Eric Goldwyn in New York Magazine:
Revolutions remain a tricky business. Even as social-networking sites have changed the way insurrections are built, the daily headlines from the Middle East are a reminder that a robust Twitter following and a widely followed Facebook group are only half the battle. At some point, an uprising, to truly be one, needs a physical staging ground. And what’s gone underappreciated this Arab Spring is just how much hangs on what happens as protests make the jump from virtual to actual, old-fashioned public spaces.
The Internet is great at facilitating bonds among compatriots who wouldn’t otherwise feel comfortable communicating openly and assembling a critical mass. But this concentration of like-minded people still exists in a silo, and the uninitiated might never find the hyperlink that leads them in. It takes physical space to connect revolutionary passions with daily life and, more important, the broader population. When citizens unite in a square, a park, or along a scenic beachfront to demand reform, it creates an impossible-to-ignore spectacle that draws the attention of anyone nearby, not to mention those watching at home. Rather than containing them within its geographical boundaries, the patch of land where the protesters come together becomes the spot from which their passions radiate out to the country at large.