Leadership in the Digital Age: The Impact of Repertoires on the Use of Media Technologies during the 2011 Egyptian and Syrian Protests. / Aslan, Billur.

2016. 306 p.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis




Despite the growing literature on the Arab uprisings, much research focuses on Tunisia and Egypt, where ICTs played a crucial role in the uprisings. As a result, ICTs are considered to be key factors that contributed to the building of solidarity, the identification of goals and the organisation of demonstrations during the protests. To provide a rigorous assessment of the role of ICTs in the protests, this thesis focuses on two Arab countries where ICTs were used in different ways in the protests, Syria and Egypt. It first addresses the different political, social and cultural contexts in these countries. Based on interviews with key activists in both protest movements, it then endeavours to explain how these societal supports and constraints the use of the ICTs in both movements. This examination uncovers a symbiotic relation between the use of the ICTs and the protesters’ repertoire of contention. It shows that not only has the Internet expanded and complemented the repertoires of today’s social movement, but also the existing repertoire of contention in a country can curb the communication capabilities of protesters on the Internet. Syrians initially used ICTs in a restricted manner for mobilisation. Yet, over time their hybrid media activities developed as they created social ties amongst different groups and acquired protest experience. Comparing the Egyptian and Syrian uprisings also allows assessment of the organisational structure of digitally supported protests, their capabilities, and the forms and roles of leadership. This study shows that unlike the centralised organisation of the Egyptian protests propelled by soft leaders, experienced activists and hybrid leaders, the Syrian uprising was a decentralised organisation led by experienced activists. Three styles of leadership emerged in Eygpt, where the repertoire of contention has increased in variety over the years. However, only one of these was found in Syria. The absence of soft and hybrid leaders in the mobilisation process obstructed the processes of coalition-building and the channelling of emotions amongst elites. Finally, developing resource mobilisation theory, this thesis argues that the sustainability of digitally supported movements still depends on the capabilities of these leaders, and the external and internal resources available to them.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 May 2016
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016

ID: 26452243