Rethinking Social Movements in the Digital Age: Activism, Dissent and Rebellion in the post-arab Spring

29.07.2016, Workshop, OI Beirut

Venue: Orient-Institut Beirut
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Laila Shereen Sakr (Assistant Professor of Film & Media Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara)
The pivotal and unprecedented role that digital technology has played in instigating, as well as documenting the Arab Spring has without a doubt renewed the interest in social movements beyond the traditional realm of the "physical". As the revolution in digital technology is slowly revolutionizing the way people communicate, debate existing norms and are exposed to other social and cultural practices and forms of governance worldwide, it is also providing new means for coordination and mobilization. In the advent of the Arab 'Spring' revolts throughout the region, digital technology has successfully pushed its way into politics: allowing people across borders, class, and formal venues of associations to debate, coordinate, and transform the 'digital' into the 'physical'.
Today, political leaders around the world utilize digital technology to communicate and debate their political agenda to and with the public. Twitter and Facebook have pushed their way to becoming pivotal venues of mediation in state-society relations worldwide. News sharing, debating, and critical collective views of governments across the world has given more 'power' and leverage to the 'people' in the framework of collective 'shaming and blaming' for exposing human rights violations, abuses and the denial of basic rights and freedoms. Employing satirical language in the critical reproduction of news, as well as developing cartoons and videos, digital activism has taken on a new face that bridges cultures and allows a wider public to engage in and relate to political, social, economic, and cultural debates. Examples from around the world can demonstrate how social media venues in particular are becoming a venue for dissent, activism, and campaigning for social, political and even economic causes.
Activism in social media has furthermore reflected existing social and political debates in societies around the world. During the Arab 'Spring' revolts across the region, it reflected not only the ideological, but also the political divides between people across various spectra. As the region witnessed the rise of political Islam, social media networks became flooded with debates on identity, religion, and politics and the rising polarities and peripheries of secularism and Islamism.

The Keynote Speaker:
Laila Shereen Sakr (a.k.a. VJ Um Amel) is Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies at UC Santa Barbara. Her creative and scholarly works use digital logic and technique to map global participation in virtual worlds and networked publics. She is the creator of R-Shief media system for archiving and analyzing social media content, and the cyborg conceptual art project and performance, VJ Um Amel. She has shown in solo and group exhibitions and performances at galleries and museums across the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East, and has published extensively. Prof. Sakr is a leading voice in the open source movement, in particular for Arabic localization. She is a co-editor for the open access journal: Media Theory, and also co-editor of After.Video (a paperback book and video stored on a Raspberry Pi computer packaged in a VHS case) published by Open Humanities Press. Recent reviews appear in The Wall Street Journal, Science, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Fast Company, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, Voice of America, The Monocle, Art Territories, Digital Media and Learning, Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, Jadaliyya, and The Creators Project.