The Interplay of Youth Culture, Social Media and Political Participation: New Reflections after the Arab Spring

Monday, July 14, 2014: 8:00 PM
Room: F205
Oral Presentation
Natalia WAECHTER , University of Graz, Austria, Graz, Austria
The recent Arab youth’s rebellion offers a valuable insight into new forms of online participation, alongside the role of youth culture, for political participation. For communicating their unease, for organising protest and for mobilising themselves young people utilise social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Furthermore, youth culture, also communicated through social media, played in important role for acting out their vision of the world. In the paper, I will present the elements of online participation and youth cultural participation throughout the Arab Spring; questioning the media label of a ’Facebook revolution’. Our analysis (which serves as basis for a large empirical study carried out in the MENA region 2013-2014) shows that online social networks contributed to the cause of the protesters in various ways: as an organising tool, as a news source and as a public arena for building a community of like-minded activists. As organising tool social media played a powerful role in mobilising protesters onto the streets and coordinating demonstrations. When there is – as in Tunisia – a suppression of free press, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other local social media sites also become essential in getting news out of the country, as well as in providing a rather independent news source of the current events. Before using Facebook to bring people on to the streets, the activists also used it to articulate their political critique and to build a constituency and growing community around those ideas. Our analysis further reflects on the Middle East and Northern Africa events in demonstrating that Hip Hop cannot only be used for self-expression, but also for mobilising the (young) masses. We show how youth culture seems to be a perfect tool for reaching the young population, especially when distributed through new social media such as Facebook or YouTube.