Date of Award

8-1-2015

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Mass Communication and Media Arts

First Advisor

Hochheimer, John

Abstract

This dissertation was conducted to determine whether Egyptians’ use of Facebook between December 17, 2010 and February 11, 2011 affected their perceptions of majority and minority opinions about President Hosni Mubarak’s government and thus influenced their willingness to express their opinions about that regime, in turn forming a new online public opinion that called for the January 25 revolution. For the purpose of this study, the theoretical framework was the spiral of silence theory. To answer the research questions in this dissertation the researcher used the qualitative approach, combining in-depth interviews with Egyptian Facebook users and qualitative content analysis of their Facebook pages. The results show that as Egyptians used Facebook, they came to believe that others held beliefs about the Mubarak regime similar to their own, they became more hopeful and confident that they could make a difference, and they became more likely to speak out about their opinions. As more voices began to be heard, more voices joined in the chorus of condemnation. These data suggested that the use of Facebook, as a means both of perception and expression, helped facilitate the formation of what can be called a “spiral of voice” among growing numbers of Egyptians. It was concluded that Noelle-Neumann’s spiral of silence may well have been an accurate description of public opinion formation in an age of government-controlled media, but that spiral of voice may be a better descriptor of public opinion formation and action in the age of social media.

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