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Communication Dans Un Congrès Année : 2012

Youth Generated media in the arab World, an Emerging Public sphere


Information technologies (ICT) have expanded the parameters of the public sphere, enabling various groups to construct online communities, to engage in conversations with the intention of developing shared perspectives, to mobilize their efforts towards a common target, and share their experiences amongst each other and with the world. ICT related activities have facilitated the ability of various Arab youth counter-publics to critically interrogate dominant narratives, and to construct alternative venues for cultural politics. The ability to articulate politics of dissent foregrounding young people's experiences of alienation and institutional marginalization in a public medium is especially salient within a dominant Arab culture still grappling with modernity. Thus, the development and distribution of these narratives is illustrative of digital media's capacity to reorder and enhance the dominant public sphere and, in so doing, become a new site for the continuation of a long tradition of young Arabs using alternative media as a form of critical civic engagement. After September 11, 2001, Arab mainstream media became an urgent issue for scholars, journalists and politicians. But looking at the many books written on the topic, one is struck by an obsessive focus on news (El Nawawy & Iskandar, 2002; Rugh, 2004) as a shaper of public opinion. At the same time, there was an interest in more popular and controversial forms, particularly reality television as arena of contentious politics (Sakr, 2001, Kraidy & Khalil, 2009; Kraidy, 2010). Both news and entertainment represent the traditional one to many media model that dominated Arab public life. Less commented on, though no less important, are the multitude of platforms where young people articulate their politics outside the purview of governments. Based on a rich collection of primary textual, visual and ethnographic sources that I have gathered over the last 5 years, this paper tells the compelling story of how youth generated media renewed public life, opening a unique vista on the cultural, social and political tensions that are re-shaping the contemporary Arab world. Anchored in theories of alternative media, the purpose of this paper is to identify how ICT in the Arab world work in tandem with other media platforms to develop means for youth self-expression. One immediate goal is to stimulate discussion about the emerging 'post-revolution' media landscape where ICT has proven to be an important tool. Today's Arab public life is largely revolving around youth generated media--the types made famous in connection with protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world. These include but are not restricted to Facebook, Twitter, blogs, graffiti, videos, songs and other forms of communication developed and circulated by young people with or without the support of adults. As the means of producing and distributing media becomes cheaper, smaller and more accessible, Arab youth are appropriating these tools to produce messages in non-traditional forms. The interest of young Arabs in politics is evident in the burgeoning of youth generated media and the production of self-expressive artifacts. Benefiting from newly introduced media freedoms, young Arabs are increasingly blogging, posting videos online, texting and tweeting. They combine traditional tools for dissent such as demonstrations with ICT based tools like electronic petitions. Unlike their mothers and fathers, young people growing up in the Arab world today are increasingly politically informed, socially engaged and media literate. Young Arabs, like most youth, do not form a homogenous mass but rather tend to re-group as cohorts within and across national borders, religious affiliations, economic conditions and other variants. To that end, information and communication technologies (ICT) are encouraging and facilitating the emergence of these cohorts in various forms as chat room participants, Facebook mobilization groups, tweet followers, citizen journalists or YouTube video producers/distributors. These resulting artifacts interrogate the hegemonic narratives through the display of alternative cultural politics. They mobilize the democratizing potential of the Internet, affording young Arabs the ability to become both vernacular creators and active political actors. Moreover, they involve groups, like public intellectuals and women who have traditionally been marginalized from full political participation. The combination of 'off-line' and 'online' activities have provided for a more egalitarian relationship between young people regardless of the ethnic, religious and socio-economic markers, thus empowering this traditionally disenfranchised group to construct alternative politics critical of those constructed through traditional media forms In this paper, I utilize a case study approach to examine the ways in which ICT were used as platforms to develop, extend or magnify public spaces and voices. These case studies are neither unique nor isolated; they have become part and parcel of Arab public life. Pursuing a central theme of this study, cases are selected to represent defining currents in Arab ICT activities as well as their various contributions to the exercise of youth cultural politics. Based on fieldwork in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Egypt with young people involved in alternative media projects, the description and analysis of this emerging media space leads to specific conclusions that will underscore specific ICT norms in an increasingly globalizing world. Three case studies will be detailed in the paper. The first involves a Lebanese blogger who lead a global campaign title 'I love Beirut' during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah. The second discusses the work of the first Saudi female to use her real name when blogging. The third and most recent case focuses on the work of media center established in Beghazi to support the Libyan rebels media efforts. The paper concludes that the combined cultural, social and political impact of youth generated media is best understood in terms of shaping new Arab selves. For as youth scholarship in the US and Europe convincingly argues, young people's access to and ability to articulate their own experiences contributes to the creation of responsible citizens. While there are clear differences between the West and the Arab World, youth generated media are clearly contributing to the development of Arab citizens that relate differently to themselves and to their rulers. Youth generated media offer competing visions of the Arab self often materialized in ICT driven artifacts. These youth generated media communicate youth cultural politics by promoting ideas, placating opponents, articulating identities, acting in and reacting to everyday life.
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Dates et versions

hal-00840646 , version 1 (02-07-2013)


  • HAL Id : hal-00840646 , version 1


Joe Khalil. Youth Generated media in the arab World, an Emerging Public sphere. Communiquer dans un monde de normes. L'information et la communication dans les enjeux contemporains de la " mondialisation "., Mar 2012, France. ⟨hal-00840646⟩


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