The course of the past semester has been an incredible time to be studying the Middle East, and in particular the influence of media on the region. The Arab Spring brought a major focus to the boom of new media in the region, and the Arab world has changed in major ways in large part as a result of the growing culture of Arab media. Growth in the social media world since the overthrow of the governments of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and the civil war in Syria has forever changed the culture of revolutionary spirit worldwide, and will likely continue to have a major influence. Similarly, the effects of growing internet access in the region and access worldwide to Arab news sources such as al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya have helped the outside world gain a new window into the perspectives of Arabs, as well as a greater understanding of the region than can be provided by longer-standing news sources with preexisting biases.
This class has helped me gain a much more in-depth understanding of Arab media and its effects on politics, and vice versa. The use of this blog to post content that may have been overlooked and discuss its significance has been a great opportunity, and has helped enrich the experience of the class. Reading classmates’ blogs has proven enlightening, and also provided a perspective of what others see as significant in the region, helping bring my attention to different perspectives and ways of looking at events and trends that I likely wouldn’t have noticed before. The truth is that as civil society reshapes itself in the Arab world, it seems the tail will wag the dog for a while, despite the government’s best efforts to crack down on media outlets that prove contrary to its interests (Egypt, anyone?).
Generally speaking, the focus among blogs has definitely covered a wide range of topics, though obviously the Syrian civil war has been a major point. However, the range of issues discussed has really been interesting and never became boring. The media brought in proved at times funny, sad, and truly shocking, and humanizes what could otherwise have seemed dry analysis. The resources that we pulled from showed a truly diverse offering of authors, perspectives, and subjects, and kept things from becoming too stagnant. One challenge at times was keeping an analysis of a blog from being colored by the opinion of the original author, but working to overcome this proved effective and helped strengthen analysis. On the whole, the class itself was definitely memorable and if I had to do it again, I would.