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⠂ Planetary Collegium (Centre for Advanced Inquiry into Integrative Arts) ⠂ University of Plymouth, Faculty of the Arts

Thousands of emails reportedly leaked from the private accounts of Bashar al-Assad and his wife, Asma, show the Syrian president took advice from Iran on how to handle the uprising against his rule and bypassed US sanctions to shop on iTunes, the UK Guardian newspaper has reported.

The London-based newspaper reported on Wednesday that it received 3,000 emails from “a source in the Syrian opposition” who intercepted them between last June and February.

There was no immediate response from Damascus.

17 April 2009 THE impact of the digital revolution is unmistakable. Emails have replaced letters and memos; IP telephony and instant messaging have replaced telephone calls; audio and video content are now “broadcast” online on channels like YouTube, and friendships are maintained and built over social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook. With many of life’s tasks now taking place within the digital realm, a complex amalgamate of our thoughts, emotions, connections, photographs and other personal details are captured
 in cyberspace. A looming challenge is to track and make sense of the growing volume of the data, as the world experiences major social, technological and cultural developments, according to Lev Manovich, professor of visual arts at the University of California, San Diego. “The developments are already happening in business, digital media and government agencies,” he said at the Internal Symposium of Electronic Art, a conference recently co-presented by the Singapore Management University and the La Salle College of the Arts. Not only do we now have to handle the explosion in the volume of data, there is a significant shift in the way that we approach and use data. For one, we are now living in what Manovich describes as a data mining society. Information is gathered at a fanatical pace by all kinds of users, ranging from number-crunching financial institutions, to government agencies engaged in anti-terrorism. Other businesses and organisations, large and small, are also active collectors of data of all kinds. At the same time, there has been significant growth from the “supply” side too, with various content providers adding to the trove of data already out in the digital realm. Within the past decade, there has been a “massive digitisation of existing cultural assets”. For instance, the Google books project digitises some 3000 books per day; the BBC Motion Gallery has hundreds of hours of videos; and websites such as Artstor.com feature digital images of art and architecture. Clearly, growth is coming not just from quantifiable data, like figures and statistics. “For the first time in human history, there is an unprecedented amount of cultural content available in digital form, so culture is going to become another (type of) data and hence would be data mined,” he said. “Our ability to capture, store and analyse data is increasing exponentially, and this growth has already affected many areas of science, media industries, and the patterns of cultural consumption. Think, for instance, of how search has become the interface to global culture, while at the same time recommendation systems have emerged to help consumers navigate the ever-increasing range of products,” wrote Manovich in an earlier paper. But despite technological advancements, Manovich calls the approach and access to such data “archaic” and full of “19th century metaphors”, such as photo albums, grids and timelines. Nevertheless, he believes “a systematic use of large-scale computational analysis and interactive visualisation of cultural patterns will become a major trend in cultural criticism and culture industries in the coming decades.”

Review for BBC Trust will look at reporting of events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria and Yemen

The impartiality of the BBC's coverage of the Arab spring is to be examined by the former UN director of communications, Edward Mortimer, in an independent review for the BBC Trust.

The trust’s review will look at the BBC’s coverage of events in Tunisia and will then focus in particular on reporting of events in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria and Yemen.

Pro-democracy rebellions erupted across north Africa and the Middle East after a young Tunisian man set fire to himself in December 2010.

All coverage on BBC national TV and radio, online and from its World News operation will be examined and a report will be published in the autumn of 2012.

The review will be led by Mortimer, who is senior vice-president of the Salzburg Global Seminar and a Middle East affairs expert.

It will be the fourth examination of the corporation’s impartiality. Previously the trust has looked at BBC business coverage, its news and current affairs reporting of the four UK nations and the “impartiality and accuracy” of its science coverage.

Alison Hastings, BBC trustee and chair of the trust’s editorial standards committee, said: “The events that came to be known as the Arab spring were extremely fast-moving and complex. That makes it a difficult story to cover.

"The challenge for the BBC, as with all controversial areas, is to ensure that it maintains the high standards of impartiality and accuracy that audiences expect, both in the UK and around the world, where many rely on the BBC’s international news services."

BBC coverage of the region is a delicate subject, as its Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen has previously highlighted.

In 2010 he attacked a BBC Trust ruling that found him guilty of inaccuracies in a report about Israel, saying: “As Middle East editor for the BBC, I’m under pressure from lobbyists. I am recognised by my peers as also being able to stick to my guns.”

He said he was attacked from all sides relentlessly, adding, “the BBC Trust, wrongly in my view, found me guilty of some inaccuracies, because of [complaints from] a campaign group in the USA, and in this country, who are the enemies of impartiality. They got through to the BBC Trust. I was found guilty.”

CNN Dialogues: Perspectives on the ‘Arab Spring’ and What Comes Next

February 09 Forum to be moderated by CNN International Anchor Hala Gorani at Atlanta’s Emory University

The political uprisings ignited in 2010 and 2011 in North Africa and the Middle East, labeled the ‘Arab Spring,’ have altered history and upended the balance of power in the region.  The uncertainty and struggles that continue to unfold are the focus of “The ‘Arab Spring’: A Path to Democracy?,” a CNN Dialogues event that will be held at the Glenn Memorial Auditorium (1652 North Decatur Road) at Emory University in Atlanta on Thursday, Feb. 09 at 7:00pm ET.

CNN International anchor Hala Gorani will moderate a dynamic evening forum, exploring issues of democracy, women’s rights, the role of Islamists, and the role of social media in the uprisings from Tunisia to Egypt to Bahrain to Yemen with scholars, journalists, and activists.  Gorani is based in Atlanta, but has reported from every country in the Middle East and North Africa, including Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.  She spent much of 2011 covering the tumultuous political uprisings in the region, particularly the Egyptian revolution.

The panelists for this discussion are:

Lamees Dharif is an award-winning journalist and activist who has been active in the Bahraini resistance campaign.  She has been banned from writing by the Bahraini government since the beginning of the democracy movement there;

Nic Robertson is a senior international correspondent, based in CNN’s London bureau.  Robertson has been with the network for twenty years and covered every major global news event since that time, including war and conflict.  Robertson has continued to provide key coverage for  events associated with the ‘Arab Spring,’ including reporting on the democracy demonstrations and conflict in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and Tunisia.

Ahed Al Hendi is a founder of the Syrian Youth for Justice and has worked as a journalist for publications including The Wall Street JournalForeign Affairs, andThe Daily Beast.  He lives inthe United States.

Carrie Rosefsky Wickham is an associate professor of political science at Emory University, specializing in political opposition movements and political integration in the Arab World.  She is the author of Mobilizing Islam: Religion, Activism and Political Change in Egypt: 1st Edition (2002).

Dalia Ziada is director of the Egypt office of the American Islamic Congress which focuses on building interfaith and intercultural understanding.  She is a published poet and active in pro-democracy politics.

This is the first CNN Dialogues event of 2012.  Admission for this program is free, but pre-registration is required by visiting CNNDialogues.com, or by calling the James Weldon Johnson Institute for Race and Difference at 404.727.2515, or the National Center for Civil and Human Rights at 404.991.6988.

About CNN Dialogues

CNN Dialogues represents a partnership between CNN, Emory University’s James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study for Race and Difference and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights for a series of community discussions on major topics shaping our times, led by leading thinkers of the day.  The planning committee for CNN Dialogues includes writer Pearl Cleage, Morehouse College President Robert Franklin, president and trustee of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Penelope McPhee, vice president for communications and marketing for Emory University Ron Sauder, executive vice president and director of programming for Atlanta’s World Affairs Council Cedric Suzman,president and CEO of the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Tisha Tallman, and Eric Tanenblatt of the Atlanta-based law firm of McKenna, Long, and Aldrich.

Syrian Conflict Poses the Risk of Wider Strife

image

Members of the opposition Free Syrian Army relaxed at a makeshift checkpoint last week in Kafar Taharim, in northern Syria.

By STEVEN ERLANGER Published: February 25, 2012 PARIS — More than a year after it began, the Arab awakening has had its seasons. After a world-shaking spring, then on through summer, autumn and winter, one country after another — Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen — has toppled autocrats, with varying amounts of blood. Some governments have stamped out revolts, like Bahrain. Others have tried modest reforms, like Morocco, or idled on the sidelines (think Algeria and Saudi Arabia).
Women and the Arab uprisings: 8 ‘agents of change’ to follow
By Lauren Bohn, Special to CNN
(CNN) — Women have been at the forefront of the uprisings that started in Tunisia and soon cascaded west to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and across the Gulf. Over the past year, Arab women have relished the promise of a change — and found a new sense of equality long suppressed under sclerotic patriarchal regimes.
But many women activists fear that promise is now receding; and that women’s rights are being left on the political back-burner. In Egypt’s first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections — largely seen as the nation’s first free and fair vote — only nine of the newly elected 498 parliamentarians are women.
Popular Egyptian activist blogger Dalia Zaida says shortly before the elections, she conducted an informal poll of 1,400 voters across Cairo and found not a single person, male or female, who said he or she would vote for a female presidential candidate. Women across the region worry about this growing chasm between the reality of women’s unyielding participation on the streets and their stark absence from the formal political process.
Some secular female activists also fear that the rise of Islamist parties, whatever their professed moderation, will curtail their political space.
In Egypt, women have faced brutal treatment at the hands of the caretakers of the revolution — the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Activists describe its handling of protests as incompetent at best, and malevolent at its worst. Back in March, when the military forcibly expelled protestors from Tahrir Square — the epicenter of pro-democracy protests — 18 female activists were arrested, 17 of whom say they were forced to undergo "virginity tests," (the military has claimed the tests were done to protect the army from possible allegations of rape).
Recently, hundreds of women from across the Middle East attended a conference in Egypt to discuss how technology and the Internet, namely social media, can be used to protect and advance women’s goals in the region. The Egyptian-American pundit Mona Eltahaway moderated the conference, taking the stage with both arms in casts. In November, she was sexually assaulted and beaten by soldiers near Tahrir Square. The plaster didn’t preclude her from articulating her message: “The most revolutionary thing a woman can do is share her experience as if it matters.”
As countries across the region struggle to dismantle inequitable systems and build civil society anew, these are just a few of the female “agents of change” who are sharing their experiences and have no intention of backing down.
Women and the Arab uprisings: 8 ‘agents of change’ to follow

By Lauren Bohn, Special to CNN

(CNN) — Women have been at the forefront of the uprisings that started in Tunisia and soon cascaded west to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and across the Gulf. Over the past year, Arab women have relished the promise of a change — and found a new sense of equality long suppressed under sclerotic patriarchal regimes.

But many women activists fear that promise is now receding; and that women’s rights are being left on the political back-burner. In Egypt’s first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections — largely seen as the nation’s first free and fair vote — only nine of the newly elected 498 parliamentarians are women.

Popular Egyptian activist blogger Dalia Zaida says shortly before the elections, she conducted an informal poll of 1,400 voters across Cairo and found not a single person, male or female, who said he or she would vote for a female presidential candidate. Women across the region worry about this growing chasm between the reality of women’s unyielding participation on the streets and their stark absence from the formal political process.

Some secular female activists also fear that the rise of Islamist parties, whatever their professed moderation, will curtail their political space.

In Egypt, women have faced brutal treatment at the hands of the caretakers of the revolution — the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Activists describe its handling of protests as incompetent at best, and malevolent at its worst. Back in March, when the military forcibly expelled protestors from Tahrir Square — the epicenter of pro-democracy protests — 18 female activists were arrested, 17 of whom say they were forced to undergo "virginity tests," (the military has claimed the tests were done to protect the army from possible allegations of rape).

Recently, hundreds of women from across the Middle East attended a conference in Egypt to discuss how technology and the Internet, namely social media, can be used to protect and advance women’s goals in the region. The Egyptian-American pundit Mona Eltahaway moderated the conference, taking the stage with both arms in casts. In November, she was sexually assaulted and beaten by soldiers near Tahrir Square. The plaster didn’t preclude her from articulating her message: “The most revolutionary thing a woman can do is share her experience as if it matters.”

As countries across the region struggle to dismantle inequitable systems and build civil society anew, these are just a few of the female “agents of change” who are sharing their experiences and have no intention of backing down.

UN debate

Russia has made clear it would veto any UN resolution it finds unacceptable, and block any statement paving the way for foreign military intervention.

The draft, put forward by Morocco, the only Arab member of the council, has been under debate for days. It does not call for Assad to step down, as proposed in the Arab League plan.

Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani said on Thursday that the Arab League will not accept any further concessions.

"The version which we have is the minimal which we can accept," he told Al Jazeera. He said that if Russia did not support the current version, it should use its veto. 

Vitaly Churkin, the Russian ambassador to the UN, told Al Jazeera that he was not asking for any more changes to the draft, but declined to answer a question on whether Moscow would veto the resolution.

Al Jazeera’s Cath Turner, reporting from the UN headquarters in New York, said it seemed that the council had seceded to Russia’s requests.

"Russia has been able to include the phrase “without foreign military intervention”, she said. 

"They have taken out paragraphs which said that the Security Council supports transfer of power from President Assad to his deputy, the forming of a unity government, and free and fair elections."

“At last we feel that we can freely publish our papers, that there will be no censorship, we won’t be told from upstairs to, for examply, reprimand a journalist for his independence or to write a paid-for story,” said Oulfa Benhassine of La Presse.

The Dar Assabah press association was founded by journalists in 1951 and its members have differing views.

“Now readers want to see their own problems exposed in the Tunisian media. Each day we are witnessing new positive things brought by this revolution,” said independent media critic Khémaïss Khayati.

However, freelance journalist and blogger Thameur Mekki maintains there are huge problems.

“This great wave of freedom isn’t yet followed by a rise in professionalism, impartiality, or objectivity, so the media are still torn between different influences, and different political factions,” he said.

Our correspondent in Tunisia, Adel Dellal said:

“Tunisia’s revolutionary media is not about to let new government supervisors take them back to the bad old days. La Presse has done more than just criticise the nominations, and most feel the idea could undermine press freedoms.

No-one in the business wants any sort of external control, even if the ruling Ennahda party says media management is within its powers.”

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