Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Social Media for Social Change - Panel Discussion

By Dr Saddiga Al-Ghalib, Dean, Graduate Studies and Scientific Research, Effat University
The speech began with the addressing social media as causing revolution in today’s society. This media is more appropriately described to be grouping of people into a special group which can be a website or mobile tools. The true impact of this has been determined yet.
Facebook was talked about in her speech which s said to be the largest and fastest social networking site with over 500 million active users out of which 50% sign in daily. It is even said that if Facebook would be a country it would be the third largest country in the world after India and China. Twitter was also talked about which has over 100 million registered users. It contains 122 million active users and 133 million bloggers are present on YouTube. Close to 20 hours of video are uploaded every minute. Now the question arises as to how many years each media took to reach the mass. According to the statistics, radio took 38 years, television 13 years, iPhone reached 1 billion users within 9 months and internet took four years. One out of eight couples in US met through the social networking sites. In order to use social media, we need to learn, listen, adapt and most importantly care. For a social change in the speaker’s opinion, we need to use the blog service such as YouTube and mobile phones to spread the news.
Bayan Abuzinadah, co-founder of Rumman Company in KSA.
In Saudi Arabia, 8% of the users are below the age of 30 years. 11 million are active users. It took 3 years for the social networking sites to reach a population of 11 million users within the country. 54% people used desktops, 71% used Arabic language for browsing and interaction on web and 41% preferred browsing and 30% preferred communication. They mostly go t9 the bulletin boards, chat and pal Talk. She stated the facts about facebook, twitter, YouTube and related them to their origin, users and gave the appropriate statistics. She also talked about Fainak which is the rising site in the Arab nation.  It reached more than 10,000 members and follower within two and a half years.
John Smith, learning Alliances, USA
He spoke on the topic choosing technologies for communication – mixing strong and weak ties. He referred to the social networking community to be having a powerful capability to connect and make people learn effectively. He talked about the recent floods that took place in the Jeddah city in Saudi Arabia and said that it was about the communication practice that keeps on going for years and years which brings us to a point where we understand that technology is not the whole story rather than to sustain the communication. He talked about Joseph Sekeku who is a broadcaster in Kenya. He combines broadcast radio station in Tanzania which uses audio recording and interviews farmers which is broadcasted. He also uses cell phones and text messages to aid himself n his work. He also presented the idea that a community lives to meet but when it cannot usually meet and interact, and then such open-ended conversations are carried out through social media. This promotes the weak ties. In US, important and positive changes happen due to strong toes but in social practice there are both string and weak ties. He gave the community outcomes which are technical knowledge for farmers, visible practice, knowledge accumulated, and sense of voice, sense of community empowerment and reduction of poverty.
Nazeeh Alothmany
He talked about his personal experiences first and then gave an introductory paragraph about social media which was started in 1993 through Google groups. His experience was given a boost during 9/11 incident where two things happened: a huge focus was placed from the authorities and there were many requests from the community to talk about the Islamic religion in general places. The social media which can be applied for changed was referred by him as engaging people in social media you will be the light at the end of the tunnel. He told us about the incident of a 4th grade student who was told by his teacher that Islam teaches you to kill people. This boy went and told his mother about it. His mother, being a string and active person reported the community setup by the people whose member only few and they were sent a letter to the representative of the school. He told that the result was apology, a three hour training on Islam, social studies changes in the curriculum and in-service training for the teachers; this was the incident which related to social media on stereotypes.
He also related an incident in which a woman was denied license just because of her head scarf. She went to the community to address her problem they sent a letter to the authority which resulted in apology to the woman along with instructions to all the similar organizations in that city to avoid stereotyping. A case on media stereotyping was also talked by him in which he mentioned that the media showed a movie about Saudi Arabia from a negative aspect during Eid and when the letter was sent by the community, the result was apology from the TV station along with 25-32 interviews of the members in the community which would be broadcasted by the TV station. He referred to the cases of the students in the US universities and how they were being isolated. They created an organization called the Saudi Caravan which helped them a lot. He also talked about the marriage of a couple being denied the visa and how the community worked for it.
Michael Fast, AED-USA
He referred to the centers in the countries which have supported in promoting education through social media. It has helped them to acquire the knowledge and skills and he also empowered the teachers and all the instructors in the working field to effectively use this tool in sharing and learning process.
Ziad Jarrar, Spotmedia, KSA
He said that social media represents the conventional media. He pointed out the one thing which most of us are not aware is that when we are online; we enter a virtual world and develop virtual identities which are dangerous where the ability to express is being given. He referred to the Wiki leaks as an inappropriate use of the media where people steal information from their offices which are not intended to be known y the public.
This was then followed by panel discussion along with questions from the audience.   

Hiba Shahid

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