Social Networking in Egypt Takes a Political Turn

FACT: In the past two days, reporters for the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post have each written accounts of the ongoing confrontation in Egypt between the government and online activists – the “Facebook Revolution” as the Post reporter terms it, hyperbolically. One interesting aspect: the two accounts are not carried as actual news stories in the “newspaper” (real or virtual), but as blog posts by the reporters on dedicated foreign-correspondent blogs. The Washington Post account is on the “PostGlobal” uber-blogsite, under Jack Fairweather’s “Islam’s Advance” blog, while the L.A. Times account is on the “Babylon & Beyond” blog, which carries a sub-head of “Observations from Iraq, Iran, Israel, the Arab World and Beyond.”

ANALYSIS: Up to now there’s been little coverage in traditional American media outlets of the emerging political tenor of some social networks in Egypt over the past several months. Major newspapers and the cable-news channels have not explored the topic, but I just returned from some time in Egypt and I learned that of course it is a widely covered and discussed topic there.  One young woman in her 30s, an urban professional, told me “I’m on Facebook all day long!”

Every morning outside my hotel room I would find an English-language newspaper, and for many days in a row it was a different paper – often because they were weekly editions.  That gave me the opportunity to read a variety of opinions from a somewhat broad band, as measured in “distance to/from the government position.”  

Helpfully, on May 6 2008 the Egyptian Mail included a summary of the raging controversy over Facebook, noting that “In Egypt, Facebook is the stage for the latest twist in the generation gap, playing host to politically hungry young Egyptians eager to take on their ageing leader.”  Only at the end of the article did I notice that it was reprinted from a New-York-based Egyptian blogger, the respected Mona Eltahawwy.

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Do Voters Love the Candidates… or their Fonts?

FACT:  John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama have chosen distinctively different typeface fonts for their campaign posters, bumper stickers, and TV-ad logos. 

font-gotham-obama.jpgObama uses sans serif Gotham.  McCain uses sans serif Optima. Only Clinton uses a serif, New Baskerville.  According to the Los Angeles Times yesterday, many typographers are following the usage choices closely, and now some political analysts are finding message in the medium; Obama’s choice is “the hot font of 2008,” Clinton’s font flourishes “conjure trustworthiness,” while McCain’s communicates an “old-fashioned yet quirky vibe.”

ANALYSIS:  Anyone who remembers their first experience with a personal computer’s word-processing program recalls that initial thrill when the realization hit: I can choose any font? I can choose any font!!!

Billions of funky emails, resumes, and yard-sale posters later, we’re all perhaps jaded by the profusion of font styles, and tend to have built up biases and defenses regarding certain looks.

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