Cultural Knowledge on the Internet

As emphasized in last weeks readings, the power of social media is greater than we might think it to be. In this weeks readings the importance of social media and the use of internet sources throughout Herrera’s reading was also a topic of great importance.

In the scholarly article, titled Youth and Citizenship in the Digital Age: A View from Egypt by Linda Herrera, we read how the young people of today are refers to as “wired youth” as opposed to kids who are being dumbed down because of the internet, and we come across several personal stories of people who have found their way of expression and sociability through resources the internet provides for them.

Herrera spoke about the lives of many people who used the media sites, such as Facebook, to branch out, video games to find happiness social medand a social life, and blogging as practice for a  professional career. In particular the story of Haisam, introduced in Phase II: Cultural Revolution, caught my attention, and is a prime example of how the internet can expand someone’s cultural knowledge of countries different from their own, and help someone kick off their professional career as journalists, who at first might have only been interested in simply informing their social media followers of the election news happening around them.

In the piece it is mentioned that Haisam’s life was transformed after the internet, “For Haisam, the computer was ‘like a gateway to heaven.” Not only was the internet a way for 24 year old Haisam to explore new music, cinema and enrich his knowledgeculture in different cultures, the internet also lead him and friends he met on online forums, who were also interested in lyrics and music, to convert 125 years worth of Arabic music into digital format, “If not for their labor, this music might have been lost.”

As, both a cinema and a music student I greatly appreciate people who are interested in learning about cinema, and lyrical content of music. Even more so, as a music student who primarily studies middle eastern music, it is because of people like Haisam that I can study musical arabic theory with listening examples, which help me test hearing and allow me to practice distinguishing different maqams in traditional arabic songs.

Not only have people like Haisam been able to experience a “cultural revolution”, but they have also been able to make their own culture and news available to people around the world.

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For my project I am interested in creating a website, the topic of my choice is unclear so I am open to ideas. Designing a webpage has always been something I’ve been interested in doing and I do feel having website design experience is beneficial and useful. For now I’m thinking a webpage where people can share news pieces of around the world, with emphasis in Egypt and countries where revolutionary uprisings are happening. There can also be a section where one can learn about cinema, music and arts of different countries. My idea definitely needs some refining, so if anyone is interested I’d be happy to hear opinions and additional commentary.

Cultural Knowledge on the Internet

Social Media used for protest: Good or Bad?

Is social media the best way to protest certain issues? This question was discussed indirectly through previous blog posts and in person. From reading this week’s articles and discussions, my immediate answer to this question has changed. At first I thought in order to create great political change was to have a laptop and an internet connection to do the job. But as read more and more background information about what factored and influenced these young people to rise up and fight for their rights. Once again I’m using the social revolution in Egypt during the beginning of 2011 as my frame of reference and tangible example for my argument. On one hand the social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. Were an amazing outlet to input, inform and discuss several issues the young people of Egypt were dealing with, issues like police brutality, corruption, right to peaceful assembly, etc. Another aspect of this way of protest was a more covert way to discuss among fellow protesters and able to send information of their struggle to the outside world to raise more awareness of what really is going on there. Last aspect this medium gave more impact was a easier way to rally others and keep track of fellow protesters through Facebook pages like “We are all Khaled Said”

On the other hand it has some potential pitfalls, one possible scenario is once the controlling government figures out that there using social networks to protest and showing pictures or videos of their horrible acts. They could in turn shut down localized feeds to those specific sites or shut down the whole Internet in the region altogether. Furthermore the postings, blogs and articles would not really solve the problem, only telling people that something is wrong. In order to make any sort change both long and short term. The protesters have to leave their tablets, smartphones and computers behind, take it to the streets and make that change happen for themselves. As the main admin of the “We are all Khaled Said” page Wael Ghonim continues to say in several interviews after the social revolution in Egypt. He continues to downplay his role and agrees whole heartedly that he was not the real hero. He explains the young people in the streets protesting in person about these issues are the real heroes.

To conclude I will discuss some of the possible ideas I have for my project I will work on with several others in the class. One idea is using a series of memes, PSA’s or Vines to make a satirical critique and raise awareness of these human rights issues in the Middle East. Another idea is to take a traditional approach and build a webpage on programs like Square-space to raise awareness and discuss about these issues.

Social Media used for protest: Good or Bad?

R-Shief Lecture

While I attended a lecture as one of the events I needed to attend to for one of my courses. At first I had no idea what it was and how it was connected to anything about digital activism. But some of my questions were answered as the lecture was being presented. I found out the basic information about R-Shief. It is a multi-layered program that collects, organizes and displays different types of data (keyword searches and hashtags) from Twitter. Than once the data is finally collected it is able to be graphed and displayed of the most common keywords being search and the spike in popularity of said keyword on any given time and day. The site collected data in several different languages like Spanish, English and Arabic.

Another aspect of this complex program is what is the overall purpose for this site? As well as who would use it and why? Some of those questions were answers in the general background history of the program. From what I’ve learned it is meant to be a research tool for academics and scholars regardless of discipline. It’s about research and gathering data of incoming trends, ideas and social norms happening in the Middle East. I found this very interesting and was given a sum up version on how it actually works through a couple of demonstrations.

Last element of this program I learned from the lecture was where they wanted to improve on and answered some questions from the audience. Their overall goal for this program is to continue to evolve and be able to actually track where these messages are coming from. As well as pulling the data from multiple social networks like Google, Yahoo, and Facebook just to name a few. Lastly their final goal is to have this program user friendly and be able to have it integrated at the university level and they’re in the beginning steps of integrating it here at UCSB. My final observation was a question someone asked about the program to possibly translate the original language to English? She replied no and displayed a strong opinion that translating should be put into the hands of real human translators instead of computers. Overall it was an interesting lecture of innovative technology and the multiple uses the program has to offer.

R-Shief Lecture

The approach of using non-violent or violent means for social change

When I read an article about social movements and mobilization in the Middle East, I was unsure at first of the terminology the author was describing. Things like what was SMI stand for? What are these social movements ultimate end goal is? Are these movements on a massive scale spanning multiple countries or only informally organized on the local level of different regions across one country? What are the kinds of consequences that would result if individuals decide to rise and create change in their government? But while reading this article the biggest question that came to mind is this: If these social movement groups are successful in some way in making innovative change, will it be long lasting for future generations to appreciate or will it only last for a generation of people?
As I read some of my immediate questions were quickly answered. An aspect I learned from this article is the two different overall approaches to making long lasting change in their home countries, run by these regimes with strict rules and regulations that limit the freedoms of some or all people that live under them. One approach is the use of non-violence, commonly expressed in online social media campaigns like “Black Lives Matter” raising awareness of police brutality towards black people in America. Another example of expressing non-violence to make change is the use of protest/peaceful assembly. I think this a great first step for any social movement to start getting the word out to the general public. But, it also has some potential consequences for those actions. An example of this was a group in Egypt called EOHR took over and protested in a steel factory. But was shortly ended when police forces coming in to stop and or detain protesters. Sadly one of the protesters were killed during the struggle. Than on the other hand is the use of actual violence. The most common way to express this option for social change is the use of defacing/destroying private or public property and possibly harming others associated with the regime a.k.a. riots.
So in conclusion do I believe that one approach is better than the other? I don’t think so, all I know is this: this region of the world has been in conflict in some shape or form for more than a decade now. On the idea of people having basic human rights like freedom to vote, peaceful assembly and due process. As well as the ultimate question in how are these people in these oppressive regimes will get the freedom they deserve.

The approach of using non-violent or violent means for social change