533.1 Social movements and digital media

Friday, August 3, 2012: 12:30 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Christina SCHACHTNER , Institute for Media and Communications, University of Klagenfurt, Klagenfurt, Austria
Social Movements and Digital Media

The Transnationality of Critical Online Public Spheres in the Middle East

Christina Schachtner


Even in the first few weeks of the so-called "Arab Spring" in January 2011, digital media were identified as being essential instruments for organizing the political protests in the Middle East and North Africa. Yet digital media had already started to play a political role as arenas of discourse in which topics such as democracy, minority rights, gender and religion could be debated at least two to three years earlier. A critical online public sphere arose which had a transregional and global focus right from the start, as reflected in the self-image of one network actor when he explained: "In real life I'm a Saudi guy living in Saudi Arabia. But online I'm multinational, I'm multigeographical". This lecture presents the results of a study entitled "Communicative publics in cyberspace" investigating digital platforms which had been initiated in the Arab world, which is also where most of the contributions come from; this analysis is backed up by interviews with network actors and bloggers from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Following the concept of Nancy Fraser's transnational public spheres (2007), we analysed the normative legitimacy and the efficiency of the communicative authority of digital arenas of discourse in the Middle East, identifying which political practices led to social movements in the digital sphere and which characteristics of digital media contributed to helping digital arenas of discourse turn into places where political resistance can develop.