Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Media and the Rise of the Public Sphere in Saudi Arabia: The Case of the 2009 Floods in Jeddah

Dr. Yeslam Al Saggaf, 
Director, RCI 
Effat University

As part of a class, we completed a quantitative study of the use of social media in civic engagement during the floods.  Students collected posts, identified keywords, created nodes based on the themes, and described these themes.  We found that individuals posted moving videos that challenged the media reality and triggered action.  Based on these videos, people met in discussion forums that facilitated the formation of public opinions and support their comments with evidence.  The online discussion also enabled the expression of feelings and emotions, allowing many to deal with the event and start the healing process.  And most importantly, the social media also allowed calling for actions and facilitate the rational, critical debates and reaching consensus.  It enabled individuals to organise themselves and help with the rescue efforts.  And being able to study and analyze all of this through our research projects, students were again, touched by the tragedy, and motivated by the power of the tools to induce positive support.

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