Saudi bloggers, women’s issues and NGOs
Many studies have looked at the way the Internet can be considered a new democratic platform, a new public sphere where actors that had no voice can finally find one (Mernissi 2004). Albrecht Heifheinz warns against such generalizations and looks at how Internet filtering can thwart any democratic potential the medium may have.
This research does not argue that the Internet is a medium for change or a new democratic sphere but that the Internet can be considered a mediator that allows an issue to be not only discussed but also public-ised8 and articulated in new ways.
This analysis, which is part of an ongoing research on Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries, was carried out using several Web-based analytical tools that have helped to map and examine the links between Saudi blogs and the way they articulate the concept of “women’s issues”.
The research began with the identification and content analysis of Saudi blogs written by women in or outside Saudi Arabia, in English and in Arabic, and has tried to analyze the issues they public-ise and the issue-language they use.
The research process was divided into four stages: 1. identifying a list of blogs and issues that are specific to women’s situations in Saudi Arabia; 2. seeing how women’s issues discussed in Saudi blogs are articulated on the Internet and the various networks they build with other actors; 3. identifying if and how the list of blogs is linked somehow to other actors, such as media outlets or international or regional organizations that discuss women’s issues; 4. finally, looking into the issues articulated and discussed in the blogs and in other platforms where “women’s issues” are displaced.
The research started with drawing up a list of blogs analyzed and monitored since 2006. Attentive content analysis of the existing literature helped extract the main ‘issues’ which bring together women bloggers in Saudi Arabia. These ‘issues’ have become keywords, bases for a more extended Web-based research on the articulation of women’s issues in and about Saudi Arabia.
1 Marres N. (2005), No issue, no public, UvA (Amsterdam): WTMC and the faculty of Humanities of the University of Amsterdam
2 Boas T. and Kalathil S. (2003), Open Networks, closed regimes. The impact of the internet on authoritarian rule, Washington DC: Carnegies Endowment fro International peace, pp103-134; Albrech Hofheinz (2005), The Internet in the Arab World: Playground for political Liberalization available at www.fes.de/ipg/IPG3_2005/07HOFHEINZ.PDF; Rasha A. Abdullah, (2007), The Internet in the Arab World -Egypt and Beyond- New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.
6 Open Net Initiative, Saudi Arabia report, August 2009, available at http://opennet.net/research/profiles/saudi-arabia
8 Marres N. (2005), No issue, no public, UvA (Amsterdam): WTMC and the faculty of Humanities of the University of Amsterdam
9 The IssueCrawler is web network location and visualization software. It consists of crawlers, analysis engines and visualization modules. It is server-side software that crawls specified sites and captures the outlinks from the specified sites. Sites may be crawled and analyzed in three ways: co-link, snowball and inter-actor. On http://www.govcom.org/Issuecrawler_instructions.htm