Friday, June 27, 2014

Access To Knowledge For Development Workshop: The Networked Public Sphere and Civic Engagement, Reflections on Egypt and Tunisia

By: Heba Alam El-Din, Refan AbdelNabi, Sarah Abaza and Toleen Mohammad AlJobeh

The link to A2K4D Workshop slideshow on Picasa album.

Access to Knowledge for Development (A2K4D) held its fourth annual workshop on Monday, June 16, 2014 and began its second session at 11 a.m. The session expanded on developing a better understanding of the role of public network sphere. The speakers: Rob Faris, Jazem Halioui, Fares Mabrouk, and Lina Attalah elaborated on how different activities are taking place in research.

We’re considered to be in the era of mobilization and social networking. Mobilizing over a cause raises the question of “whether the cause is a progressive or a regressive cause, so you can mobilize to support, for example, a regressive legislation.” Said Attalah, chief editor at Mada Masr.

For example, you can rally for a leader to use violence against citizens, which is a negative utilization. Progressive mobilization aims to things such as a regime change.

Mabrouk, from the Arab Policy Institute in Tunisia, emphasized on the reasons why people mobilize and a large-scale example is the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions. So mobilization is an act that doesn’t have a value judgment in and of itself. The cause is what matches what you’re mobilizing over. Mabrouk also highlighted that we need to understand how collective actions are organized online and offline.

The government and other forms of authority are naturally intimidated by the power social media has given the people. This is where civic engagement comes into life.

The people form a community that is capable of discussing and collaborating to create needed social change to improve. These powerful institutes have trouble infusing their strength on online spaces because they tend to support citizens.

The way Internet and mobility are approached has improved because of sociology, “which relates to how the mobility in the Egyptian society, you can find many things but (not) up-to-date in globalization.” Said Dr. Nouran Fouad Ahmed, director of copyrights office in relation with the Ministry of Culture in Egypt.

If the authorities managed to control these spaces eventually, it is by trying to crack the system as it exists. States now are using Facebook to, somehow, control their citizens, which is a regression.

Creating a Facebook page for a certain cause, people who see the posts or comments on a group tend to take these insights in as their own opinions, then others start mimicking them.

There is a responsibility, both as a mobilizer and as a journalist, to distinguish between narrative and fact. “The questions is: how to transform this information into a narrative that is supportive to your cause. This is when, not necessarily the issue is opinionating, the issue is rather, how you become convincing through turning information into narrative so it is a different story.” Attalah explained.

This slideshow is composed of the live-tweets that were tweeted live during the session.

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