American Univesity of Beirut

Media Infrastructures in the Middle East conference tackles burning issues

Media scholars and specialists from around the world were in Beirut recently to participate in a three-day conference on media infrastructures and their impact on social, economic, and political challenges and changes in the region.

Held at the American University of Beirut and organized by the Media Studies Program., the conference highlighted the crucial role of media – and social media in particular – in political movements from the 2009 Green movement in Iran and the 2011 Arab uprisings to the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Turkey and the current ongoing protest movement in Lebanon.

The conference was inaugurated with a keynote speech by Columbia University Professor Brian Larkin, whose work focuses on the history and evolution of media technologies in Nigeria and the way they have shaped urban spaces and religious and cultural life in the country.

“After hosting our first major international conference in 2017, which turned out to be so much bigger and better than we had planned or expected, we wanted to organize a smaller and more focused event,” said Dr. May Farah, professor and acting chair at the department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Media Studies. “We hope this conference has generated an important and timely conversation on media infrastructure in the region, and that it continues to grow and develop at future conferences, and in journal articles, books, and edited volumes.”

The organizers were keen to highlight the issue of media infrastructures because this topic has been attracting increasing attention of scholars and researchers.

Dr. Nadia El Cheikh, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, said in her opening remarks: “the theme and goals of this conference affirm the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ commitment to play a leading role in advancing, producing, and disseminating innovative research, guided by a vision that seeks to expand and deepen knowledge production in and about the Arab region and the Middle East.”

The conference closing roundtable hosted key media personalities in Lebanon. The discussion shed light on the current uprising in Lebanon, and on the power of alternative media in influencing public opinion as well as  the role of citizens in producing, publishing, and documenting data.

The discussion highlighted the impact of social media triggered by millennials, and how it is changing the media landscape in terms of content and platforms.

The conference hashtag #media_infra made it as a trend on Twitter in Lebanon with around half a million impressions and 300k reach.

Photos credit: Miriam Boulos

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