Anonymous, 22 Oct 2018
Research on Middle East, Islam and digital media
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Cyber Counselors: Online Fatwas, Arbitration Tribunals, and the Construction of Muslim Identity in the UK

This article explores four distinct websites providing normative content for Muslim minorities in the UK. It focuses on the connections between these Islamic websites and global and local Islamic institutions, the interactions between online and offline Muslim communities, and the ways in which the normative content online shapes offline religious manifestations and practices.

Political Activism 2.0: Comparing the Role of Social Media in Egypt’s “Facebook Revolution” and Iran’s “Twitter Uprising”

Social media, particularly blogging, Facebook and Twitter, have played a key role in instigating, accelerating and even organizing some of the uprisings and revolutions that have been taking place all over the Middle East. This role has been effective in galvanizing the youth and empowering them in their fights against repressive regimes and their plight for more freedom and independence. This study looks into the social media role in the so-called “Facebook revolution”, which took place in Egypt in January 2011 and the so-called “Twitter uprising”, which took place in Iran in June 2009. The Egyptian revolution did succeed in toppling the regime, while the Iranian uprising failed. Why did the calls for political change that started in the virtual world lead to actual change in the real world in Egypt but not in Iran? This study addresses this question by providing a critical analysis of the available literature and interviews with online activists in Egypt and Iran. The authors used the SPIN model (Segmentation, polycentrism, integration and networking) as a theoretical framework and concluded that the model helped social media succeed in Egypt, but not in Iran.

Al Jazeera’s Framing of Social Media During the Arab Spring

This study investigates how Al Jazeera framed social media in relation to the revolutions and protests of the “Arab Spring” within its broadcast media coverage. A content analysis of Arabic language broadcasts appearing from January 25th through February 18th 2011, covering the protests in Tahrir Square, was conducted using the Broadcast Monitoring System (BMS) and Arab Spring Archive. Through this analysis we see a number of common narratives being used by Al Jazeera to frame social media and make claims about the influence they had on the protests and related social movements. By noting the frequency of social communications technologies referenced, ways in which these technologies were characterized and interpreting supporting themes with which they were identified helps illuminate the assumptions promoted by Al Jazeera regarding the role and impact of social communications technology on these events.

Remixing the Spring!: Connective leadership and read-write practices in the 2011 Arab uprisings

This article discusses the connections between the unfolding of the 2011 Arab uprisings and the “culture of the net”. Being far from overestimating the role that Internet has played in the uprisings, we propose to look at it not as an ensemble of tools, applications and technologies; but as a specific set of values, behaviors, skills and strategies that define the cultural dimension of the web. The article shows how linking, sharing and remixing have been among the core cultural practices behind the social movements that were successful in confronting Egypt and Tunisia`s regimes. We also discuss how, despite the fact that the Syrian uprising has not achieved its political goal, yet it shares a similar cultural framework based on participation, peer-production, remix practices.

Beyond the Soapbox: Facebook and the Public Sphere in Egypt

The question of the internet as a forum for political debate is continuously contested. My research grows out of such scholarship but focuses specifically on Facebook as a virtual public sphere in Egypt. Based on an analysis of a note posted by Wael Ghonim during the January 25 uprising on the Facebook group ‘We are all Khaled Said,’ I discuss the structural and technological benefits of the platform, as well as user behavior and interaction with one another. Using Jürgen Habermas’ The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere and Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks as the theoretical groundwork for my study, I make observations about the internet’s ability to allow considered opinion, not just to record popular sentiment. I argue that while Facebook’s structure has both drawbacks and advantages for promoting discussion, the new medium's biggest limitation in helping to produce a virtual public sphere is user inexperience with the platform.

Review: The Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Information Technology and Political Islam

Howard's book The Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy focuses on the relation between ITCs and civil society and democracy in the Muslim world. It assembled a database of indicators (for Internet availability, access, policy, ownership, structures and uses) cross-referenced to common standard measures of democratization and development for 75 countries with substantial Muslim populations.

Review: The Arab Revolution: The Lessons from the Democratic Uprising

Filiu's book The Arab Revolution: The Lessons from the Democratic Uprising provides an overview of the context of the indirect circumstances of the Arab Spring and also takes into account the related sociological and psychological factors, which makes the book more interdisciplinary. It focuses on events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya but also covers other parts of the MENA region.

Egyptian uprising: Redefining Egyptian political community and reclaiming the public space

The purpose of this paper is to understand and explain the emergence of a public sphere and the articulation of a new Egyptian identity. We argue that the Egyptian revolution, catalyzed by the social media, was possible because the young men and women succeeded in reclaiming the public space from the apparatuses of the post-colonial state. There was a contest between the protesters and the regime over the meaning of Egyptian identity and what it means to be an Egyptian. The protesters were able to redefine the Egyptian public sphere and redraw its contour. Through a semiotic and discourse analysis of the repertoires of protest, the symbols, the slogans and the images at Tahrir Square and on social media sites, we hope to show how the youth-led massive social mobilization redefined and reconstructed the civil society and the Egyptian national political community (identity).

The Net Worth of the Arab Spring

When I was asked to be the guest editor of the current issue of CyberOrient, I realized this is a welcome opportunity to arrange and re-sort some aspects, points, and arguments about the role of the media during the Arab Spring. In the course of the events late in 2010 and early in 2011, I felt enthusiastic and overwhelmed - not primarily as a scholar with a background in Middle Eastern and media studies, but as someone who was part of the peaceful German revolution in 1989 as a young teenager. Upon reflection, I took up the role of a media researcher considering how the use of media shaped these events. Though much has already been said and written about the media and Arab Spring, it would be worthwhile after a bit more than a year to reflect and reevaluate the relationship between the media and revolutions. Due to my involvement in this edition, and after numerous discussions with colleagues, and students in my media seminar in the summer term, I frequently came across the following three points: the significance of mediatization processes, the online-offline dichotomy, and various kinds of amnesia.

Affinities of Dissent: Cyberspace, Performative Networks and the Iranian Green Movement

This paper argues that the role of Internet activism in the Green Movement, a social protest movement that emerged after the contested 2009 presidential elections in Iran, lies in the creative configuration of complex networks that primarily interact through meaning-laden performances that carve out spaces of dissent. For social movements, especially under authoritarian rule like the Green Movement, cyberspace presents a kind of social space wherein imaginaries of self and other, resistance and power shape bonds of interactivity. Such bonds are described here as “social affinities” that are about contentious performances, actions that display intense emotions and narratives of protestation against power. Accordingly, the notion of “performative networks” underlines how the Iranian Green Movement, especially since the state repression that followed the elections, has compromised an interactive network organized around dramatic discourses and practices of contestation.
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