From the Introduction:

From a Western media perspective, coverage of the uprisings has metamorphosed and evolved in intriguing ways. What began as initial alarm at these acts of protestation in the region and the knee-jerk paranoia and condemnation (which leveled accusations of extremism against many dissident movements) eventually turned into favorable cheerleading. In the end, the conduct of Western media is a crescendo of divergent confusion vis-à-vis the particularities in each country’s patterns of public action. Admittedly, the Western media were forced by the uprisings to forgo their reliance on typical motifs because what was happening on the ground was more nuanced than any of the prototypes often depicted and also in response to a strategic shift in Western governments’ tackling of the uprisings.
At first taken by surprise and forced into a state of reactionary caution, Western media quickly adapted their depiction of the uprisings from concern to advocacy for the demands of the dissident movements. The pro-activist representational frames they employed were a unique and welcomed departure from the Orientalist tropes that manufacture Arab dissent as an act of unruly barbaric irrationality. However, they are often prefaced with the latent fear that these revolutionary movements will produce unfavorable “results for Western governments and their interests in the region. For this reason, the international media still have the archetypal repertoires of Arabo- and Islamophobic categories on standby like “first-aid kits” to remedy the anomalously-positive coverage, particularly when these revolutions go awry and no longer seem so fairytale-like. And when it happens, as it has in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya with the rise of Islamist political forces to the forefront, the media can easily revert to tried and tested modalities.

Click to read a longer excerpt from the introduction, including an interview with the editors (and Jadaliyya co-editors) Adel Iskandar and Bassam Haddad.

From the Introduction:

From a Western media perspective, coverage of the uprisings has metamorphosed and evolved in intriguing ways. What began as initial alarm at these acts of protestation in the region and the knee-jerk paranoia and condemnation (which leveled accusations of extremism against many dissident movements) eventually turned into favorable cheerleading. In the end, the conduct of Western media is a crescendo of divergent confusion vis-à-vis the particularities in each country’s patterns of public action. Admittedly, the Western media were forced by the uprisings to forgo their reliance on typical motifs because what was happening on the ground was more nuanced than any of the prototypes often depicted and also in response to a strategic shift in Western governments’ tackling of the uprisings.

At first taken by surprise and forced into a state of reactionary caution, Western media quickly adapted their depiction of the uprisings from concern to advocacy for the demands of the dissident movements. The pro-activist representational frames they employed were a unique and welcomed departure from the Orientalist tropes that manufacture Arab dissent as an act of unruly barbaric irrationality. However, they are often prefaced with the latent fear that these revolutionary movements will produce unfavorable “results for Western governments and their interests in the region. For this reason, the international media still have the archetypal repertoires of Arabo- and Islamophobic categories on standby like “first-aid kits” to remedy the anomalously-positive coverage, particularly when these revolutions go awry and no longer seem so fairytale-like. And when it happens, as it has in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya with the rise of Islamist political forces to the forefront, the media can easily revert to tried and tested modalities.

Click to read a longer excerpt from the introduction, including an interview with the editors (and Jadaliyya co-editors) Adel Iskandar and Bassam Haddad.

Kafranbel Sign Room
The town of Kafranbel in Idlib is renowned for the signs its residents bring to their weekly protests. Written in English and Arabic, Kafranbel’s witty signs have many different messages, from commenting on international hypocrisy regarding Syria, to criticizing the opposition. In the above picture, a resident of Kafranbel stands in a room filled with different posters from their protests.
Click for a Social Media Bouquet from Syria, showcasing various images, audio and video clips making their rounds among Syrian online users.

Kafranbel Sign Room

The town of Kafranbel in Idlib is renowned for the signs its residents bring to their weekly protests. Written in English and Arabic, Kafranbel’s witty signs have many different messages, from commenting on international hypocrisy regarding Syria, to criticizing the opposition. In the above picture, a resident of Kafranbel stands in a room filled with different posters from their protests.

Click for a Social Media Bouquet from Syria, showcasing various images, audio and video clips making their rounds among Syrian online users.

"Twitter is important.  When there is an action on the ground, it is extremely important that people are on Twitter tweeting about it and spreading the word. The problem is that the majority decide to take that role. The balance is not quite as everyone hopes. We need more people on ground. Nonetheless, as I said before, a lot of the tweeps are active on ground. And when they tweet, they tweet from the field. 
It is human nature to have a tendency to slack off. But at the end of the day, I cannot judge the level of activity of anyone by how active they are on Twitter. And let us remember, the acts of struggle and resistance are not only the ones we see.
Sometimes actions could be so sensitive that they remain covered in secrecy during planning and after execution. Many Palestinians are in Israeli prisons now just because of this unhealthy phenomenon. Many people have full time jobs of just pointing fingers at people and deciding who is an activist and who is not, or who is patriotic and who is not. In a way, they help the occupation in trying to make actions planned in secrecy surface, and thus fail.”
—Read more of Maath Musleh’s interview with Jadaliyya

"Twitter is important.  When there is an action on the ground, it is extremely important that people are on Twitter tweeting about it and spreading the word. The problem is that the majority decide to take that role. The balance is not quite as everyone hopes. We need more people on ground. Nonetheless, as I said before, a lot of the tweeps are active on ground. And when they tweet, they tweet from the field.

It is human nature to have a tendency to slack off. But at the end of the day, I cannot judge the level of activity of anyone by how active they are on Twitter. And let us remember, the acts of struggle and resistance are not only the ones we see.

Sometimes actions could be so sensitive that they remain covered in secrecy during planning and after execution. Many Palestinians are in Israeli prisons now just because of this unhealthy phenomenon. Many people have full time jobs of just pointing fingers at people and deciding who is an activist and who is not, or who is patriotic and who is not. In a way, they help the occupation in trying to make actions planned in secrecy surface, and thus fail.”

—Read more of Maath Musleh’s interview with Jadaliyya

Dissecting IDF Propaganda: The Numbers Behind the Rocket Attacks

To begin, Israeli spokespeople frequently remind the world that a million Israeli citizens are within range of Gaza rockets, twelve thousand of which have been fired into Israel in the last twelve years, inflicting thousands of injuries and several dead.

However, we are rarely told exactly how many people have been killed by these rocket attacks.

Read more.

Facebook Attempts to Shut Down the Voice of “The Uprising of Women in the Arab World”

On the morning of 7 November 2012, the five admins of The Uprising of Women in the Arab World Facebook Page logged onto Facebook to find out that one’s account had been blocked for thirty days, another for three days, two others for twenty-four hours, and one other received a warning notification.
According to Facebook, those persons had violated its policy by sharing a post asking Twitter followers to support Dana Bakdounes. The message that was sent to the admins explaining the reasoning for the ban from Facebook read as follows: “You have posted a content that violates Facebook Community Rules, the post says: Follow us on Twitter @UprisingOFWomen. Support Dana with hashtag #WindToDana
Dana Bakdounes is one of the hundreds of women and men who participated in the Uprising of Women in the Arab World campaign, holding a sign expressing the reason why they support this uprising. Dana’s slogan stated: “I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because for twenty years I was not allowed to feel the wind in my hair and on my body.” Her picture showed an unveiled woman carrying her passport with a picture of when she was veiled.
Dana’s picture was initially posted on 21 October 2012, among many other photos and statements of women and men of various religious beliefs and practices (some women were veiled, some unveiled, some in niqab), and all were demanding women’s rights and equal enjoyment of freedom of speech, in a secular space that promotes tolerance and embraces differences. But on 25 October, Facebook chose to censor Dana’s image and to suspend the account of the admin who posted it for twenty-four hours. This incident provoked an outrage among the defenders of freedom of speech who started sharing Dana’s picture all over Facebook, Twitter, and other media outlets.
On 28 October persuaded that Facebook had mistakenly taken down the photo due to abusive reports of haters of the Page, that the photo held no offensive content, as well as seeing that it was all over the web, we uploaded it again. A few hours later, Facebook removed it again and blocked another admin’s account for seven days.

Read more

Facebook Attempts to Shut Down the Voice of “The Uprising of Women in the Arab World”

On the morning of 7 November 2012, the five admins of The Uprising of Women in the Arab World Facebook Page logged onto Facebook to find out that one’s account had been blocked for thirty days, another for three days, two others for twenty-four hours, and one other received a warning notification.

According to Facebook, those persons had violated its policy by sharing a post asking Twitter followers to support Dana Bakdounes. The message that was sent to the admins explaining the reasoning for the ban from Facebook read as follows: “You have posted a content that violates Facebook Community Rules, the post says: Follow us on Twitter @UprisingOFWomen. Support Dana with hashtag #WindToDana

Dana Bakdounes is one of the hundreds of women and men who participated in the Uprising of Women in the Arab World campaign, holding a sign expressing the reason why they support this uprising. Dana’s slogan stated: “I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because for twenty years I was not allowed to feel the wind in my hair and on my body.” Her picture showed an unveiled woman carrying her passport with a picture of when she was veiled.

Dana’s picture was initially posted on 21 October 2012, among many other photos and statements of women and men of various religious beliefs and practices (some women were veiled, some unveiled, some in niqab), and all were demanding women’s rights and equal enjoyment of freedom of speech, in a secular space that promotes tolerance and embraces differences. But on 25 October, Facebook chose to censor Dana’s image and to suspend the account of the admin who posted it for twenty-four hours. This incident provoked an outrage among the defenders of freedom of speech who started sharing Dana’s picture all over Facebook, Twitter, and other media outlets.

On 28 October persuaded that Facebook had mistakenly taken down the photo due to abusive reports of haters of the Page, that the photo held no offensive content, as well as seeing that it was all over the web, we uploaded it again. A few hours later, Facebook removed it again and blocked another admin’s account for seven days.

Read more

Twitter mobilizes and disorganizes depending on the attention a certain topic gets. I did an online campaign on challenging the political narrative about Pakistanis which is inherently biased and racist, and it garnered a lot of attention; it eventually ended up on Huffington Post and Global Voices. In that case, Twitter mobilized my effort. But then there was the case of several Pakistani Twitter users attempting to initiate a group of gender rights speakers, workers, etc., but it went on a tangent (by overly critical cynics) so badly, that it was just a sorry spectacle. I have seen an ample number of instances of successful campaigns and complete failures. It depends a lot on how focused you remain to keep that issue on point and relevant.
 [Modified billboard reads “My Demand is Freedom.” Uncredited image from Facebook]

As much as images of violence, civil war, and sectarian strife become prominent in the media narrative of the Syrian uprising, little gems of innovative cultural production, artistic resistance, and creative disobedience continue to sprout across the virtual alleys of the Internet. These creative gems are also the germs of a viral peer-production process at work at a grassroots level in the new Syrian public sphere. Such acts of creativity—mash-ups, cartoons, slogans, jokes, songs, and web series—-are probably too small and inconsistent in impact compared to the horrific magnificence that shelling, bombing, sniping, and killing scenes that provide daily fodder to global television viewers. It is also challenging to discover these. In fact, as remarked by Tunisian blogger Sami ben Gharbia at the Arab Bloggers meeting in Tunis (3-6 October 2011), Facebook is not the most suitable platform for activists to store, archive, tag, search for content, and give it a context.
Facebook`s chaotic flow of people’s relationships enmeshed with information and updates probably matches the mess and instability of Syrians’ daily life, but clashes with standard media routines made up of practices like tracking original sources, archiving, and planning schedules. From time to time, these daily exercises of creativity manage to find their way out of the Internet overflow and get noticed, analyzed, and framed in a broader discussion, usually centered on art and dissent in a time of unrest.

Read more on Syrian Hands Raised: User Generated Creativity Between Citizenship and Dissent

[Modified billboard reads “My Demand is Freedom.” Uncredited image from Facebook]

As much as images of violence, civil war, and sectarian strife become prominent in the media narrative of the Syrian uprising, little gems of innovative cultural production, artistic resistance, and creative disobedience continue to sprout across the virtual alleys of the Internet. These creative gems are also the germs of a viral peer-production process at work at a grassroots level in the new Syrian public sphere. Such acts of creativity—mash-ups, cartoons, slogans, jokes, songs, and web series—-are probably too small and inconsistent in impact compared to the horrific magnificence that shelling, bombing, sniping, and killing scenes that provide daily fodder to global television viewers. It is also challenging to discover these. In fact, as remarked by Tunisian blogger Sami ben Gharbia at the Arab Bloggers meeting in Tunis (3-6 October 2011), Facebook is not the most suitable platform for activists to store, archive, tag, search for content, and give it a context.

Facebook`s chaotic flow of people’s relationships enmeshed with information and updates probably matches the mess and instability of Syrians’ daily life, but clashes with standard media routines made up of practices like tracking original sources, archiving, and planning schedules. From time to time, these daily exercises of creativity manage to find their way out of the Internet overflow and get noticed, analyzed, and framed in a broader discussion, usually centered on art and dissent in a time of unrest.

Read more on Syrian Hands Raised: User Generated Creativity Between Citizenship and Dissent

[Fig 3. Network analysis of 500,000 tweets on #Syria by 60,000 users over 23 days in November 2011. Color key: 59% Arabic (Green), 30% English (Blue), 2.25% Hindi (Gold), 1.6% French (Red), .7% Urdu (Purple) and .6% Finnish. Everything else (Farsi, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese) is less than .5%. Conducted by R-Shief, Inc.]

By the end of first decade of the 21st century, we have clearly moved from the world of “new” media to a world of “more” media. When we reached 2011 and the Egyptian revolution—which many hailed as the revolution brought about by Facebook—the ubiquity of computers, digital media software, and computer networks had led to an exponential rise in the numbers of cultural producers worldwide. No longer simply a matter of the rise of new media production in new global contexts, these social media platforms served as the database architectures for the accumulation of data on a scale heretofore unknown. With the dramatic increase in the scale and scope of data-making—where the data now takes shape as “tweets,” “likes,” “status updates,” and “shared links”—it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to understand the relationship between the production of data and original social contexts. In short, I argue that this shift in data production makes it difficult to truly understand global cultural developments and dynamics in any substantial detail using 20th century theoretical tools and methods.

Read more on Studying Social Streams: Cultural Analytics in Arabic

[Fig 3. Network analysis of 500,000 tweets on #Syria by 60,000 users over 23 days in November 2011. Color key: 59% Arabic (Green), 30% English (Blue), 2.25% Hindi (Gold), 1.6% French (Red), .7% Urdu (Purple) and .6% Finnish. Everything else (Farsi, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese) is less than .5%. Conducted by R-Shief, Inc.]

By the end of first decade of the 21st century, we have clearly moved from the world of “new” media to a world of “more” media. When we reached 2011 and the Egyptian revolution—which many hailed as the revolution brought about by Facebook—the ubiquity of computers, digital media software, and computer networks had led to an exponential rise in the numbers of cultural producers worldwide. No longer simply a matter of the rise of new media production in new global contexts, these social media platforms served as the database architectures for the accumulation of data on a scale heretofore unknown. With the dramatic increase in the scale and scope of data-making—where the data now takes shape as “tweets,” “likes,” “status updates,” and “shared links”—it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to understand the relationship between the production of data and original social contexts. In short, I argue that this shift in data production makes it difficult to truly understand global cultural developments and dynamics in any substantial detail using 20th century theoretical tools and methods.

Read more on Studying Social Streams: Cultural Analytics in Arabic

From my experience, I have worked on using Twitter to connect Mauritanian users with their fellow Arab activists to transfer expertise and knowledge in terms of cyber-activism. The nucleus of the Mauritanian “Twitteratis” is now the engine shaping the discussions about Mauritania and increasingly the conflict in Mali. Mauritania experts both in media and think tanks are beginning to rely on Mauritanian users to keep tabs on the country’s ongoing crisis. Simply put, Mauritanian Twitter users are in many ways replicating the traditional patterns of other MENA twitter users: collective thinking, strategizing, and communicating with the external world and their activist peers.

Nasser Weddady on Twitter’s role during the youth protests in Mauritania.

Read more: “Nasser Weddady on Youth Protests in Mauritania and Social Media