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Deliberate Design or Unintended Consequences: The Argumentative Uses of Facebook During the Arab Spring

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Journal of Public Deliberation
Volume 8 |Issue 1 Article 11
4-16-2012
Deliberate Design or Unintended Consequences:
e Argumentative Uses of Facebook During the
Arab Spring
Marcin Lewiński
Universidade Nova de Lisboa, m.lewinski@fcsh.unl.pt
Dima Mohammed
Universidade Nova de Lisboa, d.mohammed@fcsh.unl.pt
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Recommended Citation
Lewiński, Marcin and Mohammed, Dima (2012) "Deliberate Design or Unintended Consequences: e Argumentative Uses of
Facebook During the Arab Spring," Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 8: Iss. 1, Article 11.
Available at: hp://www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol8/iss1/art11
Deliberate Design or Unintended Consequences: e Argumentative
Uses of Facebook During the Arab Spring
Abstract
By looking at the argumentative uses of ‘status updates’, we discuss how Facebook design and context of use
inuenced opportunities for deliberation during the Egyptian phase of the Arab Spring in early 2011. Our
basic point is that, somewhat against the grain of much debate on designing precise tools for supporting
online argumentation, many benets for open and critical argumentation result, in this case, from unintended,
indeed parasitic, uses of online technologies. is is evident in the ways that (seemingly) politically trivial,
commercially colonized” and entertainment-oriented technologies such as Facebook or YouTube become
major arenas for deliberative mobilization and serious argumentation.
Keywords
Arab Spring, argumentation, argumentation design, dialectical trade-os, Facebook, online deliberation
Acknowledgements
We would like to thank Damien Pster for his useful comments on an earlier dra of the paper and Michael
Baumtrog for editorial assistance. We acknowledge the support of Portuguese Foundation for Science and
Technology (FCT) through grants: Argumentation in the virtual public sphere: Between ideal models and
actual practices (SFRH/BPD/74541/2010) and Rationality of public political argument: e case of
European parliamentary debates (SFRH/BPD/76149/2011).
is symposium is available in Journal of Public Deliberation: hp://www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol8/iss1/art11
1. Introduction
To say that the internet’s impact on public deliberation is a double edged sword
verges on triviality. Like virtually any other communication technology, such as
newspapers and television (Habermas, 1989/1962; Postman, 1985, 1992), the
internet has both beneficial and detrimental effects on political discussion in the
public sphere; every mention of the democratizing impact of the internet can be
counterbalanced by some less than laudatory practices. Hence, whereas some take
the internet to be primarily (though with cautious provisos) a “liberation
technology” (Diamond, 2010), others hasten to expose “the dark side of internet
freedom” (Morozov, 2011). Without going into the numerous details of this rather
perennial debate, we want to articulate one argument that seems to powerfully
illustrate the balance of considerations on both sides. If networked communication
does fuel critical debate among “progressive emancipatory resistance movements”
that help topple corrupt regimes and aid in mobilizing people for important causes
in democratic societies, it can just as well serve as a major vehicle for “non-
progressive reactionary movements” that find new life in often inconspicuous
online communities (Cammaerts, 2009, p. 556; see Sunstein, 2007). Therefore, the
IT savvy and the networked force of some Tahrir (Liberation) Square regulars in
Egypt may be just as startling as that of Anders Breivik’s “delusional universe”
(“Norway massacre”).
The question of the effect that internet technologies have on politics at
large, and the quality of public deliberation in particular, cannot be
straightforwardly answered.1 Academic research hardly produces authoritative
conclusions based on robust and representative findings. The internet influences
public deliberation through a conglomerate of various online technologies
multiplied by various, sometimes unforeseen, uses of these technologies. Grand
generalizing statements regarding deliberation technologies, while appealing,
seem thus dependent on too many variables that cannot be thoroughly examined
all at the same time. In contrast, meticulous research that scrutinizes one instance
or aspect of the technology’s impact on public deliberation (e.g. the quality of a
given type of argument in a specific type of online forum) runs the risk of myopic
narrowness that undercuts the possibility of arriving at gratifying generalizations.
Aware of these limitations, we will seek to strike the right balance by
relating the crucial controversy regarding the internet’s usefulness for public
deliberation to a particular research problem within argumentation theory.
Namely, by looking at the argumentative uses of ‘status updates’, we will discuss
how Facebook design and context of use influenced opportunities for deliberation
during the Egyptian phase of the 2011 ‘Arab Spring’. Our basic point is that,
1 Nor, strictly speaking, can it be seriously asked as one, all-embracing research problem.
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somewhat against the grain of much debate on designing precise tools for
supporting online argumentation (Davies & Gangadharan, 2009), many benefits
for open and critical argumentation result, in this case, from unintended, indeed
parasitic, uses of online technologies. This is evident in the ways that (seemingly)
politically trivial, “commercially colonized” and entertainment-oriented
technologies such as Facebook or YouTube become major arenas for deliberative
mobilization and serious argumentation.
2. Colonization of the colonizers
The impact of online technology design on public deliberation, and argumentation
in particular,2 has been an object of study for a few traditionally disconnected
disciplines, like computer and political science (see Davies & Gangadharan, 2009;
Wright & Street, 2007). Below, we will make use of some crucial insights from
the work of communication scholars pursuing a methodical study of online
argumentation designs (Aakhus, 2002, 2007; Aakhus & Jackson, 2005; Jackson,
1998; de Moor & Aakhus, 2006; Weger & Aakhus, 2003). Inspired by the pragma-
dialectical theory of argumentation (van Eemeren, 2010; van Eemeren &
Grootendorst, 2004; van Eemeren et al., 1993), an argumentation design
perspective aims specifically at investigating the argumentative details of
computer-mediated deliberation. This happens in three main steps. First,
argumentation practices (what is the case) are contextually analyzed in order to
investigate the impact of various features of design on the shape of argumentation.
Second, such analysis allows for an evaluation of the practice against an ideal of
reasonable public argumentation (what ought to be), such as the pragma-
dialectical model for critical discussion (van Eemeren & Grootendorst, 2004).3
Finally, a possible redesign best approximating the ideal in the given
circumstances can be proposed (what can be).
Two intriguing problems within the study of the influence of technologies
on the shape and quality of argumentation merit further investigation. First is the
problem of “dialectical trade-offs” which occur whenever two or more ideal
(dialectical) requirements, such as openness and orderliness, conflict with each
other in actual implementation of an argumentation design (Aakhus & Lewiński,
2011; Lewiński, 2011b). This problem seems to be an instantiation of a general
2 Following prominent deliberation theorists (Bohman, Cohen, Habermas), we treat argumentation,
in the sense of dialogical reason-giving, as a constitutive element of (collective) deliberation. In
deliberation, argumentation is used for the specific purpose of opinion- and will-formation that
supports the process of decision-making. Crucially, argumentation is constitutive of deliberation in
that the quality of argumentation determines, to a great extent, the quality of deliberation at large.
3 But, possibly, also other models of democratic communication (see Freelon, 2010).
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difficulty in theorizing about deliberation.4 For instance, one can prioritize in
practice the critical, or epistemic, aspect of a deliberative ideal by crafting slow-
paced and thorough argumentation that aims at critically examining and settling
issues “beyond reasonable doubt” (as in legal procedures). Alternatively, the
decision-making or action dimension can be taken up, in which case a design is
meant to support constructive and efficient argumentation leading straight to
desired results. It seems that what commentators praised online communication
during the Arab Spring for is this latter aspect of deliberation. Some have even
drawn an analogy between the Arab revolutionaries’ tweets or Facebook messages
and pre-internet activists’ flyposters and placards (Doctorow, 2011). Such
evaluations say little about the shape and quality of arguments and conclusions
and instead turn to the efficiency of discursive mobilization. Indeed, many online
technologies, in contrast to print, are hardly designed for thorough and elaborate
critical discussions that have the capacity of fueling slow, long-term changes
(Habermas, 1989/1962). So, one should exercise caution in praising the right
technology for the right benefits it brings.
This brings us to the second problem unintended consequences of
designed communication tools. Intentional design of any technology never works
in a simple cause-effect manner, in which a design is a golden bullet that alters its
users’ practices exactly along the intended lines. Rather, “[t]he consequences of
design for practice are interactionally emergent” since “design occurs as an
intervention to which human actors respond, often attempting to fit new devices to
their pre-existing practices” (Aakhus & Jackson, 2005, p. 429). In the best case,
“people’s use of the technology is adaptation to its design features”, in the worst,
it is a “struggle against its design flaws” (Aakhus & Jackson, 2005, p. 414). Study
of unintended consequences typically investigates various failures that result,
prominently, from the gap between technical functionalities and users’
communicative needs and routines (de Moor & Aakhus, 2006). But one may also
think of beneficial effects of “maladaptation” to new technologies.
Rheingold (1993), while presenting an optimistic account of the
pioneering years of the “virtual community”, pointed out what seems to be a
grossly underestimated phenomenon that it is through unintended, indeed
parasitic, uses of many online technologies that the internet established its
deliberative, liberating credentials. To start with, the internet grew from a secret
military project aimed at securing efficient command and control in case of a
nuclear war. That is, it was conceived as just the opposite of what we think of it
4 See Benhabib (1994) and Bohman: “Deliberative democracy seems caught on the horns of a
dilemma: if it establishes its moral credentials of legitimacy via an ideal procedure, it cannot
underwrite its epistemic claims; if it establishes its epistemic claims, they can only be underwritten
by standards that are not only procedure-independent, but also independent of deliberation” (1998,
p. 403).
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now. The same applies to crucial internet technologies such as e-mail and Usenet
that were not created as the comprehensive communication and discussion tools
as we know them today. Hence, it is thanks to creative and often subversive
communicative uses of what was meant to be a highly specialized, elite
information technology that the internet has become a major arena for public
deliberation.
This process seems to be continuing nowadays. YouTube, Facebook and
Twitter were developed as essentially commercial platforms geared towards
entertainment and semi-personal communication among, initially, privileged and
educated Americans. If ever taken to be the “media of the public sphere” such
platforms undoubtedly fall under the Habermasian dictum of “the colonization of
the public sphere by market imperatives” (Habermas, 2006, p. 422). One can
think of the much-publicized circumstances of Facebook creation as an example
of competitive market cruelty. Discussion regarding the internet’s democratizing
potential often addresses the imminent commercialization of public debate and
typically produces grim conclusions (Dahlberg, 2001; Sunstein, 2007). It thus
seems that the path these technologies took to becoming vehicles for
emancipating (quite ironically, sometimes, anti-American) revolutions is very
long. So how come?
We suggest that this happens via the process of the colonization of the
colonizers. Rather than defending and protecting the “pristine” venues enabling
the ideal speech situation for rational critical discussion, the practice of internet
users seems to be pointing to a parasitic re-appropriation of the market-oriented
tools for the purposes of a genuine extension of the public sphere. Zuckerman
(2011) has recently pushed this argument to the limits: it is exactly because of the
enormous popularity of politically trivial online places such as Facebook or
YouTube that critical deliberation can take place on these sites. According to him,
carefully crafted technologies that are intended to be used for emancipation
through critical deliberation can also be carefully targeted and disabled by
oppressive regimes (one of the major points in Morozov’s critique of the
liberating power of the internet). Benevolently “parasitic” uses of popular
entertainment platforms make precise targeting impossible it’s no easy task for
regime censors to trace and watch thousands of suspect YouTube videos and read
all the critical comments they generate. Further, a complete shutdown may bring
about reverse effects. A politically apathetic person who simply wants to enjoy
watching cute cats flushing toilets on YouTube and check the latest gossip on
Facebook will become increasingly suspicious of a regime’s credentials if the
website is continuously down. That is, by completely blocking access to Facebook
or YouTube, regimes may be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Therefore,
citizens needy of a venue for critical deliberative engagement may turn to
“shutdown-proof” popular technologies that are seemingly useless as forums for
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argumentation yet another instance of “making do” in less-than-ideal situation
for critical discussion (Jacobs, 2002).
Designing deliberation technologies invites a series of dialectical trade-
offs that create problems for deliberation but it also opens up unforeseen and
unintended uses. The tensions inherent in intentionally designed deliberation
technology might seriously undermine the realization of the opportunities for
deliberative engagement and critical discussion projected by ideal models. Such
tensions are further transformed by actual practices of online discussants (let us
call them “micro-transformations” as opposed to Habermasian structural
transformations”). Importantly, in the process of the colonization of the
colonizers, actual uses of communication technologies bring about more organic,
spontaneous deliberations emerging from “unlikely” sites. Yet, such
transformative uses cannot fully obviate dialectical tensions – while solving some,
they produce new ones. This is evident in the argumentative uses of the “status
updates” on Facebook in Egypt during the spring of 2011.
3. Argumentative uses of status updates on Facebook
Assuming a widespread familiarity with the technicalities of Facebook, we
immediately turn to describing “status updates”. Facebook users are able, indeed
expected, to regularly share “what’s on [their] mind” with Facebook ‘friends’.5
Status updates, similarly to other activities, appear on the user’s personal “wall”
as well as on their friends’ “news feeds”. They are usually textual messages, but
may be accompanied by images, videos or links. Typical examples may be:
“eating grannie’s cake, happy!” or “feel like having a haircut, shall I do it?” Such
updates can be “liked” but also, importantly, commented on by Facebook friends.
The author of the status update can reply to such comments, and others may join
in, so that in effect a semi-synchronous discussion develops (currently there is no
space limit for comments, but they tend to be brief). This typical kind of social
media functionality is intended to keep the circle of Facebook friends updated but,
less than obviously, it also creates a potential site for critical discussion.
We have carefully analyzed status updates, together with friends’
comments, of one among 4.5 million Egyptian Facebook users6—Farid Antoun
(hereafter: FA)7—posted in Arabic over the period covering the beginning of the
5 Depending on privacy settings, the status updates may also be available to the broad public.
6 As of January 2011 (“Arab Social Media Report January 2011”). This number has doubled by the
end of 2011 (“Arab Social Media Report November 2011”).
7 FA is a Facebook friend of the second author. (The second author did not contribute any
comments over the period analyzed.) Prior to the study, we have received FA’s written consent
allowing us to use his Facebook page for analysis. Full records of the exchanges are available from
the second author.
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Egyptian revolution in 2011.8 Without claiming generality based on large-scale
data, we selected this example—quite unexceptional in our experience of social
networking conversations and thus worthy of closer scrutiny—for an explorative
study of how Facebook users make tools designed for social networking into fora
for argumentation.
In the period between 1 January and 28 February, 2011, FA posted 9 status
updates. The updates were all about matters of public significance. They were
nevertheless diverse and included expressions of states of mind in response to
various public events, clear expressions of opinion, and announcements of future
events. For example, on 25 January, the day the Egyptian revolution began, FA
expressed his concern in a status update that quoted a well-known poem: “May
you be safe, Egypt / May peace be upon you, my homeland/ May you be safe at
all times”.9 On 24 February, he responded to the circulating rumors that an attack
carried by Egyptian army tanks destroyed the walls of the Coptic Monastery of
Saint Pishoy by saying “I think it’s not at all the time for talks about destroying a
monastery wall here or there. We don’t want to come back to the stupidity of the
past and the talks of sectarian tension”. FAs status updates received an average of
56 comments and 31 likes from his friends.
We paid special attention to the exchange of comments following FA’s
status update on 11 February, the day on which Hosni Mubarak’s resignation was
announced. About half an hour before the announcement, FA updated his status to
“We’re now in the post-Mubarak era / Difficult is post-Mubarak / Very difficult”.
The update triggered the longest exchange in the period examined; it received 137
comments from 37 different friends. Despite the seemingly non-argumentative
nature of the status update, the exchange of comments was to a large extent
argumentative. The concern expressed in the update was understood by many as
an expression of opinion concerning the situation in Egypt, something like “we’re
facing very difficult times after Mubarak”. FA did not provide arguments
supporting this opinion in the update itself, but only in a few comments he posted
later. However, almost immediately, friends who shared his misgivings about the
post-Mubarak era advanced arguments, for example, mentioning the looming
“phantom of the Muslim Brotherhood”. Those who disagreed counter-argued:
“This popular movement, people who are no longer afraid and who are expressing
such awareness towards their country, will make anything after Mubarak merry”.
8 Our choice of Arabic does away with one major objection that the impact of the internet media
on Arab Spring is largely overblown, since it’s only a tiny elite of English-speaking Arabs, often
living abroad, who employ such media. The second author is a native speaker of Arabic – all
translations are hers.
9 The poem “Eslami ya Misr” (“Be safe, o Egypt”) was written by the Egyptian poet Mostafa
Saadeq Al-Rafe’ie (1880-1937). It was adopted as the Egyptian national anthem between 1923 and
1936.
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Importantly, FAs status remained unclear regarding his position towards
Mubarak’s resignation. Some of his friends read it as an expression of regret that
Mubarak’s era is over. A good part of the exchange of comments was actually
devoted to the discussion of Mubarak’s end in which pro- and counter- arguments
were advanced. For example, a friend commented “Mubarak needs to respect the
will of the people and resign. Sorry, the interests of Egypt are above anything
else”. Another friend responded by questioning that Mubarak’s immediate
departure is in the interest of Egypt: If he resigns the constitution cannot be
amended for only the president can do that”. Later in the discussion, FA made his
own standpoint clear: “I don’t think one ought to be sad because Mubarak is gone.
The last five years of his rule were characterized by corruption. If one is sad, it’s
because of the unclarity of the situation and the lack of vision”. In a later
comment, he added: “the future of the people will be better. We just need to
endure the difficult times”. These comments clarified his position and removed
the seeming contradiction between the worry expressed in the status update and
his satisfaction with Mubarak’s resignation. The exchange of comments brought
about more standpoints, most of which called for particular courses of action to be
taken. These came mainly in response to the question “what to do now?”, which
was posed as a comment.
Despite the many argumentative comments advanced, the exchange
remained within the realm of social networking conventions. For example, many
comments were mere expressions of concern or wishes for a better future.
Political jokes included in comments expressed points of view in a ‘light’ and
friendly way. Not unexpectedly, we also observed some considerable dialectical
trade-offs. While inclusive (all Facebook friends are invited), relevant, and in
principle open to critical expansions, argumentative exchanges were never too
confrontational or rigorous. Despite the fact that argument norms on social
networking sites are considerably looser than, say, in print publications,
discussants employed politeness strategies that, in dialectical terms, prioritize
opportunities for a friendly discharge of burden of proof over persistent criticism.
Due in part to loose norms and avoidance of conflict-aggravation, argumentative
exchanges were never ‘properly’ concluded as a result of explicit agreement on
the force of the better argument. Rather, discussants preferred inconspicuous
withdrawal from further counter-argumentation. This practice confirms the basic
idea that whereas online deliberators often face opposition by “happy accidents”,
they attempt to avoid it in search for comfortable echo chambers (Lev-On &
Manin, 2009; Sunstein, 2007).
4. Conclusion
The revolutions of the Arab Spring were not caused by the internet. Online
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technologies were but one among many conditions conducive to the wave of
upheavals in the Middle East (including power struggles within the ruling elites,
desperation of ordinary citizens facing years of rampant corruption and economic
hardship, failed American policies, etc.). These revolutions are thus equations
with many more variables than just technology and liberation. All the same,
technologies are more than a chance witness to them. Indeed, they play a crucial
part by enabling public deliberation and mobilization, providing means for
publicizing and archiving the brutality of ruling regimes, giving suppressed
populations a new sense of agency, as well as access to uncensored information
and other like-minded dissidents. The task for deliberation and argumentation
scholars is to connect such macro-issues to micro-happenings of ordinary
deliberations among Arab peoples in revolt.
Our proposal is to do so by focusing on the uses online arguers make of
technologically designed tools for communication. If public deliberation is
understood as a critical and reasoned exchange of views among citizens, then it
seems to be largely taking place by a crucial re-purposing of the technological
affordances offered by online tools such as Facebook. For people desperately
looking for widely available deliberative venues—such as Egyptians in 2011—
commercial social-networking media readily become tools of genuine
deliberation. This, we hope, was clear in our case study. The crucial characteristic
of social media—many-to-many communication—allows for serious multi-party
argumentative engagement, a critical element desired by deliberation theorists that
seriously transforms the nature of deliberative encounters (Lewiński, 2011a;
Pfister, 2011). Yet, deliberative practices of Arab Facebook users seem to contain
an important element of convivial socializing and thus are not nearly as
argumentative as anonymous Usenet groups characterized by a preference for
disagreement and long chains of persistent collective criticism (Lewiński, 2010).
If in the future our analyses allow for robust conclusions, that we are not in
a position to draw here, we may be faced with a rather fascinating phenomenon.
While Postman (1985) bemoaned the trivialization of serious debate by
entertainment, we may be dealing with the “criticalization” of the trivial. The
crucial question remains to what extent the nature of the point of departure--the
fun of social networking--will limit the quality of the (hoped for) point of arrival,
critical argument in public deliberation.
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11
Lewi?ski and Mohammed: Argumentative Uses of Facebook During the Arab Spring
Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2012
... In particular, we have focused on the 'status updates', in which the movement has periodically redefined itself. As Lewiński and Mohammed (2012) explain, 'Status updates, similarly to other activities, appear on the user's personal "wall" as well as on their friends' "news feeds"'. Obviously, in this case, what is published on the Facebook page is part of a broader stream of communications involving different contexts and media (face-to-face communication, national and international press, other media, etc.). ...
... The authors discuss new features of interaction on digital media (with a focus on Twitter). Lewiński and Mohammed (2012) focus on the argumentative discussions generated by using the 'status updates' on Facebook, taking the Arab Spring as a case in point. In our contribution, we do not consider comments in reaction to RMF's posts; we are mainly interested in RMF as the protagonist of an argumentative discussion. ...
Article
This article seeks to extend existing models of argumentation by considering an important dimension of real-life argumentative discourse: how complex argumentative discussions evolve over time. We define a complex argumentative discussion as a multi-issue discussion, in which the different issues are interrelated in the form of a hierarchy. We claim that justified reframing might be used to transform a single-issue argumentative discussion into a complex argumentative discussion. To illustrate this, we examine the Facebook discourse of the Rhodes Must Fall movement in South Africa. We analyse how reframing is justified by means of arguments, allowing the protagonists to claim as legitimate their reframing of a single issue into a complex argumentative discussion. Our findings complement existing sociological research on social movements by highlighting how their goals are achieved by means of argumentative discourse.
... Given that Facebook had about 2.4 million users from Tunisia in 2011 (97,06% compared to other social media platforms) and about 6.4 million users in 2018 (84,51%), as shown in Figure 2, we admit that Facebook has been and is still the most popular social media platform in Tunisia. Consequently, we argue that Facebook since 2011 has been the most used social media, not only of the revolution but also of the democratic transition in Tunisia, and that it has been used as a strategic tool of mobilization, communication, coordination and awareness raising [5], [6] The Global Observatory https://theglobalobservatory.org/2014/02/the-new-tunisian-constitution-triumphsand-potential-pitfalls/ e Tunisian municipal elections were held in May 2018 and have gained a significant scholarly consideration, as those elections were the "kickoff" of the decentralization process [7], [8]. So, as Facebook is the most popular and used social media platform in Tunisia, "candidate lists" (3) used it to mobilize the public through posting photos, videos, texts, etc. on their public Facebook pages to vote for them. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Since the beginning of the Arab spring, Tunisians have asked for a new system with fundamental political, social and economic reforms. People have been revolting for dignity, liberty, social equality and for equity between regions through the equal division of wealth. This is why, during the democratic transition, there was a significant focus on the decentralized development, where local authorities are more autonomous, which means that the municipalities will have more authority. On 06 May 2018, the first municipal elections after the revolution took place in Tunisia. These elections were preceded by an electoral campaign where social media were used to debate on different topics related to these elections. This paper aims to investigate if there is a correlation that can be deduced between the posts and reactions on social media, especially on Facebook, and the final results of the elections. To this end, we will make an analysis of the candidates' Facebook pages and the reactions of their followers towards their campaigns in order to understand how far social media insights were significant in the municipal elections results. Results show that either on Facebook or in front of the voting ballot, political parties get the highest number of interactions from citizens, but there is no direct correlation that can help us predict which list will be the most voted for. But when considering independent lists only, results show that their presence in social media and the reactions of citizens to their publications can be representative of their final voting results.
... Even in non-democratic regimes, the inhabitants of cyberspace gathers degrees of freedom to express their opinions, making social media an environment propitious to the spread of favorable or contrary opinions about government actions (Galindo Cáceres, 2011). Recent studies show that social media have been used in several countries for articulation of popular protests, such as the Arab Spring, which was marked by protests and conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa in response to conflicts that had occurred in Egypt (Chen, 2011;Glass & Colbaugh, 2012;Lewiński & Mohammed, 2012;Lim, 2012;Papacharissi & Oliveira, 2012) and Syria (O'Callaghan et al., 2014). More recently, in June 2013, a series of popular protests was organized through social media in Brazil. ...
Chapter
This chapter describes how sentiment analysis, based on texts taken from social media, can be an instrument for measuring popular opinion about government services and can contribute to evaluating and developing public administration. This is an applied, interdisciplinary, qualitative, exploratory, and technological study. Throughout the chapter, the main theoretical and conceptual formulations about the subject are reviewed, and practical demonstrations are made using opinion-mining tools that provide high accuracy in data processing. For demonstration purposes, topics that triggered the popular protests of June 2013 in Brazil were selected, involving million people across the country. A total of 51,857 messages posted on social media about these topics were collected, processed, and analyzed. Through that analysis, it can be observed that even after six months, the factors that motivated the protests continued generating citizen dissatisfaction.
... Even in non-democratic regimes, the inhabitants of cyberspace gathers degrees of freedom to express their opinions, making social media an environment propitious to the spread of favorable or contrary opinions about government actions (Galindo Cáceres, 2011). Recent studies show that social media have been used in several countries for articulation of popular protests, such as the Arab Spring, which was marked by protests and conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa in response to conflicts that had occurred in Egypt (Chen, 2011;Glass & Colbaugh, 2012;Lewiński & Mohammed, 2012;Lim, 2012;Papacharissi & Oliveira, 2012) and Syria (O'Callaghan et al., 2014). More recently, in June 2013, a series of popular protests was organized through social media in Brazil. ...
Chapter
This chapter describes how sentiment analysis, based on texts taken from social media, can be an instrument for measuring popular opinion about government services and can contribute to evaluating and developing public administration. This is an applied, interdisciplinary, qualitative, exploratory, and technological study. Throughout the chapter, the main theoretical and conceptual formulations about the subject are reviewed, and practical demonstrations are made using opinion-mining tools that provide high accuracy in data processing. For demonstration purposes, topics that triggered the popular protests of June 2013 in Brazil were selected, involving million people across the country. A total of 51,857 messages posted on social media about these topics were collected, processed, and analyzed. Through that analysis, it can be observed that even after six months, the factors that motivated the protests continued generating citizen dissatisfaction.
Thesis
Full-text available
Les communications répondent à une partie des préjudices et des risques des crises majeures (Ch. 1); elles déjouent parfois les réactions négatives des parties prenantes; accompagnent la résolution des conflits; et elles attisent des réactions positives pour la réputation et l'activité du gestionnaire, quand la situation s'y prête (Ch. 2). Cependant, l'absence de bilan officiel autour des communications délivrées au public pendant les crises majeures questionne la capacité des gestionnaires à communiquer efficacement et à établir un bilan critique de leurs communications, ne serait-ce que sur Facebook (e.g., pour maintenir la réputation et l'activité politique, répondre aux risques ou résoudre les conflits, Ch. 3). En France, la Présidence de la République et les journalistes exploitent Facebook en continu, et les journalistes accentuent leurs fréquences de publication pendant les crises de réputation de la Présidence (Ch. 4). La majeure partie des préfectures exploitent Facebook, y compris pour alerter le public au sujet de quelques risques - mais elles n'y sont pas aussi visibles que la Présidence (Ch. 5). Facebook occupe une place importante dans les pratiques informatives des populations, mais le gestionnaire ne doit pas perdre de vue leurs autres pratiques; leurs attentes; et la finalité des communications, visant à déclencher des réactions utiles, du point de vue du communicant (Ch. 6). Facebook participe aux crises de réputation (e.g., diffusion d'un scandale - Chap. 4); et cet outil permet également de maintenir la réputation du gestionnaire, si ce dernier envisage de communiquer et ne commet pas de faux pas. En parallèle du maintien de sa réputation, le gestionnaire doit parfois communiquer pour accompagner la résolution d'un conflit et/ou pour déjouer les conséquences des catastrophes à titre préventif - si possible - et y répondre ensuite en continu, comme pendant les crues de 2016 (Ch. 7); entre autres enjeux de la communication de crise. Facebook est appréciable pour répondre aux crises, mais ce réseau ne solutionne pas les dilemmes de gestion, l'émergence des catastrophes naturelles ou les facteurs humains conduisant aux accidents et aux erreurs de gestion.
Chapter
Full-text available
Treatments of new media in the Middle East seem often to stall on restricted views of communication as message-passing, variable reception by individuals, and averaging them as ‘audience’ or, in political terms, as ‘public’ opinion. Clearly, communication is more than this: it is reciprocal (though not necessarily symmetrical), contextually framed by situations and relationships, structured by features of language from genre to rights to speak, strategic, and in the case of the Internet it is continuously interactive – all of which comparisons to mass media do not render well. This article assembles three ‘middle range’ sociologies that capture typical interactivity of social actors with the Internet and through the Internet: communities of practice, the strength of weak ties, and the creation of ‘textual authority’ bring features of interaction with and interaction through the Internet’s latest iteration as ‘social media’ into better view
Book
The aim of this volume is to adopt an original analytical approach in explaining various dynamics at work behind the Arab Spring, through giving voice to local dynamics and legacies rather than concentrating on debates about paradigms. It highlights micro-perspectives of change and resistance as well as of contentious politics that are often marginalised and left unexplored in favour of macro-analyses. First, the stories of the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Morocco and Algeria are told through diverse and novel perspectives, looking at factors that have not yet been sufficiently underlined but carry explanatory power for what has occurred. Second, rather than focusing on macro-comparative regional trends – however useful they might be – the contributors to the book focus on the particularities of each country, highlighting distinctive micro-dynamics of change and continuity. The essays collected here are contributions from renowned writers and researchers from the Middle East, along with Western experts, thus allowing the formation of a sophisticated dialogic exchange.
Article
Full-text available
Este artigo tem como objetivo discutir teoricamente o papel da argumentação nos processos deliberativos que se dão no interior das instâncias colegiadas de controle social do Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS). Baseia-se em uma leitura dos processos de participação social em saúde a partir da Teoria do Agir Comunicativo e localiza a deliberação pública dentro de um arcabouço dialógico de oferecer e receber razões para justificar posições a partir de argumentos. Defende-se que a argumentação é constitutiva da deliberação na medida em que a qualidade da primeira influencia a qualidade da segunda. Apresentam-se duas grandes correntes contemporâneas da teoria da argumentação, a Pragma-Dialética e a Nova Retórica. Defende-se uma combinação das duas abordagens como ferramenta para a compreensão dos determinantes comunicativos da deliberação e, consequentemente, para melhor entendimento das escolhas feitas no processo de formulação e implantação de políticas públicas de saúde.
Article
This article analyses post-Arab Spring EU initiatives to promote women’s empowerment in the Southern Mediterranean region. Inspired by the Foucauldian concept of governmentality, it investigates empowerment as a technology of biopolitics that is central to the European neoliberal model of governance. In contrast to dominant images such as normative power Europe that present the EU as a norm-guided actor promoting political liberation, the article argues that the EU deploys a concept of functional freedom meant to facilitate its vision of economic development. As a consequence, the alleged empowerment of women based on the self-optimisation of individuals and the statistical control of the female population is a form of biopower. In this regard, empowerment works as a governmental technology of power instead of offering a measure to foster fundamental structural change in Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) societies. The EU therefore fails in presenting and promoting an alternative normative political vision distinct from the incorporation of women into the hierarchy of the existing market society.
Article
Full-text available
This essay examines argumentation practices as they occur in politically oriented chat rooms to explore deliberation at a distance in the public sphere. There is a discrepancy between argumentation as practiced in chat rooms and the ideal of critical discussion that is evident in the apparently incoherent, ad hominem quality of chat room discourse. Three features of chat rooms identified here suggest that the apparently low quality of argumentation may he reconstructed as an adaptation to the affordances for argumentation inherent in the design of the chat room format. These design features include continuous scrolling transcripts, contribution limits, and unidentified participants. We identify the “wit-testing” dialogue type as a rational, though not ideal, response to the affordances for argumentation in the chat room design. Finally, we suggest that the “wit-testing” dialogue in Internet chat rooms adds a new dimension to deliberation in the public sphere.
Article
In this paper, I preliminarily characterize and evaluate two variants of a pattern of collective argumentative criticism in online political discussion forums available through Google Groups. In the first variant-horizontal criticism-a group of arguers jointly objects to distinct elements of complex argumentation put forward by their opponent. In the second variant-vertical criticism-a group of arguers acts in sequence by deepening the previously voiced criticisms against one element of their opponent's argumentation. Such collective criticism of arguments is to a certain extent the reverse of a pattern of joint production of arguments, or a “tag-team argument, “identified by analysts of argument in small face-to-face groups. I argue that collective criticism can enhance public scrutiny of opinions expressed in informal deliberation, yet it can also lead to inconclusive argumentative discussions.
Book
What happens when media and politics become forms of entertainment? In the season of Trump and Hillary, Neil's Postman's essential guide to the modern media is more relevant than ever.Originally published in 1985, Neil Postman’s groundbreaking polemic about the corrosive effects of television on our politics and public discourse has been hailed as a twenty-first-century book published in the twentieth century. Now, with television joined by more sophisticated electronic media—from the Internet to cell phones to DVDs—it has taken on even greater significance. Amusing Ourselves to Death is a prophetic look at what happens when politics, journalism, education, and even religion become subject to the demands of entertainment. It is also a blueprint for regaining control of our media, so that they can serve our highest goals."It's unlikely that Trump has ever read Amusing Ourselves to Death, but his ascent would not have surprised Postman.” -CNN
Article
I will be reviewing three different ways in which the ideals of deliberative democracy have changed in light of practical concerns of feasibility, that is, by making the problem of how this ideal would be approximated increasingly central in societies characterized by deep disagreements, social problems of enormous complexity and also consider the blunt instruments of available institutions. First, theories of deliberative democracy have come to emphasize the process of deliberation itself, rather than its ideal and counterfactual conditions and procedures. Second, deliberative democrats have become increasingly interested in the problems of institutionalization, of making institutions such as voting and majority rule, representation, courts and constitutional law more deliberative rather than rejecting them for more direct democracy. Third, these aforementioned democrats are concerned with examining and comparing different settings and procedures of deliberation, pointing out empirical problems and obstacles that cannot always be anticipated by conceptual argument alone.
Article
The explosive growth over the past decade in new digital media has been accompanied by a corresponding expansion in the research agendas of all disciplines concerned with communication practice. For the interdisciplinary study of Language and Social Interaction , the ongoing evolution of information and communication technology (what we will refer to here as design) invites changes in the research agenda that are far more profound than merely extending the study of communication practice into new settings and new formats. The most important challenge we face in responding to the advance of information and communication technology is the challenge of accommodating a design enterprise within what has so far been understood primarily as an empirical enterprise-a very fundamental change in research practice and in what researchers pay attention to.
Chapter
One clear trend in argumentation theory over the last few decades has been a revival in the study of fallacies, particularly within the dialectically informed traditions of informal logic and pragma-dialectics. Central to this revival (initiated by Hamblin, 1970) has been a broadened understanding of what makes various argumentative tactics fallacious in the first place. Two general and not altogether exclusive lines of re-analysis have been offered. First, informal logicians — especially Walton (1992a; 1992b; 1995; 1997a; 1997b; 1998a; 1998b; 1999) — have insisted that many of the so-called fallacies are actually sometimes reasonable. Depending upon the circumtances and the particulars of the argument, such tactics as slippery slope argument, emotional appeals, authority appeals, ad hominem attacks, appeals to popular opinion — any of these and many other tactics may be perfectly reasonable moves. Other types of supposedly fallacious moves such as argument ad ignorantiam and the various sorts of hasty conclusions associated with reasoning by sign, example, analogy and the like have been argued to be weak but only fallacious when taken to prove more than they can support. While informal logicians might not want to take it this far, one can easily conclude that this first line of re-analysis amounts to a comprehensive discrediting of the idea that categories of tactics can be assumed to be fallacious in principle, independent of the particulars of the situation and of the actual message that embodies that category of tactic.
Article
Ideal models of dialectical argumentation, such the pragma-dialectical critical discussion or Walton and Krabbe's persuasion dialogues, comprise of a set of rules that define reasonable argumentation under idealised conditions. Assuming such conditions, dialectical rules are meant to secure an orderly procedure for testing opinions. However, in actual circumstances violations of argumentative rules - identified as fallacies - can and do occur. Pragma-dialectics treats fallacies as "derailments of strategic manoeuvring", that is, contraventions of dialectical rules for a critical discussion committed by actual arguers for rhetorical gains. Hence, the predicament of actual argumentation is a possible (but not necessary) trade-off between dialectical constraints and rhetorical opportunities. In this paper I preliminarily conceptualise a different predicament that actual arguers may face. The sets of dialectical rules proposed in ideal models of argumentation are consistent and thus unproblematic, as long as they presuppose idealised conditions. However, when put to work in actual procedures for argumentation, the rules may clash with one another. For instance, the freedom to unlimitedly criticise the opponent may hinder the progress towards rational resolution of a difference of opinion. As a result, arguers may face a predicament in which the only way to observe one of the rules of reasonable argumentation is to violate another one. I call such possible clashes dialectical trade-offs, because they are clashes between dialectical rules that arise in actual circumstances of argumentation. Dialectical trade-offs are practical concerns that do not undermine the general composition and usefulness of the ideal models. Yet, they point to a practical difficulty in designing consistent and applicable protocols for reasonable argumentation. I will illustrate this difficulty by contrasting two kinds of protocols for computer-mediated deliberation: Internet forums for informal deliberation and formal models of deliberative dialogues developed within the field of Artificial Intelligence.