location/time | Tues 12:30-1:50 in SSMS 2013; Thurs 12-1:50pm SSMS 2017
Prof. Laila Shereen Sakr []
contact | email: ssakr AT | twitter:  @vj_um_amel
office hours | Tues, 2-3:30pm, or by appt. 2020 SSMS


This hybrid course surveys emerging media-making and digital advocacy practices through a case study on the digital campaigns for human rights and social justice issues in the Middle East. The course reviews these relationships through the lens of social movement theory, and functions as a workshop to develop student projects. Seminar participants will work together to explore frameworks, methods, and tools for understanding networked social movements in the digital advocacy ecology framed from the Middle East. Students will study the role of interventions, social media, and tactical tools to support civic agency and participatory action, as well as transform, disrupt or subvert changing urban, political, and social conditions in various local contexts throughout the region. In this production-oriented seminar students are expected to work in teams to research, conceptualize, and design novel civic media and tactical interventions that critically examine the socio-cultural and institutional settings that they seek to engage or disrupt. The class will also look into issues such as online surveillance and filtering, circumvention tools, and how repressive regimes in the region have countered digital activism.

The class will focus on these digital campaigns:

We are all Khaled Said (police brutality, torture – Egypt)
No to Military Trials for Civilians (securitized state, due process of law – Egypt)
You Stink (garbage crisis, political factions – Lebanon)
Free Bassel Safadi (imprisoned open source software developer – Syria)
Kafa… (women’s rights – Lebanon)
#BlackLivesMatter (racial justice – USA)
Planned Parenthood (women’s sovereignty – USA)

In addition to the regularly readings and discussions, students will participate in the following:

  • Weekly blog writing (300-500 words) due Wednesdays, and commenting (two comments on peers’ blog posts) due the following Wednesday. If no class, then no blog is due that week. A blog post is required to receive credit for attending each mandatory event.
  • Leading weekly discussions
  • Midterm: Planning document of tactical media group project
  • Final: 5-7 page research paper


Please be respectful of one another’s opinions.
Be rigorous: do the readings thoroughly and carefully and bring all readings to class.
Be on time. Late policy: See below.
Turn off and put away all cellular phones, tablets, and laptops.


Grading: 50% of the course grade reflects the conceptual design, production and presentation of the collaborative work. The remaining 50% of the grade involves an assessment of students’ individual participation and contributions to the course both in and outside of class. All grades are final and are not subject to change. The following grading rubric will guide the evaluation of student work for the course:

    • Blog posts (25%): Blog posts a short, critical exercises to help students articulate the research questions they are having as the read and experience the course materials. They are expected to be well-written, thoughtful, and engaged. Each blog post should provide one golden nugget: an abstract for a thought piece. Weekly blog should be 300-500 words, have a title, metatags, and be posted to class website on Tuesdays no later than 10am, and commenting (two comments on peers’ blog posts) due the following Thursday no later than 10am.
    • Leading class discussion (25%): Each week a team of students will lead the discussion. Might bring in more examples.
    • Peer-critique (10%): The ability to give and receive critical feedback.
    • Midterm 2-3 page planning document (20%): The course expects students to engage critically and collaboratively (in small teams) to research, conceptualize and produce a compelling community media or creative intervention in the form of an audiovisual work, apps, or other digital media that tackle a specific set of contested issues. For the midterm, students must submit a collaboratively pitch a tactical media project or intervention to the class in 5-minute presentations for peer-critique. Pitch should include audio-visual powerpoint,, or performative structure.
  • Final 5-7 page research paper (20%): Make an argument for why the media proposed at midterm matters — within the socio-historical contexts of the campaign.


This studio course is meant to be a collaborative learning and participatory environment. The weekly class sessions will often begin with a critical discussion of assigned readings, while the other sessions may include a guest lecture or presentations of relevant case studies.

* Note: the class schedule and assigned readings are subject to change. We will collectively review the syllabus to adjust it to the interests and needs of course participants

Week 1 – Introductions, Social Movement Theory, and History

Tues, Jan 10: Introductions// Class overview

WordPress, Review syllabus.

Thurs, Jan 12: Social Movement Theory and Human Rights History in the Middle East

Read: Beinin and Vairel, “The Middle East and North Africa Beyond Classical Social Movement Theory” (2013); and J. Stork, “Three Decades of Human Rights Activism in the Middle East and North Africa” (2013).
First blog post due.

Week 2 – We Are All Khaled Said

Tues, Jan 17: Police Torture prior to Egyptian Revolution of 2011

Read: Ali and El-Sharnouby, “Distorting Digital Citizenship: Khaled Said, Facebook, and Egypt’s Streets,” from Wired Citizenship (2014); and Faris, “We are all Revolutionaries Now: Social Media Networks and the Egyptian Revolution of 2011” (2013). Media: Facebook Page, Activist sites, Torture in Egypt

Thurs, Jan 19: Digital Platforms for Tactical Use

Read: Meier, from Digital Humanitarians, pp. 158-171.

Media: Facebook Page, Book’s Website, Ushahidi App

Week 3 – No to Military Trials for Civilians

Tues, Jan 24: The Securitized State and Youth

Read: Herrera, “Youth and Citizenship in the Digital Age: a View from Egypt,” (2014); and Mada Masr – No to Military Trials for Civilians.

Thurs, Jan 26: Hashtags and Maspero YouTube

Watch: The Maspero Massacre 09/10/11 by Mosireen Collective (09:00:00); and
Social Segments Against Military Trials for Civilians by Tahrir Diaries (03:00:00)
Mosireen Video Collective

Study about following hashtags on Twitter: #NoMilTrials #NoSCAF, #FuckSCAF

Week 4 – #BlackLivesMatter

Tues, Jan 31: BLM and Black Feminist Thinking

Cobb, Jelani. 2016. The Matter of Black Lives: A new kind of movement found its moment. What will its future be? The New Yorker. March 14. Garza, Alicia. 2014. “A Herstory of the #Black Lives Matter Movement.” The Feminist Wire, October 7, 2014.  Ransby, Barbara. 2015. “Ella Taught Me: Shattering the Myth of the Leaderless Movement.” Color Lines, June 12, 2015.

Thurs, Feb 02: BLM After Ferguson

Ransby, Barbara. 2015. “The Class Politics of Black Lives Matter.” Dissent.
Terry, Brandon M. 2015. “After Ferguson.” The Point, no. 10.
In class watching: The 13th (Trailer)

Professor Henry Jenkins lecture on “Remixing the Civic Imagination” in HSSB:
Henry Jenkins (Communication, Journalism, Cinematic Arts and Education, USC)
Thursday, February 2, 2017 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

Week 5 – YouStink

Tues, Feb 07: Political Background

Read: Amar, Paul. “New Paradigms of Popular Sovereignty in the Wake of the Arab Uprisings,” (2015). Media: youstink.orgPhoto Journalism: “Lebanon’s #YouStink Anti-Government Protests” in The Atlantic (24 Aug 2015).
Watch: Mounira El Solh

Thurs, Feb 09: 

GUEST SPEAKER: Shahid Buttar 

“Surveillance: Defense, Offense, and Why Nothing Less than Democracy is at Stake”

The incoming administration has inherited the most expansive and omniscient surveillance tools ever developed by humankind. We’ll explore how street level surveillance extends the telephone and Internet dragnet revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden to threaten not only your privacy, but also our democracy. We’ll discuss the history of the deep state, the emergence of mass surveillance, its bipartisan entrenchment, and also how concerned students can breathe new life into constitutional rights withering under an assault by the combined forces of government and technology.

Week 6 – Free Bassel Safadi

Tues, Feb 14: 
Freedom of Speech

Read: Dheere, “Arab Bloggers Meet to Discuss Free Speech, Reject ‘Journalist’ Label;” “Bassel Khartabil: fears for man who brought open internet to the Arab world,” The Guardian (11 Dec 2015). Media:

Thurs, Feb 16:Digital Media Makers, Bloggers, and the Arab State

Study about following hashtags: #FreeAlaa, #Ontornet #OpenNetInitiative
Ethan Zuckerman New Media, New Civics? and Mapping the Arab Blogosphere

Watch: Video by Berkman Center on Arab Networked Public Sphere and Dalia Othman Guest Speaker from 2016

Week 7 – Midterms

Tues, Feb 21: Collaborative Midterms Due

Five minute presentations per group. Presentation is 30% of midterm grade.
No Blog posts this week.

Includes: Visual planning documents for proposed media (i.e. storyboard, wireframe….Google these), and 500-word abstract, title, and meta tags or keywords for project, and a 1,000-1,500 written plans for production and impact of proposed digital action. All must be uploaded to a PAGE on this website with your names. Presented for peer-critique. Students are graded for ability to give as well as receive critique.

Thurs, Feb 23: Collaborative Midterms Due

Five minute presentations per group. Presentation is 30% of midterm grade.
No Blog posts this week.

Week  8 – Save Planned Parenthood

Tues, Feb 28


Thurs, Mar 02 (check out)

Check out #StandwithPP

Weeks 9 – Kafa, Jinsayati, Uprising Women, TakeBacktheTech, Nasawiya, Harassmap (women’s rights)

, Mar 07: (NO CLASS)

Watch Abir Ghattas from 2016
Read: @girleffect, “Case study: Harassmap–Changing Attitudes to Harassment and Assault in Egypt;” Chelsea Young, “HarassMap: Using Crowdsourced Data to Map Sexual Harassment in Egypt (March 2014);

 Thurs, Mar 09: Gender

Read: R. Kelly Garrett,  “Protest in an Information Society: a review of literature on social movements and new ICTsInformation, Communication & Society (17 Feb 2007); Ahmed Al-Rawi, “Framing the online women’s movements in the Arab world” (Feb 2014).

Week 10 – Presentation

Tues, Mar 14: Back in Art Department to finish #RESIST sign

Thurs, Mar 16: Presentations of final research paper

Final Papers

Final Projects due Thursday, March 16, no later than 5:00pm online via blog post. (Late papers receive severe grade penalty. Do not miss this deadline!)


7iber –

Access Now –

Digital Citizen: News, Policy, and Research on Human RIghts and Technology in Arab World

Electronic Frontier Foundation –

Free Bassel Saffadi –

Global Voices Online –

Jinsayati – ;

Social Media and Exchange (SMEX) –

Kafa –