Arab media and social change
||Anne Sofie Roald
||2013-01-01 -- 2015-12-31
||Faculty of Culture and Society, Global Political Studies
||Humaniora och religionsvetenskap
Recent events in the Arab world caught not only the west by surprise, but the entire globe. While social media have been important in mobilizing the protests, it is the satellitization of Arab television in the 1990s that has laid the foundation for the recent happenings. The new global media have the potential to further change the landscape of social and political engagements as well as discourses in the Arab world. The satellitization and recent developments of the internet have made media, in all their forms, the main mediator of modernity, or rather competing “modernities”, in the Arab world.
Global media have the ability to spread discourses of justice, equality, and commonality, with an orientation of wider communities of interest, value and sentiment, if only by bringing images and narratives from other places, with which viewers can ‘empathize’ or even ‘identify’. Indeed, images of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in 2010 fostered such discourses globally, just as much as images of famine in Africa fostered new modes of social awareness and discourse in the 1980s and 1990s. In other words, global media –satellite TV and social media in particular- can foster inclusive discourses of various kinds, just as much as they can promote individuating.
Because media have developed significantly since the 1990s and in ways that could not have been predicted, this has lead to the modern state of affairs in which new social media plays a crucial role in the ongoing Arab “revolution”. Social media sites such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Ikbis, Vadwen (two Jordanian based video sharing sites) and others have created a space for Arabs to host online content and other themed broadcasts covering a wide variety of topics. The evolution of media have even left gaps linguistically in the Arabic language, and has for instance sparked one Jordanian, Muhammed Jaradat, to create new Arabic terminology to fill this social media language gap.
It is innovators such as Jaradat and many others that have made Jordan the region’s social media hub, and it has already seen many Arabs from across the globe joining and taking part in their new media outlets. Particularly in light of recent events, many new websites and videos have been created by Arabic speakers and are adding to the internet/social media revolution that has been the focus of attention for many scholars in recent months. As internet proliferation increases in Arab countries and access to higher connection speeds becomes available, it allows for the upload of large file sizes in the form of self-created videos.
The overarching aim of this study is to study social changes through an investigation into how social media and the satellitization of Arab media influence social, cultural, and political expressions in the Arab world struggling with totalitarian tendencies, often wrapped in patriarchal and/or religious/cultural dress. The project has two participants; Anne Sofie Roald, professor in Religious Studies at Malmö Högskola and a Ph.D student at Malmö Högskola, Dustin Wellbaum.
The first part of the research project (Anne Sofie Roald) will look into the impact of global media’s focus on liberal values of democratisation, human rights, gender equality, and privatised religion on the educated youth in Jordan and on the West Bank. This part of the study will in particular focus on views among the youth on democratisation, gender relations, and the role of Islam for the individual as well as in the public sphere. By focusing on the educated youth it is possible to see the outline of society in the near future.
The second part of the project (Dustin Wellbaum) will look at social changes in view of the emerging social networking personalities that are rising in the Arab world, particularly, the influential Arabic speaking identities, musicians, comedians and religious teachers that have made their beginnings through online content, by-passing the traditional route of sponsorship, radio and television. The self-created content published for the world to view, unfiltered by traditional content monitoring and review methods, is a glimpse into the reality of a level of society that, until recently, has not had the chance or connection to break into the main stream. The cultural expressions and political opinions expressed through this new social media is quite unique and understudied, thus a focus on this research will add to the already developing field of social change in the Arabic speaking populations.