[-empyre-] Welcome to April on -empyre: Digital Media and the Interstices of Identity.

Dalia Othman dalia.b.othman at gmail.com
Wed Apr 8 14:00:52 AEST 2015

Thank you Derek for the fasiniating insight into your research. It is
fascinating to see how distinct users attempt to build a sense of community
online, especially within the context of the 'public' vs 'private' identity
reflected online.
Looking through the different blogging communities that emerged in the Arab
world in recent years, I came across a
a number of blogs (predominantly owned by women) focused on personal
diaries and details about their personal relationships. The concept of
having an online public persona that alludes to one's relationship is
unique especially in the context of the Arab world where relationships are
viewed as a private matter.
This is a new concept I am just starting to explore prompted by Derek's
findings on self-representation by women of color!

Now when it comes to online political activism, it is as you indicated
Derek, "*Online forms of self-imaging is a representational tool commonly
utiliized by millenials as a part of their activisim - and we see this type
of visualization across the boundaries of cultures and identities*"
In the case of the Arab world, the research found a decline in blogging as
a whole, however many bloggers maintained their sites without actively
blogging and as events unfolded across the region, these bloggers added
banners and images that signaled their political identity. In Egypt, the
research showed many bloggers and individuals on Twitter signal their
politics by adding the *Raba'a* sign on to their profile pictures. The
image of four fingers raised in front of a yellow background, linked the
supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood across the globe. These images became
significant in bridging this community online, it is also an indication of
the shift from being anonymous towards a more public political identity.
(Something I had expressed in my last email) Again linking it to the public
vs private identites, there has definitely been a shift in the online
public sphere and in how individuals are choosing to publicize their
political ideologies at a time when it was previously uncommon.

One final point I would like to highlight is linked to the blogosphere and
minority groups. One finding has shown a decline (almost disappearance) of
blogs linked to LGBT groups from 2009 to present. However, the region has
also witnessed a surge of platforms that cater to these communities. These
platforms offer the sense of a 'safe and private' space for individuals to
belong to a community. Regardless of how I feel about the concept of online
privacy these platforms have allowed for a shift in the dynnamics between
the private and public online self-expression. While the political trend
has shifted towards a more general public expression, some minority groups
have chosen a different form of self-representation online. I would be
curious to see how that dynamic continues to develop in the Arab World in
relation to the new technologies and platforms that are emerging.

It was wonderful to be part of this conversation and thank you again
Soraya, Derek and Laila for the interesting insights and questions!

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