Can Revolutionary Media Be Made Online?

Can Revolutionary Media Be Made Online?

Noha Atef (Independent Researcher, Egypt)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0377-5.ch012

Abstract

This chapter presents Mosireen, a non-profit media collective and an alternative media outlet founded by a group of activists, writers, journalists, and filmmakers in the midst of a political change in Egypt. This group developed a special interpretation of the concept of “revolutionary media,” and for more than two years have been executing their ideas on the ground. Thus, Mosireen is a case to study the instrumentalization of the Internet in political activism, and the revolutionalization of the use of digital and social media at the time of struggle against the regime.
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Introduction

The 2011 uprising against the former Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, furthered the use of the Internet in activism enormously. After Mubarak stepped down in February 2011, Egyptians relied on online news resources as a strong predictor of credibility, while traditional media did not provide the same assurance (Hamdy 2013). Therefore, the number of Internet users in Egypt reached 32.62 million in June 2012. The increase continued the following year. In January 2013, the number of Internet users in Egypt grew to 38.75 million (Ministry of Communication & Information, 2013).

Organically, a convergence between the employment of the Internet in the political struggle and the practices of citizen journalism in reporting and documenting events was taking place. Political activists such as journalists, creative writers and artists translated their engagement in the protests into content. Social media became a tool for civic engagement. Users of social network sites primarily used their accounts for documentation purposes (Willson & Dunn 2011). Numerous documentation projects were run by citizen journalists, such as Thawaret 25 Yanaer (egyptrev.net), a website run by volunteers who collected digital materials covering the 18 days of protests in January 11 to make them available in one place, and Wiki Thawra (wikithawra.wordpress.com), a project to document all the incidents from 2011 onward.

This chapter presents Mosireen, a non-profit media collective and an alternative media outlet founded by a group of activists, writers, journalists and filmmakers in the midst of political change in Egypt. This group developed a special interpretation of the concept of ‘revolutionary media’, and for more than two years have been executing their ideas on the ground. Thus, Mosireen is a case to study the instrumentalisation of the Internet in political activism, and the revolutionalisation of the use of digital and social media at the time of struggle against the regime.

The data for this chapter was collected in 2013 and 2019 through participant observation and in-depth interviews. The researcher used observation as a method of data collection in Mosireen, the group knew who she was, what she was researching and why she wanted to observe their work. The observation lasted for almost six weeks at Mosireen (5th April - 14th June, 2013). Although this time sounds short, it was actually enough to meet most of the members and observe their work. On average, the researcher spent eight hours a week in their office. Her main work task was writing descriptions for the videos produced by Mosireen, as well as carrying out research, a short film treatment and scripting new videos.

A common problem for the researcher is the conception that an individual’s behaviour may change if they know they are being studied – what is known as the “observer effect”, “researcher effect”, “reactivity” or the “Hawthorne effect”. To a great extent, I did not feel an observer effect in Mosireen, because staged behaviour is a tactic used to appear as an ideal person or entity, while ideality involves meeting the highest standards. In the case of Mosireen, it was not presented by its members as an ideal media outlet, or as a collective meeting the highest standards in the media industry; on the contrary, Mosireen is an alternative form of media, where standards of excellence do not exist. The researcher was not able to repeat the use of this research method in 2019, as the Mosireen premises were shut down in 2014.

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