Please join us tomorrow for the last Change Seminar of the quarter. Volker
Wulf from the University of Siegen and Fraunhofer FIT in Germany will be
joining us to talk about his work on understanding social media use in
areas of political unrest.

*What: *On the Ground in the Arab World: Understanding Social Media Use in
Events of Political Unrest

*When: *Tuesday, Dec 6

*Where: *The Allen Center, CSE 203


Social media usage during the recent uprisings in Arab countries has gained
increasing attention. Over the last five years, we have conducted empirical
studies ‘on the ground’ dealing with three Arab countries: Tunisia,
Palestine, and Syria.

In Tunisia, we interviewed political activists in Sidi Bouzid, the Tunisian
town where the ‘Arab Spring’ started. We identify four effects social media
had on the local uprising: (a) the publication of classified materials via
WikiLeaks challenged the regime’s legitimacy, (b) social media connected
local activists with Arab satellite TV, (c) social media linked the young
activists with actors in other cities in Tunisia, (d) social media allowed
organizing resistance inside Sidi Bouzid.

In Palestine, we worked with two sites: (1) We investigated political
activists in a Palestinian village which organizes weekly demonstrations
against Israel’s settlement policy and the separation wall. We described
the activists’ background and their efforts to organize these
demonstrations under conditions of military occupation. Over a period of 4
years, we observed the role both digital and material factors played in the
organization of the protest. (2) Working with two refugee camps, we
explored how to potentially bridge the social and economic divide that has
plagued West Bank society for a period of more than six decades. We
examined how computer clubs enable the emergence of social ties among
residents of the camp and university students acting as tutors. Even though
these ties turned out to be small-scale and informal, they have the
potential to generate new and wider opportunities for exchange that may
eventually support more social integration between the camp's marginalized
and the wider Palestinian population.

We also conducted an interview study with Syrian refugees in Turkey,
Jordan, and Germany. This study adds insights on the use of mobile media,
by opposition forces and political activists during the Syrian civil war.
The study is based on interviews with Syrian FSA fighters, activists and
refugees. A first analysis showed evidence for some very specific use
patterns during wartime. The study also describes a fragmented telecom
infrastructure in Syria: government-controlled regions offer fairly intact
infrastructures while rebel controlled regions have been cut-off from
telephone and Internet.  Moreover, the central and very critical role of
mobile video for documenting, mobilization, and propaganda is discussed.

Methodologically, we will question a too deterministic view of the role of
new media and the representativeness of investigative techniques that
uniquely use the new media in order to assess their impact. At the same
time our talk will indicate that rigorous investigations ‘on the ground’
are extremely difficult but essential in better understanding the political
uses of social media.


Volker Wulf is a professor of Information Systems and New Media at the
University of Siegen, Germany. He is also the Managing Director of the
School of Media and Information (iSchool) at the University of Siegen. His
research interests lie primarily in the area of IT design in real-world
contexts.  This includes the development of innovative applications in the
domains of cooperation systems, social media, knowledge management, and
community support. One special focus lies on flexible software architecture
which can be adapted by end-users. Further research looks at methods of
user- oriented software development and introduction and appropriation
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