Social Media and Social Movements in the Middle East and North Africa

On Friday April 1st, 2011 starting at 2:30pm, Media @ McGill invited the public to a free international event (keynote talk and panel discussion) regarding social media and social movements in the Middle East and North Africa.

An audio recording of this event is now available. You can download the MP3 audio file for playback, or alternatively, retrieve it from our iTunes channel as a podcast. 

The afternoon event  took place at Thomson House, 3650 McTavish, Montreal.

Annabelle Sreberny presented a keynote talk:

"Social Media and Social Movements: An exploration of the 'Green Movement' in Iran."

Abstract: The post-election growth of the 'Green Movement' in Iran seemed a total surprise to many commentators. But serious analysis of the interactions between face-to-face politics and the emergence of new communications technologies in Iran reveals a long history of the up-take of new media and the difficulties of enacting traditional politics. Steering between the extreme positions of both cyber-utopians and cyber-depressives, this talk seeks to explore and illustrate the polymedia environment of young Iranians and the dynamics of Green Movement communication.


Annabelle Sreberny is Professor of Global Media and Communications and Director of the Centre for Media and Film Studies at SOAS, University of London, where she also chairs the new Centre for Iranian Studies. She is currently President of IAMCR. Her new book coauthored with Gholam Khiabany, Blogistan: The Internet and Politics in Iran, was just published (2010) by IBTauris.

The event continues with a panel discussion at 3:30 pm. Invited experts will explore relationships between social movements and social media in the ongoing major upheavals rocking the Middle-East and North Africa.


Aziz Salmone Fall
Title: When the digital revolution and the popular revolution become one

Abstract:During recent weeks, the doddering and repressive autocrats of the Magreb and the Arab world have been experiencing a revolutionary groundswell, of which only the spume is visible. Social media have played a leading role in this groundswell, rather than simply relaying or reacting to Bouzizi’s self-sacrifice. Cutting-edge communication serving social interaction to bring about regime change seems to have taken precedence over other forms of political-social organization, whose sacrifices are wrongly forgotten, sacrifices made in the name of co-optations and surrender of principle that do not entirely characterize it. Before the versatility and ubiquity of ever-diverse social media (Internet forums, Twitter, blogs, etc.), social change is being organized above all by youth.

How have women, such as the cyberactivist Lina Ben Mheni, been able to defy censorship? How were Slim404 or azyz405 able to permeate the Web, to the point where one of them became the respectable Minister Amamou of the Tunisian transitional government? Who monitors the principal trends of this nebulous intelligence collective that is outclassing mass media and political parties, and is terrifying States so much? How are the world order’s incumbents trying to deflect the historic trajectories of struggle in their favour? What is the true role, direct or indirect, of governments and networks bound, objectively or not, in these ongoing transformations? What can we say of these establishments that are considered (and which themselves claim) to be the source of these forms of victorious resistance amplified by social media? How do lurking citizens, whether taking in and passing on news or resolutely implicating themselves in the real or virtual world, call forth a new order or perpetuate the current one emerging under renewed forms? The varied answers to these issues are challenges for all social groups of our era.

Biography: Aziz is a political scientist who has taught international relations at McGill University and UQAM. He was the former coordinator of the Quebec network against apartheid, and is coordinating the international campaign against immunity for the Groupe de recherche et d’initiative pour la libération de l’Afrique, which has supported the progressive opposition in North Africa for the last 20 years.

Fadi Hammoud

Abstract: Many columnists across the world have glorified the role of social media in the recent rebellions in the Arab world. Some have even gone so far as to describe them as Facebook rebellions. But what was the true role of social media? Were they a means of communication, a means of mobilization, or an instigator of rebellion? What is the real difference between these new media and traditional media? What, therefore, are the limits of the role of these media?

Biography: I am an independent journalist who has been living in Montreal since 2003. Since 1982, I have been a journalist in Lebanon (dailies, weeklies and television). I have written in Arab, English and French on most of the countries and conflicts in the Middle East (Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, Iran, Sudan, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain, etc.). I have also been invited to conferences at Université Laval, Université de Montréal, UQAM, UQAC and University of Ottawa, and I have been given interviews to RDI, CBC, CTV, TVA, and LCN, among others.

Marc Raboy (moderator), Beaverbrook Chair in Ethics, Media and Communications.


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