Arab Women, Social Media, and the Arab Spring: Applying the Framework of Digital Reflexivity to Analyze Gender and Online Activism

By Newsom, Victoria A.; Lengel, Lara | Journal of International Women's Studies, October 2012 | Go to article overview

Arab Women, Social Media, and the Arab Spring: Applying the Framework of Digital Reflexivity to Analyze Gender and Online Activism


Newsom, Victoria A., Lengel, Lara, Journal of International Women's Studies


Abstract

This essay analyzes the engagement of Arab feminist activisms online, most notably during the citizen revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, and, specifically, women's use of online social networking to aid social change. Building on research examining how Arab activists and activist organizations, including feminist organizations, mobilize, produce knowledge, and develop and share resources online and, in particular, drawing from research on Arab activisms and social media this study aims to understand how online activist discourses function, both locally and globally. To do so, we utilize a schema of information production and consumption devised to analyze activist engagement and citizen journalism, particularly the negotiation of communication messages by various agents through multiple stages of transmission and dissemination (Newsom, Lengel, & Cassara, C, 2011). We look at the ideal of local knowledge as it is transformed into global knowledge, and how the messages are open to manipulation and bias through the various stages of mediation and gatekeeping cited in the framework. Through the application of this framework, we can see how gendered messages are constructed, essentialized, reconstructed, and made invisible by the consumer media system.

Keywords: Arab countries, History, Arab Spring Uprisings, 2011, Activism; Democracy; Feminism; Online social networks; Tunisia; Egypt; Protest movements; Symbolic Interactionism; Revolution, Social Media, Social conditions

Introduction

Sahar Khamis (2011) argues, "The prolific online and offline political activities of Arab women over the last several months have contributed a new chapter to the history of both Arab feminism and the region" (p 748). Building on research examining how Arab activists and activist organizations, including feminist organizations, mobilize, produce knowledge, and develop and share resources online (see, for instance, Al Jaber, 2009; Alkhalifa, 2008; Danitz & Strobel, 1999; Fandy, 1999; Faris, 2008a; Faris, 2008b; Earl & Kimport, 2008; Illia, 2003; Jansen, 2010; Tatarchevskiy, 2011; Vegh, 2003; Wheeler, 2009) and, in particular, research on Arab activisms and social media (Eltantawy & Wies, 2011; Jansen, 2010; Lotan, et al., 2011), this study aims to understand how online activist discourses function, both locally and globally.

International focus on the Arab world has increased during the "Arab Spring," and recognition of individual women's involvement in the conflicts and demonstrations has risen (Khamis, 2011; Marzouki, 2011). Yet, simultaneously, both traditional and social media cite the absence of gendered revolution or gender-based social change. (UPF Office of Peace and Security Affairs, 2012, February 12). We hope to interrogate mediated discourses of women's roles in the Arab Spring based on what Lila Abu-Lughod and Rabab El-Mahdi (2011) assert are "Orientalist understandings of Arab and Muslim women" (p. 683).

To do so, we utilize a schema for what we call digital reflexivity (Newsom & Lengel, forthcoming) to analyze the information production and consumption devised to analyze activist engagement and citizen journalism, particularly the negotiation of communication messages by various agents through multiple stages of transmission and dissemination (Newsom, Lengel, & Cassara, 2011). We look at the ideal of local knowledge as it is transformed into global knowledge, and how the messages are open to manipulation and bias through the various stages of mediation and gatekeeping cited in the framework. We argue that the processes of digital reflexivity restrict the message flow from local to global audiences by encouraging the alteration of the initial activist message to fit global needs and values. While messages have always been construed to reach particular audiences, the speed with which digital media transmits current messages, and the treatment of social media messages as "organic" and "native" by contemporary professional news sources distorts recognition of those persuasive and propaganda techniques utilized, thus restricting and containing the empowering potential of activist voices. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Arab Women, Social Media, and the Arab Spring: Applying the Framework of Digital Reflexivity to Analyze Gender and Online Activism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.