The Interactive Cultures research group are working in partnership with the US-based technology company Meedan on Developing Citizen Journalists in the Arab region, a two-year project funded by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) [v] and the Swedish International Development and Cooperation Agency (SIDA). The project, which builds on our existing SIDA-funded initiative in Egypt, will work with citizens in Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan, and with Syrian citizens in Lebanon, to help citizen journalists to be come trusted sources. This will contribute to strengthening democratic media in these places, so helping people to sort fact from rumour, make informed political choices, and hold their governments to account. Our work will empower citizens to use social media technology to collaboratively report and verify news stories, and fact-check political statements.

I will be leading the BCU team and we hope to make appointments for a new senior researcher in Citizen Journalism and Media for Social Change and research assistant to work with partners in Arab countries. The new project will benefit greatly from the success of the existing citizen journalism project we worked on in collaboration with Meedan, in which Noha Atef was a vital team member, supported by Paul Bradshaw, BCU Reader in Citizen Journalism.

It is a daunting challenge to work in countries undergoing major political and social change, and given the role of social media in the Arab Spring there is a real opportunity to share our expertise in online journalism and social media. The opportunity to work with such a progressive and innovative not-for-profit company as Meedan, and to work in the Arab region at this crucial time is a privilege. Our role will be to support the developing expertise of local citizen journalists and social media activists, and we will develop real and strong local partnerships to ensure this initiative is firmly in the hands of people from the region.

The Interactive Cultures research group has established significant expertise in citizen journalism, social media and media for social change. Projects in the research centre are making notable contributions to social change, and the school’s MA and PhD programmes recruit students from across the world to study in these areas of growing importance.

Meedan is a not-for-profit technology company, based in the USA, whose mission is to create better understanding between the peoples of the Arab Region and the West through dialogue online. The company take their name from the Arabic word for a ‘town square’ or ‘gathering place’, and its Meedan.net digital town square allows users to share conversation and links about world events with speakers outside your language community, as everything that is posted is mirrored in Arabic and English.

Birmingham Centre For Media And Cultural Research

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