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 *Abstract:* 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. *Bio* 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 processes.
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