Title

Reliable Sources: Oral Cultures, Cultural Mediations, and Communication Spheres in Lebanon

Document Type

Proceeding

Presentation Date

5-22-2014

Conference Name

International Communication Association

Conference Location

Seattle, WA

Abstract

Much celebration centered on the role of new media in the recent Arab uprisings. Many referred to these uprisings as “Twitter Revolutions” and “Facebook Rebellions” (Cox, 2011; Schillinger, 2011; Rinnawi, 2012; Stepanova, 2011, Wadha, 2012, Zuckerman, 2011). Arguably, new media platforms were instrumental communication tools for rebels. However, the focus on media technologies undermines the social and cultural factors that are critical in the communication process during times of turmoil. From a cultural standpoint, the Arab world has maintained its oral traditions (Amin, 2001; Zaharna, 1995). Taking Lebanon as an example, this study utilizes an ethnographic approach to investigate how people integrate media platforms and oral communication to obtain information and news vital to their wellbeing. It focuses particularly on how the Lebanese have exchanged information in light of the Syrian civil war and its spillover to neighboring Lebanon. While broadcast media have provided useful information, the study finds that citizens rely on ‘communication spheres’ – personal connections and day-to-day hearsay for news critical to their livelihood. Television, print, and radio news proved insufficient. These media had either downplayed events to placate the public’s fears or reported news tainted by the various political agendas. Indeed, Arab media scholars have noted that television in Lebanon follows sectarian and political divisions: each of the major political factions owns a broadcast medium (Chochrane, 2007; Hafez, 2001; Kraidy, 2000). Thus, social connections help in corroborating, refuting, or complementing traditional news and social media.

Keywords

Social media, Arab uprisings, Lebanon, oral communication

Disciplines

Communication Technology and New Media | International and Intercultural Communication | Other Film and Media Studies | Social Media

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