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, although the association with silk (which was not a major commodity until much later) gave it a brand, it was a distraction from the route’s real historical significance. More important than any particular commodity was the adoption of writing, which (despite low rates of literacy) expanded the arenas of social interaction. From 3000 BCE until the fifteenth century, writing by hand was the only means of communication, organization, or control beyond the face-to-face community, and written language continues to be essential in the digital world of the twenty- first

assess other factors below), but they do nevertheless constitute one significant aspect of the problem. Jillian York, an active defender of freedom of electronic expres- sion, provides a very good summary of the situation in a blog posted in September 2010. It echoes Ben Gharbia’s: Actors and Parameters of the Revolution | 135 Digital activism has been construed as its own movement, a new [way] of organizing unique to the 21st century digital world. In fact, digital tools are complementary to “traditional” activism, for a number of reasons: They allow organizers

jihadists were aware from the outset that a revolution in Syria would afford them unprecedented opportunities. Preparations in the digital world were already underway before the first large-scale demonstrations the origins—part three: syria 99 in Deraa. In February 2011, al-Nur Media Foundation presented a new essay from jihadist ideologue Abu Abdullah al-Qasimi: “Message to the Proud People of Syria.” Al-Qasimi refers to a Syrian “Islamic revolution jihadist,” Abu Musab al-Suri (imprisoned by the Assad regime at the time), whose “sacrifice and courage demonstrate