Participants from around the U.S. and six other countries convened in Aspen during President’s Day Weekend for the 2012 Socrates Winter Seminars. Roundtable discussions were led by Socrates moderators Stephen Balkam on Social Media, Mark Brownstein on the Future of Energy, and Mona Eltahawy on the Middle East and North Africa. Participants also enjoyed a weekend of skiing and winter activities, and a mardi gras-themed dinner at the residence of Aspen Institute trustee and long-time Socrates supporter, Arjun Gupta. Stephen and Mona engaged in a fireside chat entitled, “Tweeting from Inside the Revolution” (video available here), at the Little Nell’s Grand Salon, in which Mona, still in her cast, recounts being arrested and beaten in Egypt last November. Mona explains how the social networking service Twitter saved life, but also points out that the Egyptian Revolution is not a social media revolution because “social media did not invent courage.” More information on the seminar topics available below.
Social Media and Society
The surge of social media and digital platforms has changed the way members of our society communicate. Through blogs and social networks, businesses can disseminate information to consumers quickly and cost efficiently, members of government and civil society can mobilize their constituents; and anyone with access to the internet has the ability to develop their personal brands. Have these websites improved our lives or do they create too much internet ‘noise’? Are these websites protected by the freedom of speech and to what extent do they interfere with privacy? Who owns the content on shared social media and should these websites be regulated? Do governments have the right to shut down social media websites if there is a perceived risk? This seminar will examine these and other critical questions about the costs and benefits of the creation of social media.
Moderator: Stephen Balkam, founder and CEO, Family Online Safety Institute
The Future of Energy
What are the most cost-effective clean energy solutions available today and what are the major barriers to their adoption? Are there viable renewable energy options and at what costs? What are the implications of the recent Fukushima nuclear crisis to security and the future of nuclear energy? This seminar will examine the energy options, current US energy policy and the challenges keeping of the climate change issue on the political agenda amid the current financial crisis facing the US and Europe.
Moderator: Mark Brownstein, chief counsel, Energy Program, Environmental Defense Fund
New Leadership in the Middle East and North Africa
The Arab Spring saw the removal of dictators in Tunisia and Egypt and revolutions in Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, and elections will take place this fall. What’s next for the region and the world? What are the challenges and opportunities facing the new leadership? How will the new leaders overcome the problems that faced their predecessors and what can they achieve for their countries and the region? Can the international community help ensure the establishment of stable, representative governments? In this seminar participants will take a close look at the new leaders in the region and their impact on alliances in the region, U.S. foreign policy, and the global balance of power.
Moderator: Mona Eltahawy, columnist and international public speaker on Arab and Muslim Issues; contributor, The Washington Post and International Herald Tribune