Saudi bloggers, women’s issues and NGOs
From the content analysis of this initial list of blogs other useful information has emerged. This has helped to either corroborate or deconstruct the issue list the research was building. Without assuming that all members of online groups or bloggers are activists, this research has nevertheless tried to see whether the initial list of blogs and Facebook pages could help answer the question: “What matters to Saudi women bloggers?”
This initial process of analysis and reading led to the extrapolation of an initial list of “issues” that concern women in Saudi Arabia and the initial list of blogs and issues became the starting point for empirical research based on multiple Web-based tools.
These tools helped determine if the blogs on the initial list were related and, if so, how. One of them helps the discovery of hyperlinks. In fact, from an initial list of URLs, this tool (Issue Crawler)9 searches the Net and expands the research. The results of this search are displayed on Map 1 (the map can be viewed on the pdf version through the link at the bottom of the page), which shows a complex network of specific URLs linked to each other.
The chart shows an intense cloud of blogs and websites, all linked to each other either bidirectionally or multidirectionally. Through a set of hyperlinks, Issue Crawler enriched the initial list of blogs and helped to show whether there was a network of actors that interact on the web.
The run can be divided into three main areas, which are called clusters. These clusters are organized around three main nodes: wordpress.com; brhom.net and saudijeans.org. It is also possible to see that many of the actors inserted initially are organized on the left-hand side of the map and are linked to each other and are further linked to the remaining clusters through entropymax.wordpress.com, which is a blog where the main social issues in Saudi Arabia are discussed, including general queries on work issues in Saudi Arabia, poverty and human rights. This blog – along with watar.wordpress.com - is the link between the three clusters.
The second cluster is organized around a few nodes. The main ones are nalfajr.com, asmaworld.com and brhom.net. In this second cluster it is possible to see a majority of Arabic blogs, some of them concerned with human rights and education but others in the form of personal diaries as in the case of asmaworld. In this second cluster some peripheral actors appear, namely Hathoo.ws and nooooor.net, the first a spam and the second one a general blog. It is interesting to notice that from the analysis and from interviews with some bloggers, spam is common and quite difficult to avoid.
A third cluster is what could be defined as the “platform cluster”, built around wordpress.com and containing the various Web 2.0 platforms such as Twitter, Wordpress.TV, En.wordpress and software for English translation. I tried to put these URLs in the list of addresses to avoid but this resulted in the loss of almost all the blogs.
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