Networked Publics and Digital Contention: The Politics of Everyday Life in Tunisia

Networked Publics and Digital Contention: The Politics of Everyday Life in Tunisia

Networked Publics and Digital Contention: The Politics of Everyday Life in Tunisia

Networked Publics and Digital Contention: The Politics of Everyday Life in Tunisia

Synopsis

How is the adoption of digital media in the Arab world affecting the relationship between the state and its subjects? What new forms of online engagement and strategies of resistance have emerged from the aspirations of digitally empowered citizens in the Middle East and North Africa? Networked Publics and Digital Contention narrates the story of the co-evolution of technology and society in Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab uprisings. It explores the emergence of a digital culture of contention that helped networked publics negotiate their lived reality, reconfigure power relations, and ultimately redefine the locus of politics. It broadens the focus from narrow debates about the role that social media played in the Arab uprisings toward a fresh understanding of how changes in media affect the state-society relationship over time. Based on extensive fieldwork, in-depth interviews with Internet activists, and immersive analyses of online communication, this book draws our attention away from the tools of political communication and refocuses it on the politics of communication. An original contribution to the politicalsociology of media, Networked Publics and Digital Contention provides a unique perspective on how networked Arab publics reimagine citizenship, reinvent politics, and produce change.

Excerpt

If ignorance indeed is bliss, then inside the general run of the Western commentocracy at the time of the upheavals that began in 2011 in the Arab region, verily bliss it must have been in that dawn to be alive, trilling tweets, firing off op-eds, and doing pundit tv. Instant sweeping political change, the drama of day-by-day twists and turns, magically omnipotent mobile media, “our” Facebook, the ever-mysterious Orient: “they” don’t hate us after all; why, look how they are suddenly becoming “us” … at last!

From 2011 onward, the pundits divided broadly into two groups. There were those who knew very little about the region but were mesmerized by then-new information technologies, and who gushed with frothy optimism about the digital transformation of Arab-hood. the stereotype of Arab emotionalism fused with the instantaneity of “social” media.

The second group was in some ways even more impregnably invincible than the first. Dismissing information and communication technologies as somewhere between epiphenomenal and incomprehensible, they sought comfort in caressing continuity. the Middle East was still irrevocably what it was and would always be. the region’s oft-quoted demographic skew toward the under-25s somehow stayed a statistical abstraction. Yet those younger citizens were the most likely to be actively exploring fresh communication hardware and software avenues.

Mohamed Zayani’s detailed study of how these upheavals took shape in one country in the region before, during, and since 2011 whisks us away from both these reductive frameworks. Drawing upon Henri Lefebvre’s analyses of the sociology of daily life, Michel de Certeau’s explorations of subterranean challenges to the official order, Asef Bayat’s discussions of “social non-movements”

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