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[liberationtech] Call for paper on Social Media and Social Mobilizations: Mediating Revolution and Resistance in the Arab World (Palermo, 8-10 September 2011)

Yosem Companys companys at
Fri May 20 10:47:22 PDT 2011

Italian Political Science Society / Società Italiana di Scienza Politica

Congress 2011 - Palermo, 8-10 September

Panel on

*Social Media and Social Mobilizations:*

*Mediating Revolution and Resistance in the Arab World*

Jointly organized by

*Political Participation and Social Movements Section*

(Dr. Lorenzo Mosca, University of Rome 3)


*Political Communication Section*

(Working group on International Communication:

Dr. Claudia Padovani, University of Padova)

*Call for paper*

The Arab world has experienced in the past months an awakening of free
expression that is helping breaking down the stranglehold of state power and
state-sponsored media and information monopolies in several countries. After
Tunisia and Egypt, from Morocco to Bahrain, the Arab world is now witnessing
increasing citizens’ engagement in the streets and on the internet. Social
networks contribute to inform, coordinate, organize, mobilize, create
communities; they also increase transparency, and seek to hold governments
accountable as web sites, blogs, online videos, and other digital platforms
can quickly become tools for freedom of association, and access to

This situation is transforming observers’ and people’s perception of social
networks and their potential in fostering political action, particularly in
undemocratic regimes; it is also questioning state capacity to control,
censor and impose its logic and order on the population; finally it opens
the space to reconsider how journalistic practices, both nationally and in
the global context, are being transformed by variety of modes, channels and
voices that can be heard and listened to.

Government authorities in the region also have waged widespread crackdowns
on bloggers, journalists and civic actors. Hundreds of activists, writers,
and journalists have faced repercussions because of their online activities.
Governments’ reactions to social media have given rise to a never-ending
battle in the blogosphere as any means is used to bypass government
firewalls only to have those efforts meet further government blocking. The
tension between civic use of small media and government counter-activities
still remains to be fully investigated.

Furthermore, though the days of government-sponsored or politically allied
newspapers holding monopoly have been eclipsed by the advent and adoption of
social media, the growing availability of the technologies and the
increasing desire to communicate are faced with quite diverse situations
from country to country in terms of internet penetration and access
throughout the region (ranging from 2% Yemen and 6% Lybia to 21-34% Egypt
and Tunisia and 88% Bahrein). The numbers invite to more articulated
reflection on the diversity of media available, and the diversity of use
which reflects different social and economic contexts. Different levels of
access and use of social media probably entails the presence of “brokers”
and “opinion leaders” (i.e. hackers and bloggers) which diffuse ideas and
innovations within the overall population. National contexts matter in
explaining different dynamics of social media adoption and social
mobilizations. Both single case-studies as well as comparative research can
provide insights to illuminate such issues. In an always more “global” and
integrated communication system, national and international interplays
determine peculiar public sphere configurations and dynamics of opinion. The
transnational dimension as well as national-international interplay should
then be addressed in order to understand what is their role in giving
visibility, sustaining and providing resources to domestic mobilizations.

Moreover, in understanding social transformation and revolutionary
movements, the mix of face-to-face interaction and use of contemporary media
- social networks, mobile telephony, email – should be given adequate
attention; thus online and offline realms have to be addressed and
considered as the two faces of the same coin. A tendency to technologist
reductionism is a limit to understanding: only by fully acknowledging the
interplay of socio-cultural elements with mediating tools, and by looking at
the several resources that contribute to construct political action -
cognitive definition of aims and objectives, active relation between the
subjects, emotional involvement and redefinition of symbolic systems
(Melucci 1996) – we can begin to understand social change and the ways in
which it is being shaped in any specific context.

Finally, political transformations depend on social actors’ capacity to
foster, confront and resist change (Lukes 2007). This implies a redefinition
of the notion of power in society, inviting multi-dimensional approaches
towards a better understanding of the visible, hidden and invisible faces of
power, while acknowledging the relevance of soft as well as ‘smart power’
(Nye 2011): the combination of hard and soft power sources that are being
played out in revolutionary contexts.

In order to address these many issues, paper proposals are invited --through
focusing on single case-studies or by comparing different countries-- to
address aspects such as:

§ Social appropriation of digital media: either limited to an elite of
“opinion leaders” or widespread among the overall population.

§  Strategies of *mediated mobilization*: small media as fulfilling
different functions in mobilization processes

§  Empowering citizens through *online/offline interaction*: the interplay
between social and mediated exchanges

§  What media for what message? Articulating discourses through different* *

§  Big media and small voices: *mainstream media* making use of peoples’

§  Role of Western media and interplay between domestic and international
communication in the making of revolutionary processes

§  Making voices heard: transforming *journalism* through citizens’ practice

§  Overcoming *censorship*: adapting technologies for freedom and countering
state control

§  Communicative, network and smart *power*: insights from empirical

Proposals (either in Italian or English) should be sent, by June 15, to:

Lorenzo Mosca – lorenzo.mosca at

Claudia Padovani – claupad67 at

Acceptance will be communicated by July 10.

Lorenzo Mosca
University of Roma Tre
Department of Communication and Entertainment
Via Ostiense n. 139 - 00154 Roma
Tel. ufficio: 06 5733 4051
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