The King's Speech is an excellent Oscar-nominated film about British King George VI's struggle to overcome his speech impediment through the new medium of his day, the radio.
Early in the movie his father points out that in the 1920s, with the advent of the wireless, the role of the royals has changed:
"In the past all a King had to do was look respectable in uniform and not fall off his horse. Now we must invade people's homes and ingratiate ourselves with them. This family is reduced to those lowest, basest of all creatures... we've become... actors!"
These words were prophetic in many ways. But most significantly, I believe, is the changed role of the media and the actors from the 1920's to the 2010's. In George's time, the actors that mattered were the leaders, who broadcast in the center-out "push" technology of the day.
The radio of the 1930's was the stammering George VI's proving ground. He eventually finds his voice, and that of the nation over the radio. Indeed, the medium proved an effective tool to rally the British Commonwealth in time of war.
Today we see the new media amplifying the "king's speech" in Egypt. Except this time, the king is not Mubarak, out of touch with his nation, muddling his refusal to leave over the television. Instead, the people are "king" finding their voices through social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and other new "pull" media.
That is, with the World Wide Web, and search technologies such as Google, Yahoo!, Bing or Baidu, Internet users are able to pull the information they need or want, when they want it. The digital revolution is turning the media upon themselves, changing business models for music, books, journalism, video, and many more to come.
It also changes political relations. A "macaca" moment goes viral, and anyone can see it anytime, even today, ending a politician's career. We are in a world of pull technologies where the user, the consumer, the citizen has steadily gained control, and with it, attendant power.
As these technologies evolve into social media, where those powerful users can connect with each other more easily and provide their own content, a new push-pull dynamic arises. Yes, the individual can pull Twitter feeds from anyone he/she wants to follow, or friend whoever is willing on the other side. At the same time, we see many people able to push their messages to thousands of followers, even millions in some cases.
We now know how the demonstrations in Egypt became mobilized over Facebook, Google chat, and Twitter messages. The decentralized media was able to bind together a faceless mass, allowing disparate strategists to decoy police, mobilize crowds, and push their messages.
There are many exciting aspects of the brave Egyptian revolution to cheer. Maybe the most significant was the Egyptian king -- where the people are king -- finding voice through the new push-pull media of our day.
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