This conference, which was co-sponsored by the Arab Studies Institute’s The Media Project, the Media Studies Program and the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship at the American University of Beirut, and the Department of Media Studies at Notre Dame University, convened civil society activists, researchers, and media practitioners to reflect on the scope of digital activism in the region, with a particular focus on Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, and Bahrain. Speakers discussed the role of digital media activism in promoting civil and political rights in light of renewed challenges to social, economic, and political injustice.
Academics with various yet compliementary specializations throughout the Arab world reflected on the possibility of organic transnational solidarity as well as shared visions, goals, and strategies.
An integral component of this conference was the networking of activists, scholars, media, and intellectuals with an interest in social movements online and the digital dimensions of civil society. The output of the conference will include the publication of a selection of the top papers and interventions from the conference as well as the below audio lectures and interviews with participants.
Panelists: Imad Bazzi, Lucien Bourjeily, Haramoun Hamieh, Bassam Kantar, Diala Haidar, Safa Al-Ahmad, Alaa Shehabi, Lina Attalah, Sami Ben Gharbia, Malihe Razazan, Neamat Badreddine, Jessica Dheere, Mohammad Dibo, Rouba El Helou, Riad Kobeissi, Diana Skeini, Chaker Noon, Nazeer Rida, and Habib Battah
Chairs & Discussants: May Farah, Maria Bou Zeid, Adel Iskandar, Shahram Aghamir, Rania Masri, Alicia Cagle, Eugene Sensenig, Nassim Abi Ghanem, and Layal Bahnam
Organizers: Maria Bou Zeid, May Farah, Adel Iskandar, Elie Haddad, and Alicia Cagle
Friday, June 3:
9.00-10.30 Panel 1: Digital Mobilization, Advocacy, & Networking Strategies: Lessons Learned
This panel will shed light on the role of digital activism in creating and boosting political and social change. The aim is to discuss the tools and tactics adopted by activists for promoting civil and political rights in order to evaluate the strategies implemented in the latest movements during the Arab Uprisings, in Lebanon with the “You Stink” campaign, and other popular rights-based mobilizations. It will conclude with the future of social movements online and the digital dimensions of civil society.
Sami Ben Gharbia
Chair: Malihe Razazan
Discussant: May Farah
10.30-10.45 Coffee Break
10.45-11.45 Keynote 1: Sami Ben Gharbia, “The Limits of Citizen Media Post-Arab Spring”
11.45-12.45 Lunch (Provided)
12.45-13.45 Keynote 2: Lina Attalah, “Betrayal: Online Media and The New Rules of the Game”
13.45-15.15 Panel 2: Obstacles & Barriers
The goal of this panel is to address a panorama of barriers from technical to ideological ones. Discussions may include a description of the obstacles for digital mobilization, and examine different cases in which barriers impact various phases of advocacy (pre-mobilization), during the mobilization, and post-mobilization.
Rouba El Helou
Chair: Shahram Aghamir
Discussant: Eugene Sensenig
15.15-15.30 Coffee Break
15.30-17.00 Panel 3: Civil Society and the Media: Vision, Messages and Resonance
Media can serve positively or negatively the causes and ideas of the civil society and how activists can use the media in advancing the struggle. This third panel will deal with the relation between media/activists and civil society and how they can serve each other. It will consist of an evaluation of the use of media by activists during the Arab Spring in general and the Lebanese waste crisis in particular and will emphasize the interrelation between traditional and social media on all these levels.
Chair: Layan Bahnam
Discussant: Rania Masri
Saturday, June 4:
9.30-11.00 Panel 4: Going Hyperlocal
Hyperlocal media can enhance digital participation reinforcing a sense of community through their connections to neighborhoods and the collectives that have a local presence. Are hyperlocal media platforms popular in the Arab World and MENA Region? How can these platforms serve activists and civil society in their struggle? This panel will tackle how social media is contributing to create and reinforce the pattern of hyperlocal media and how people use such platforms to voice their concerns. Additionally, branching from this point, the panel will look to citizen journalism as a way to contribute in the creation of hyperlocal news content.
Chair: Nassim Abi Ghanem
Discussant: Maria Bou Zeid
11.00-11.25 Coffee Break
11.30-13.00 Closing Panel: Transnational Solidarity
This closing panel reflects on new perspectives to challenge myths and stigmas pertaining to digital activism. It resides in how to build social networks not only in the virtual world but also in the real world across geographic borders.
Chair: Alicia Cagle
Discussant: Adel Iskandar