through the Arab world.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Digital Media and the Arab Spring
Chapter 2: The Recent History of Digital Media and Dissent
Chapter 3: Information Infrastructure and the Organization of Protest
Chapter 4: Authoritarian Responses and Consequences
Chapter 5: Al Jazeera, Social Media, and Digital Journalism
Conclusion: Digital Media and the Rhythms of Social Change

About the Authors

Philip N. Howard is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Washington, with adjunct appointments at the Jackson School of International Studies and the Information School.

Muzammil M. Hussain is a Ph.D. candidate in Communication at the University of Washington and Visiting Scientist at the Center for Comparative and International Studies, ETH Zurich.

To order the book online visit the Oxford University Press website.