UIR Web Science @CEMAM

USJ – Beirut / Lebanon

16th Annual International Conference at the American University of Beirut

16th Annual International Conference at the American University of Beirut#AUSACE

Digital and Media Literacy: new Directions October 28-31, 2011, American University of Beirut.

AUSACE (The Arab-U.S. Association of Communication Educators) is an organization dedicated to the advancement of Arab-U.S relations among communication educators and media professionals. Established in 1995, AUSACE is the longest-running organization of its kind. The president is Judy VanSlyke Turk (2011-20130 fromVirginiaCommonwealthUniversity.

The American University of Beirut founded in 1866, is a private, independent, non-sectarian institution of higher learning. Media Studies at AUB signifies a rapidly expanding program that offers a variety of graduate and undergraduate degrees and certificates and a curriculum that balances theoretical, research, critical, and professional skills.

AUSACE 2011 Conference Team: Conference Chair, Jad Melki assistant of journalism and media studies, and coordinator of the Media Studies program at AUB. The Conference started on Wednesday 26 October 2011.

The Web Science Unity of CEMAM (Saint JosephUniversity) attended representations of three Research Panels:

–         Research Panel A1, Digital and Social Media’s Impact on Youth and Society moderated by Leonard Teel (Saturday 29 October 2011).

–         Research Panel B1, Digital Activism and Political Change moderated by Philip Seib (Saturday 29 October 2011).

–         Research Panel E3, Media Education and Digital Media moderated by Patrick McGreevy.




Research Panel A1, Digital and Social Media’s Impact on Youth and Society moderated by Leonard Teel (Saturday 29 October 2011).

Political Orientations of Iranian Users of Social Networks, by Zohreh Rajabi:

Subject: The Representation of Iranian user’s political orientations in the social networking websites: the case of Facebook.



We live in the age of the networks and our life is connected to social networks. Communication networks intertwined and connected have influenced all spheres, meanings and concept and, in general, everything.

Network communications as “foundations of human’s communication activity” are transforming all human communications. They make the universal local and the local universal. These networks meet our needs for making friends, informing, exchanging ideas and information.

Social networking websites provide a favorable environment for individuals’ participations in the virtual society, the establishment of symbolic communications, and self re-discovery, and re-definition of the religious, social, political…identities through virtual and symbolic interactivities, free from restrictions and suppressing factors.

Social networking websites such as Facebook are of great importance and a significant position for the Iranian users. When this research was being performed in 2009 at the time of the 10th presidential election inIran, the Facebook was among the websites, located after the Google, the Yahoo, the Blogfa and the YouTube. One the reasons for the generalization of the internet and widespread use of social networks ofIran can be considered as an attempt to rebuild and re-create the identities in the virtual space.

Main Purpose:

The main purpose of this research is to represent the Iranian users’ political orientations in the social networking websites that is to respond to this basic question: How users express their political orientations in the social networking websites like the Facebook and the reason they choose that space to represent those political orientations, as well as, the reason of the individual’s self-disclosure in various context in the virtual network.

Theoretical Foundations:

In the present research, the theories related to “identity” including Sherry Turkle (professor of Social Studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a sociologist) and identity in the simulation and presentation culture, representation, and the related theories, the theories related to the dialog and also the Habermas’ public sphere theory were used.

Research methods:

We chose 30 Facebook pages and designed categories appropriate to the Facebook capabilities, and noticed that showing the users’ orientations in the Facebook with the indicative symbol of each of the three major nominees ofIran’s tenth presidential elections.

By comparing the results obtained from the qualitative content analysis of the wall posts and the sentences put on profile pages of the selected users of Facebook, we noticed that Mousawi’s supporters took more advantage of the face capabilities including using the symbols and indications related to the given nominees, expressing interest in the pages related to the nominees, membership in the pages movements and the use of the profile images and in general for expressing their political orientations in the Facebook social network. The use frequency of these means was not priority.

The Result of this section of the research:

The result obtain from the research findings suggest that the reasons of the individuals self disclosure in various contexts, especially in the field of politics in the website of the Facebook social network, due to the free atmosphere shaped in the Facebook and also in the real space in the streets on the days leading to the end of the elections, have resulted in the users’ self-expression and overt expression of their interest and opinions. Fast, easy and free – of- charge access to this social network, not being filtered at this phase of the time, lack of free and critical media, less control mover the medium, the possibility of observing the reflection of the users’ views, lack of the risks and expenses of face-to-face discussions, the use of the virtual space facilities such as the Facebook and other various sites, during this term of the electoral campaigns in order to attract more supporters by the Iranian users, self-disclosure.

Another Part of this Research:

In order to response to the other basic question of this research that whether the public sphere intended by Habermas was shaped in the Facebook at the time of the tenth presidential elections or not, we designed questions for online interviews and randomly asked 12 users whose profiles had been qualitative content analyzed, according to these responses, it was clear that the morals on the dialog have not been observed among the users supporting the different nominees and sometimes the expression of opinion among the individuals from various political wings has not been tolerated and has led to cursing and occasionally to the ruination of the opponent.

The Internet can be considered the first serious public sphere for Iran’s society, but not a public sphere in the meaning intended by Habermas (which is totally related to the criticism of the government more freedom etc. the concepts emerged from the core of the bourgeois relations), but in the different meaning a sphere for the relationships and relations of individuals with each other. The internet in Iran, does not lead to deepening and extension of political criticism in the meaning which exists in the public sphere intended by Habermas through it provides the possibility of another kind of political criticism which can be talked of Iran’s particular society in Iran, the internet as a public sphere can be considered in the following meaning: a sphere for the formation reinforcement and transparency of the norms and the behavioral rules.



Political Activism 2.0: Comparing the Social Media Role in Egypt’s « Facebook Revolution » and Iran’s « Twitter Uprising ». – Mohammad El-Nawawy- Queens University of Charlotte; SaharKhamis- The University of Maryland.

Purpose of the Study:

  • Utilizing the SPIN model to show how the social media succeeded inEgypt, but not inIran

Research Questions :

  • Has civil society played a role in instigating the political upheaval inEgyptandIran?
  • Were social media the key enabler of the Iranian uprising and the Egyptian révolution or were they more of an accelerator ?

Social Media : Between Cyber-Utopianism and Political Realism :

  • Technological determinists saw in the rise of social media a transformative effect on societies.
  • This approach to cyber technology is based on difital emancipation, which sees technology as « a way of being and a way of thinking » (Hands, 2011).
  • Social media success in political changes is closely tied to political activism on the ground (Morozov 2011)
  • « The virtual community is an extension of the real community, and the meaning and values of a virtual community are derived from the participants in that community » (El- Naway&Khamis, 2009)

The SPING Model:

  • This model explains the structure of organizations that are segmented, polycentric integrated networks.
  • Segmentation refers to the open boundaries between diverse civil society groups, which grow and die, proliferate and contract.

The SPIN Model (Cont’d):

  • Polycentrism means having multple leaders or centers of influence. It is multiple-headed and has no sole leader
  • Integration refers to the horizontal structure of distributed activism.
  • Networks are the natural consequence of the abovementioned aspects. They have overlapping members, joint activities and shared opponents.

Assessing the SPIN Model in the context of Iran’s « Twitter Uprising »:

  • In 2009, major Iranian cities witnessed street protests to complain about the allegedly fraudulent presidential elections.
  • They started out as peaceful, but became bloody after the regime opened fire.
  • Despite de graphic images of the dead and injured protestors that were circulated through social media, particularly Twitter, the protests failed in changing the course of the elections.

The SPIN Model in Iran (Cont’d):

  • The Iranian government operates one of the most extensive online filtering systems in the world.
  • Iran’s religious foundation made this uprising seem against religion. The clerical regime was more organized than the opposition, and more effective in utilizing social media.
  • Many non-Iranians and Iranian Diaspora joined the struggle online (exogenous form of activism).
  • The absence of a strong domestic Iranian civil society that would lead to the formation of segmented, polycentric and integrated networks of political activism led to the failure of the 2009 protests.

Assessing the SPIN Model in the context of Egypt’s « Facebook Revolution »:

On January 25, 2011,Egyptwitnessed a popular revolution where millions of Egyptians took to the streets, demanding freedom, justice and an end to corruption

After the failure of state police forces to stop the demonstrations, President Hosni Mubarak deployed the army throughTahrir Squareand other areas of tension inEgypt.

The SPIN Model in Egypt (Cont’d) :

  • Social media, particularly Facebook, played a major role in the prelude to the revolution.
  • The social media role was suspended for a week on January 27. 2011 after the Egyptian regime’s unmatched step of shutting down the Internet service and cutting the mobile service in the whole country.
  • In 2004, the « Egyptian Movement for Change » (Known as Kifaya) was formed. It had a horizontal structure that invested in the talents of its members who belonged to different factions, yet, they were organically united in their call for an end to the Mubarak regime.
  • In 2008, « April 6 » movement was formed, including activists and bloggers belonging to different ideological schools.
  • During the revolution, the Coalition of the Youth Revolution (CYR) was formed. With approximately 50,000 members on its Facebook page, it served as a forum for discussion and an umbrella movement.

Concluding Remarks:

  • In the context of political realism, the SPIN model was more applicable to the Egyptian revolution than the Iranian uprising.
  • While the Iranian protesters were disorganized, they failed to attract large numbers of the society; the Egyptian segmented groups were able to integrated networks and act in unison despite their polycentric stature and the disparities in their ideologies.

Concluding Remarks (Cont’d):

  • The Egyptian revolution succeeded in toppling the regime despite the fact that the percentage of Internet users inEgyptis way less than that inIranand despite the fact that the Internet was suspended inEgyptfor more than a week.
  • The success or failure of political movements depends primarily on political activism in the real world, rather than cyberactivism in the virtual world.



 Israeli and Palestinian Youths Utilizing Facebook in Relationship Development: A Social Penetration Analysis- Dustin Domangue and Philip Auter, PhD.

Disputes Go to Facebook:

  • Third Palestinian Intifada:

–          Reaches 350,000 people

–          Facebook group called for mass demonstrations on May 15, 2011.

–          The Facebook group started as a peaceful demonstration, but eventually became emotional.

Facebook takes sides on issue:


  • Members of Israeli government asked Facebook to delete Facebook group.
  • Facebook ultimately deleted the page.
  • Facebook spokesperson Andre Noyes, interviewed by Fox News.

Conflict Resolutions Go to Facebook:

  • Israeli-Palestinian Forum (IPF).
  • Israeli-Palestine Mission Group.
  • Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

–          Statistics of 2007: A majority of both Israelis and Palestinians, according to a number of polls, prefer the two-state solution as means of resolving the conflict.

–          Considerable majority of the Jewish public sees the Palestinians demand for an independent state as just and thinksIsraelcan agree to the establishment of the state.


Relationship Development through Social Penetration:

  • Basis of relationship development is levels of self-disclosure that progress gradually from peripheral layers to central layers of the personality.
  • Social Penetration Theory assumes:

–          Penetration is orderly and gradual.

–          Advancement of Relationships depends on a cost-benefit analysis.

–          Self-disclosure.


  • « Culture is a learned system of meaning that fosters shared identity and community among its group members » -Ting Toomey.
  • Ting Toomey mentions challenges in intercultural and relationship development :

–          Friendships between individuals with perceived national differences

–          Friendships between individuals with perceived racial differences.


  • Self-disclosure is the process of revealing personal information about one self to another.
  • One of the most important factors in relationship development of intercultural relationships.
  • Self-disclosure means the same to all cultures.

–          self-disclosure patterns differ across cultures but the concept of self-disclosing is equivalent across cultures.

–          Collectivist vs individualistic cultures.

Facebook’s Impact on Social Penetration Theory:

  • Little work has been done on the impact of Computer Mediated Communication has on relationship development.
  • Usion FB as a model, the typical « getting to know you » phase that occurs has evolved through CMC.
  • The ideas of what is public and private has changed.
  • SPT theorizes it takes a lot of face-t-face communication to develop relationships. But, through FB the first three layers of the self are automatically removed.
  • FB has a risk free zone of meeting people and posting opinions because it eliminates fear of rejection.

And that’s where the current research leads us:

–          The existing research is ethnocentric, mostly focused on North Americans.

–          By testing the logic of theory and existing research, testing it in a new environment will prove if Social Penetration Theory as a perspective of relationship of relational development is a universally valid theory.

Because there are movements on Facebook, it becomes important to analyze the relationship development status and potential to predict future outcomes.


  • Use survey, that includes Jourard-Lasakow’s (1958) Self-Disclosure Questionnaire:

–          Survey will inquire about Facebook usage.

–          Survey will inquire about opinion of two-state solutions.



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