Course Syllabus

Course site:
Course titan pad:
Readings and Syllabus in PDF:

location | 1518 Phelps
days/time |  MW 2:00-3:50pm
Prof. Laila Shereen Sakr []
contact | email: ssakr AT | twitter:  @vj_um_amel
office hours | Tues, 3-4:50pm, or by appt. 2020 SSMS



This hybrid course surveys emerging media-making and digital advocacy practices through a case study on the digital campaigns for human rights and social justice issues in the Middle East. The course reviews these relationships through the lens of social movement theory, and functions as a workshop to develop student projects. Seminar participants will work together to explore frameworks, methods, and tools for understanding networked social movements in the digital advocacy ecology framed from the Middle East. Students will study the role of interventions, social media, and tactical tools to support civic agency and participatory action, as well as transform, disrupt or subvert changing urban, political, and social conditions in various local contexts throughout the region. In this production-oriented seminar students are expected to work in teams to research, conceptualize, and design novel civic media and tactical interventions that critically examine the socio-cultural and institutional settings that they seek to engage or disrupt. The class will also look into issues such as online surveillance and filtering, circumvention tools, and how repressive regimes in the region have countered digital activism.

The class will focus on these digital campaigns:

We are all Khaled Said (police brutality, torture – Egypt)
No to Military Trials for Civilians (securitized state, due process of law – Egypt)
You Stink (garbage crisis, political factions – Lebanon)
Free Bassel Safadi (imprisoned open source software developer – Syria)
Kafa, Jinsayati, Uprising Women, TackBacktheTech, Nasawiya, HarassMap (women’s rights – Lebanon)
Women2Drive (women’s sovereignty – Saudi Arabia)

In addition to the regularly readings and discussions, students will participate in the following:

  • A collective note-taking practice on Titan Pad for all class discussions.
  • Weekly blog writing (300-500 words) due Wednesdays, and commenting (two comments on peers’ blog posts) due the following Wednesday. If no class, then no blog is due that week. A blog post is required to receive credit for attending each mandatory event.
  • Attending minimum three events and lectures on campus (details in class schedule in red)
  • Midterm: Manifesto/Planning Documents for media making/hacking group project (5 pages)
  • Final: Media making/hacking group projects and presentations


The course will use WordPress ( as the main online platform to provide: weekly syllabus updates, PDFs for all readings, events and resources. Students must use the blog to regularly reflect on readings, share relevant projects and report on their ongoing group projects.


  • Please be respectful of one another’s opinions.
  • Be rigorous: do the readings thoroughly and carefully and bring all readings to class.
  • Be on time.
  • Turn off and put away all cellular phones, tablets, and laptops.
  • Late policy: every six hours late on any assignment results in a deduction of half a grade.


Grading: 50% of the course grade reflects the conceptual design, production and presentation of the collaborative work. The remaining 50% of the grade involves an assessment of students’ individual participation and contributions to the course both in and outside of class. All grades are final and are not subject to change. The following grading rubric will guide the evaluation of student work for the course:

  • Class participation (20%): including discussions of readings
  • Blog posts (20%): Blog posts a short, critical exercises to help students articulate the research questions they are having as the read and experience the course materials. They are expected to be well-written, thoughtful, and engaged. Each blog post should provide one golden nugget: an abstract for a thought piece. Weekly blog should be 300-500 words, have a title, metatags, and be posted to class website on Sundays no later than 10pm, and commenting (two comments on peers’ blog posts) due the following Tuesday no later than 10pm. If no class that Monday, then check syllabus for that week. A blog post is required to receive credit for attending each event.
  • Attending campus events (10%):  Besides the class sessions, students are required to attend at least three out of the four following scheduled events and write a blog post for each one you attend..

Tuesday, Jan 12 – “R-Shief 4.0: Developing an end-to-end social media system” at 4pm in 2135 SSMS (see flyer).

Sunday, Jan 24 – “Egyptian Insurgency Short Film Festival” from 2:00-5:00pm in the Pollock Theater.

Monday, Jan 25 – After Tahrir Conference (see schedule of panels from 9am-6pm; class is cancelled so you can attend).

Wednesday, Mar 9 (tentative) – Cairo Drive film screening at 7pm in Pollock Theater

  • Midterm (5-page collaboratively written manifesto/planning document) 20%: The course expects students to engage critically and collaboratively (in small teams) to research, conceptualize and produce a compelling community media or creative intervention in the form of an audiovisual work, apps, or other digital media that tackle a specific set of contested issues. For the midterm, students must submit a collaboratively drawn up manifesto and/or planning document for the media or intervention they will make/hack for final project. The groups will present their mid-term to the class in 5-minute presentations with peer feedback.
  • Final (Presentation and Submission of digital media, hack, or intervention group project) 30%: The final project is the actual media proposed at the midterm. The final projects are novel civic media and tactical interventions that critically examine the socio-cultural and institutional settings that they seek to engage or disrupt. The groups will present their mid-term to the class in 5-minute presentations with peer feedback. And final projects will be due finals week.

Online Platforms: Students will use Gmail for Google Drive. UCSB Net ID to for file storage.

Required Texts: All readings and other media will be provided by link or PDF through the course website. Please regularly check the course website for the latest schedule updates


This studio course is meant to be a collaborative learning and participatory environment. The weekly class sessions will often begin with a critical discussion of assigned readings, while the other sessions may include a guest lecture or presentations of relevant case studies. Required campus events are in red.

* Note: the class schedule and assigned readings are subject to change. We will collectively review the syllabus to adjust it to the interests and needs of course participants.


Week 1 – Introductions, Social Movement Theory, and History

Mon, Jan 4:
Introductions: Class overview
Set up Gmail, WordPress,, and TitanPad accounts. Review syllabus.

Wed, Jan 6: Social Movement Theory and Human Rights History in the Middle East
Read: Beinin and Vairel, “The Middle East and North Africa Beyond Classical Social Movement Theory” (2013); and J. Stork, “Three Decades of Human Rights Activism in the Middle East and North Africa” (2013). No Blog posts this week.
See: Mobilization International Journal


Week 2 – We Are All Khaled Said

Mon, Jan 11:
Police Torture prior to Egyptian Revolution of 2011

Read: Ali and El-Sharnouby, “Distorting Digital Citizenship: Khaled Said, Facebook, and Egypt’s Streets,” from Wired Citizenship (2014); and Faris, “We are all Revolutionaries Now: Social Media Networks and the Egyptian Revolution of 2011” (2013).
Media: Facebook Page, Activist sites, Torture in Egypt,
Women and Children” discourse

Tues, Jan 12 Public Lecture: “R-Shief 4.0: Developing an end-to-end social media system” at 4pm in 2135 SSMS (See flyer).

Wed, Jan 13: Digital Platforms for Tactical Use
Read: Meier, Patrick, from Digital Humanitarians, pp. 158-171.
Media: Facebook Page, Book’s Website, Ushahidi App


Week 3 – No to Military Trials for Civilians

Mon, Jan 18:
No Class – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Wed, Jan 20: The Securitized State, Youth, and Gender
Read: Herrera, Linda “Youth and Citizenship in the Digital Age: a View from Egypt,” from Wired Citizenship (2014);  Amar, Paul Feminist Insurrections and the Egyptian Revolution,” The Security Archipelago (2015); and Mada Masr – No to Military Trials for Civilians.
Study about following hashtags on Twitter: #NoMilTrials #NoSCAF, #FuckSCAF
*Come to class with project ideas. Media Making and Hacking groups assigned* Blog Due


Week 4 – No to Military Trials for Civilians

Sun, Jan 24:
“Egyptian Insurgency Film Festival” from 2:00-5:00pm in the Pollock Theater.

Mon, Jan 25: After Tahrir Conference –  Instead of class, students must attend at least one panel. (See provisional schedule of panels from 9am-6pm). Blogs due Tuesday by 10pm.

Wed, Jan 27: Lab time in live video editing and After Tahrir Discussion
We will learn VDMX, live VJing software for live animation and effects
Watch: The Maspero Massacre 09/10/11 by Mosireen Collective (09:00:00); and Social Segments Against Military Trials for Civilians by Tahrir Diaries (03:00:00)


Week 5 – You Stink

Mon, Feb 1:
Political Background
Read: Amar, Paul. “New Paradigms of Popular Sovereignty in the Wake of the Arab Uprisings,” (2015).
Photo Journalism: “Lebanon’s #YouStink Anti-Government Protests” in The Atlantic (24 Aug 2015). Screen in class: Mounira El Solh experimental videos.

Wed, Feb 3: Lab Time in Visual Design
We will learn how to  build your own WordPress site, memes, mosaics, basic 2D data visualization.


Week 6 – Free Bassel Safadi

Mon, Feb 8: 
 Jailed Journalists and Open Source Developers

Read: Dheere, “Arab Bloggers Meet to Discuss Free Speech, Reject ‘Journalist’ Label;” Corbyn, Zoe “Bassel Khartabil: fears for man who brought open internet to the Arab world,” The Guardian (11 Dec 2015).
Study about following hashtags: #FreeAlaa, #Ontornet #OpenNetInitiative

Wed, Feb 10: Digital Media Makers, Bloggers, and the Arab State
Guest Speaker (recorded on YouTube), Dalia Othman
Ethan Zuckerman New Media, New Civics? and Mapping the Arab Blogosphere
Media: Video by Berkman Center on Arab Networked Public Sphere


Week 7 – Midterms

Mon, Feb 15:
No Class – President Day

Wed, Feb 17: Collaborative Midterms Due
*Five minute presentations per group. Presentation is 30% of midterm grade. No Blog posts this week.


Week  8 – Kafa, Jinsayati, Uprising Women, TakeBacktheTech, Nasawiya, HarassMap (women’s rights)

Mon, Feb 22: Guest Speaker (Google Hangout; Broadcast Live), Abir Ghattas
Read: Abir Ghattas @girleffect, “Case study: Harassmap–Changing Attitudes to Harassment and Assault in Egypt;” Chelsea Young, “HarassMap: Using Crowdsourced Data to Map Sexual Harassment in Egypt” (March 2014); R. Kelly Garrett,  “Protest in an Information Society: a review of literature on social movements and new ICTs” Information, Communication & Society (17 Feb 2007); Ahmed Al-Rawi, “Framing the online women’s movements in the Arab world” (Feb 2014)

Wed, Feb 24: Open Lab


Weeks 9 – Women2Drive (women’s sovereignty)

, Feb 29:
Guest Lecture
Read: Lacroix, “No Spring in Riyadh: Saudi Arabia’s Seemingly Impossible Revolution,” from Taking to the Streets: The Transformation of Arab Activism (2014);

Wed, Mar 2: Open Lab


Week 10 – Presentations, guest, and film screening


Mon, Mar 7:  Group project presentations and peer-critique (30% of grade for final project) No Blog posts this week.

Wed, Mar 9: In class guest: filmmaker Sherief Elkatsha
Final event: Pollock Screening at 7pm: Cairo Drive (see me if you cannot attend)


Final Projects Due

Final Projects due Wednesday, March 16, no later than 5:00pm online via blog post. (Late projects receive severe grade penalty. Do not miss this deadline!)




Access Now

Digital Citizen: News, Policy, and Research on Human RIghts and Technology in Arab World

Electronic Frontier Foundation

The Electronic Intifada

Free Bassel Saffadi

Global Voices Online




Mobilization International Journal

Social Media and Exchange (SMEX)