Special issue of Digital Journalism
Deadline: April 30, 2019
Editor-in-chief: Oscar Westlund
Guest Editors: Bruce Mutsvairo, Saba Bebawi, Peter Fray (University of Technology Sydney)
The year 2020 will mark the 10th anniversary of the ‘Arab Spring,’ a term normally associated with major citizen uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, sparked by the self-immolation of Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi. Street demonstrations and popular protests spread to other countries including Bahrain, Egypt, Libya and several others. Since 2010, sporadic, copycat, online-driven movements have also emerged in much of the developing world (Wei, 2016) with citizens taking a leading role in gathering and producing news while demanding a greater voice in determining their social and political destinies, raising hopes of greater political inclusion and freedom, including press freedom. How has the advent of technologically-inspired ‘Arab Spring’ protests combined to railroad changes not just in contemporary digital journalism but also in 21st century digital activism across the Global South? In what ways do activists and journalists in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America relate to each other in terms of techniques, tactics and ethics in their fields? In marking the 10th anniversary of the ‘Arab Spring,’ we also ask whether the “revolutions” have inspired fundamental changes in the ways in which journalists and activists operate, questioning whether they face operational obstacles and if so, counterquestioning whether freedom of speech has regressed to pre-revolution conditions?
The ‘Arab Spring’s perceived influence as a political point of departure for activists throughout the developing world has triggered increasing global debates with some doubting the assumed contributory role of social media and citizen journalism towards democratization (Loader and Mercea, 2012). In fact, repeated calls for rethinking journalism have gathered pace in the aftermath of the ‘Arab Spring’ (Peters and Broesma, 2012, 2016). As citizen accounts were broadcast unedited on global news channels such as Al Jazeera English, many predicted the possible transformation of journalism while others speculated on how news organisations would intergrate social media content into mainstream news material. In what ways then has the ‘Arab Spring’ transformed digital journalism practices in non-Western societies in general? What evidence is there to show in the wake of the ubiquitous protests that journalism and equally activism have dynamised and evolved? What contributory role has diverse computer networking technologies in the wake of the ‘Arab Spring,’ made to the contemporary conceptualisation and theorisation of both digital journalism and digital activism? Also, in what ways can the widespread practice of digital journalism be traced and credited to the ‘Arab Spring?’
With citizens ‘empowered’ to report and disseminate information (Bosch, 2017), what has deterred activists in other regions of the world from repeating the ‘successes’ recorded in the Middle East? Better still, how closely related has journalism become to activism in the aftermath of the mass protests? Ten years on, with citizen media equally flourishing across the ‘developing’ world, questions are being asked not only about the ability of technologypowered media instruments to provoke social and political revolutions but also how social media, which in 2000 was praised as a democratizing platform in the Middle East, has not helped remove tyranny in many parts of the world. Limited or no access to web and mobile platforms has also stalled potential transition to the much hyped technological evolution in the poorer regions of the world leaving many struggling to understand the real essence and potential of digital technologies.
Seeking empirical accounts that examine the democratising potential of digital journalism within non-Western societies, this special edition seeks to reconceptialise digital journalism and digital activism 10 years after the ‘Arab Spring’ in order to examine how it facilitated changes, if any, in both fields. What is its legacy insofar as activists and journalists are concerned? We also seek to interrogate the impediments and restrictions on journalism as an agent of change questioning whether and in what ways the ‘Arab Spring’ advanced political and social openness in the aforementioned regions. For this thematic issue, all submissions investigating the changing relationship between digital activism and journalism are welcome, including those not particularly making reference to the Arab Spring. These include but not limited to papers addressing questions such as:
- What new forms of digital activism continue to emerge and how do these relate to, impact or affect digital journalism?
- How do contemporary digital journalism and digital activism compare to traditional forms of journalism and activism?
- How did the ‘Arab Spring’ transform contemporary activism and journalism?
- How did the ‘Arab Spring’ facilitate changes in the transformative relationship between digital activism and digital journalism?
- In what ways did the ‘Arab Spring’ advance discussions and conversations on the “death of journalism” while promoting talk of “revolutionalising political protests?”
Information about submission
Proposals should include the following: an abstract of 500-750 words (not including references) as well as background information on the author(s), including an abbreviated bio that describes previous and current research that relates to the special issue theme.
Please submit your proposal as one file (PDF) with your names clearly stated in the file name and the first page. Send your proposal to the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com by the date stated in timeline below.
Authors of accepted proposals are expected to develop and submit their original article, for full blind review, in accordance with the journal's peer-review procedure, by the deadline stated. Articles should be between 6 500 and 7 000 words in length. Guidelines for manuscripts can be found here.
TimelineAbstract submission deadline: 30 April 2019
Notification on submitted abstracts: 30 May 2019
Article submission deadline: 30 November 2019