by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary  — Q & A with REBECCA STEIN — for ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN on MAY 18, 2015:

DigitalMilitarismDigital Militarism: Israel’s Occupation in the Social Media Age (Stanford University Press, April 2015), by scholars Adi Kunstman and Rebecca Stein, has been called “a pioneering book, showing how information and communication technologies have turned into wartime arsenals, and the Internet and social networks into digital battlefields” and described as “a riveting guide to contemporary media strategies, improvisations, and accidents in the theatre of Israeli militarism.”

Kuntsman is a lecturer in information and communications at Manchester Metropolitan University whose work lies at the intersection of cybercultures/digital and social media; anti-colonial and feminist scholarship; queer theory; and social research on war, nationalism and colonialism.

Stein is an associate professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University who studies linkages between cultural and political processes in Israel in relation to its military occupation and the history of Palestinian dispossession.

ISLAMiCommentary connected with Stein for this Q & A about their new book.

What is digital militarism and who named the trend?

This phrase — our own coinage — refers to the ways that social media tools, technologies, and practices can be employed in the service of militant projects by both state and everyday civilian users. Of course, digital militarism is a broad and flexible concept, with wide global applicability.

In this book, we consider the ways it has emerged in the context of Israel’s occupation. We are chiefly interested in everyday Jewish Israeli users, and the ways that social media functions as a toolbox for militarized politics – this within a society that has moved progressively rightward over the course of the last two decades. Digital militarism takes shape at the intersection of militant nationalism — now widespread in Israel — and very conventional, globalized modes of networked engagement: like liking and sharing, participating in meme culture, and posting a selfie. This interplay between nationalist violence and the social media everyday is at the core of our study.

When we began this study, digital militarism existed on the margins of social media — both in the Israeli and global contexts. Today, of course, it has become commonplace. We have become are accustomed to the integration of social networking into military arsenals, to calls for war issued en masse on social media platforms, to the presence of smartphones in military zones and battlefields, to social networking from scenes of atrocity.

In the Israeli context, we are now accustomed to damning Instagram images from soldiers, or to YouTube videos of violent confrontation between Israelis soldiers and Palestinians in the territories. Once, such events and media exposure surprised Israeli and international publics. Today, we have come to expect them. Digital Militarism is a chronicle of the emergence and naturalization of digital militarism as a social form. Continue reading

Evaluating a Complex Landscape

by ZEYNEP TUFEKCI for COLUMBIA JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS (Vol 68, No 1 Fall/Winter 2014) on DECEMBER 12, 2014: 

Zeynep Tufekci
Zeynep Tufekci

SUMMARY: Recently, social movements have shaken countries around the world. Most of these movements have thoroughly integrated digital connectivity into their toolkits, especially for organizing, gaining publicity, and effectively communicating. Governments, too, have been adapting to this new reality where controlling the flow of information provides new challenges. This article examines the multiple, often novel, ways in which social media both empowers new digitally-fueled movements and contributes to their apparent weaknesses in seemingly paradoxically ways. This article also integrates the evolving governmental response into its analysis. Social media’s empowering aspects are real and profound, but these impacts do not play out in a simple, linear fashion. The ability to scale-up quickly using digital infrastructure has empowered movements to embrace their horizontalist and leaderless aspirations, which in turn have engendered new weak- nesses after the initial phase of street actions ebbs. Movements without organizational depth are often unable to weather such transitions. While digital media create more possibilities to evade censorship, many governments have responded by demonizing and attacking social media, thus contributing to polarized environments in which dissidents have access to a very different set of information compared to those more loyal to the regime. This makes it hard to create truly national campaigns of dissent. This article provides an overview of this complex, evolving environment with examples ranging from the Tahrir Square protests in Egypt to the Occupy movement.

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In this two-part interview (below),  African American studies professor at Duke University Mark Anthony Neal offers his insights on public scholarship, academic blogging, and leveraging social media.

by KEVIN ANSELMO for EXPERIENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS on AUGUST 20 and AUGUST 26, 2014: 

Why Professors Should Disseminate their Knowledge and Share Opinions to Public Audiences EXCERPT: Professors have a megaphone to the world. There are incredible opportunities for academics to communicate their knowledge with the general public through traditional and social media. While many don’t for various reasons, there are a number of professors who are doing this incredibly well. One such individual is Mark Anthony Neal, an African American studies professor at Duke University and author of the book New Black Man. The term “incredibly well” is quite a superlative, yet this is probably an understatement. As I noted in a previous post, Mark Anthony Neal’s blog featured 1063 posts in 2012. That’s not a typo! He averaged almost three different posts per day. In 2013, this number shrank to a “disappointing low of” 821 – that’s still more than two posts per day over the course of a year!

I had the opportunity to sit down with Mark and will be doing a series of blog posts with him on various aspects of his “media empire” and the best practice he can share with other professors. Here is part 1 focused on his strategy, goals and why he does this. FULL INTERVIEW

Leveraging Social Media as an Academic EXCERPT: Imagine writing or editing over 1,000 blog posts in a year. Or what about engaging with over 28,000 followers on Twitter. For Duke Professor Mark Anthony Neal, this is not a dream but a reality.

In a previous post, Mark outlined why he considered external communications important as a professor. So if you are not sure why you should blog, revert back to that post first! In this follow-up Q and A, he shares some of the lessons learned from his years of blogging and using social media.

How did you first get involved with blogging?
I started my blog in 2006 in part to promote my new book: New Black Man. I quickly realized that I could connect my content to my book and generate more visibility and also use the blog to promote radio and television interviews.

What does it take to be a successful blogger?
I never thought of myself as blogging. In fact, I work hard not to describe myself as a blogger. When I write on my site, I am writing. It might be shorter and pitched to a different audience, but it follows the same kind of sensibilities if I was doing a piece for The Atlantic Monthly or some other outlet. FULL INTERVIEW

by miriam cooke for TIRN on JULY 2, 2013:

miriam cooke in Mardin, Turkey near the Syrian border (2012)
miriam cooke in Mardin, Turkey near the Syrian border (2012)

(Introduction): Twenty-five participants from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen, Ghana, Turkey, Italy, Holland, Canada and the U.S. gathered in Fez June 21-23 to share their research on developments in the southern Mediterranean in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings. The two major concerns were the backlash against women revolutionaries, and the political Islamization of the MENA region.

Scholars, activists, university administrators, diplomats and physicians exchanged views on the meaning of the events that have shaken the Middle East and North Africa during the past two years. Women and several men reported on developments in individual countries, many focused on women’s roles during the protests and the negative consequences of such participation. Subjects ranged from Libyan women’s courageous stance against the government, to the status of women’s rights in the new constitutions of Tunisia and Egypt to sustainable economic empowerment for rural Moroccan women.

My paper (below, as delivered) dealt with the revolutionary memoirs of two influential feminist writers, Egyptian Nawal El Saadawi and Syrian Samar Yazbek, who participated in their countries’ uprisings and then wrote about their hopes and disappointments.

The conference organizer Fatima Sadiqi, founder of the Isis Center for Women and Development and President of the National Union of Women’s Associations, concluded the meeting with some recommendations. She challenged participants and the consistently large audience to work toward ensuring that the achievements of the uprisings are maintained and that the current pessimism not dampen such efforts. Above all, the dialogue among countries must continue with attention to specificities. Continue reading