Wednesday, December 15, 2010

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

Yeslam Al-Saggaf, Research and Consultancy Institute Director, Effat University

After few talks on the social media we landed onto the last discussion round of the first session which was led by Mr.Yeslam Al-Saggaf, the Research and Consultancy Institute Director,Effat University.
Dr.Al-Saggaf talked about his student research project which was conducted for the IS and CS course and was initiated to identify how social media was used as an agent of change for the Jeddah floods ( Noveber,2009) and also how it led to the mobilization of the public for the Jeddah rescue mission. The research was completed in spring 2010. 4 students groups were made and each had their own certain tasks to be completed for the research.  The dwellers of Jeddah transformed from being ordinary citizens to movie-makers and made several videos of the aftermaths of the flood and uploaded them on FaceBook (social networking site) and Youtube (social multimedia site) to create awareness.  Dr.Al-Saggaf stated that the purpose of the study was to understand to what extent social media facilitated civic engagement during that event. Within 1 month, 5000 volunteers were gathered with the help of social media and technology. A non believer of social media and technology shared his experiences from the Jeddah 2009 floods. He first used sms technology to communicate with his few friends and later friends of friends shared the news of the aftermath of the floods and that led to the spreading of the disastrous news. Within time, there were hundreds of volunteers. This experience of social media had a great impact on him and he is now a firm believer of technology.
Along with that, he mentioned how the literature review helped the students to understand what social networking is? Ethnography method was used for the study. The collected data was analyzed with the help of Nvivo, software for qualitative data analysis that aided in categorization of data into comprehensible information. Furthermore, it was revealed that the social media also helped in the formulation of public opinions about the matters of general interest such as reasons and causes of the floods, losses and damages etc. The social media was used a channel for the society to express their feelings and emotions too. It also helped to trigger investigation by the government and to compensate the affected families as well.  

posted by: Fauziya Ali Ansari ( Alumni, Effat University )

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