It all started with a tweet.
Chris Martin was on TweetDeck as part of her daily news ritual when she saw an idea on Twitter that became seminal for her.
“In Yemen, the people no longer believe lies and rhetoric. Fear left weeks ago.”
It was posted by a young woman, who said she was reporting on the ground in Yemen, during the pro-democracy movement of 2011. To Martin, vice president for University Relations at West Virginia University, that thought embodied the spirit of the Arab Spring uprisings, using the very medium that galvanized the people who risked their lives and freedom for a chance at participatory government.
“It stopped my heart,” Martin said. “One small, courageous voice expressed such a huge idea across the unbridled space of the Internet. I realized that if I was reading that tweet, the whole world was watching.”
What become known as the “Arab Spring” last year, and still continues into another spring, launched multiple revolutions and gave voice to millions. And these voices were connected and amplified through the Internet’s social networks.
In many ways, this phenomenon parallels the aftermath of the creation of the printing press in 1440, when the world’s interaction with information became unboundaried, immediate and individualized, Martin says.
“Social media, in many cases, has given silenced people a voice, and an opportunity to speak directly to the world,” she said.
Aggregating social and traditional media reports from the many burgeoning revolutions across the Middle East and the Arab world became a mission for Andy Carvin, a National Public Radio strategist, who curated social media sources from the Middle East and opened the world’s eyes to what was happening there.
Carvin will head a panel of journalists, documentarians, social activists and bloggers, who will discuss social media’s pivotal role in transitioning free speech to the Middle East.
The WVU Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism’s Ogden Newspapers Seminar Series is presenting The Revolution will be Tweeted: Social Media and Free Speech in the Middle East, a moderated panel discussion to include international bloggers, activists and entrepreneurs as part of the David C. Hardesty Jr. Festival of Ideas. The panel, which will be webcast, will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 3, in the Mountainlair Ballrooms, Morgantown.
Journalism School Dean Maryanne Reed will moderate the discussion.
- Andy Carvin, senior strategist for NPR’s social media desk. When a revolution began to spread across the Arab world in the spring of 2011, Carvin gathered, vetted and tweeted the breaking news in real time – from his computer in Washington, D.C. Called the “go-to curator” on Twitter, Carvin has more than 60,000 followers. He is the former director of the Digital Divide Network.
- Issandr El Amrani, Cairo-based writer, blogger and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and many other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blogs in the region, The Arabist.
- Jigar Mehta, digital entrepreneur, video journalist and documentary filmmaker. He co-created the crowd-sourced website documentary “18 Days in Egypt,” a collection of stories from revolutionaries across Egypt. Mehta is also the president of the South Asian Journalist Association and co-founder of GroupStream, an online collaborative storytelling platform.
- Nasser Weddady,* civil rights outreach director at the American Islamic Congress. As one of the few activists working in both the Middle East North Africa region and the United States, Weddady has developed a unique perspective on the global struggle for human and civil rights. He has been published in the International Herald Tribune, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe and Baltimore Sun; appeared on Hannity & Colmes, BBC World Service, Al Jazeera and Radio Liberty; and testified to Congress’ Human Rights Caucus.
- Jillian York, director of international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She writes regularly about free expression, politics and the Internet, with particular focus on the Arab world. York is on the board of directors of Global Voices Online and has written for a variety of publications, including Al Jazeera, Al Akhbar, The Guardian, Foreign Policy and Bloomberg.
In keeping with the night’s topic of social media’s communication strengths, WVU will tweet throughout the panel discussion. On Twitter, follow @WVUToday using the hashtag ”#WVUIdeas” the night of the panel to be part of the discussion.
The panel will reconvene in Charleston the next evening for the annual Festival of Ideas event there, co-sponsored by The Charleston Gazette. It will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the state Culture Center.
Admission at both events is free and open to the public.
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