AUC hosts Arab – U.S. Association for Communication Educators Conference

Published November 26th, 2009 - 01:33 GMT

Under the theme "Innovative Media in a Changing Middle East," The American University in Cairo recently hosted the 14th annual Arab - U.S. Association for Communication Educators Conference (AUSACE), organized by AUC’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communication. The main objective of the conference was to provide a forum for communication educators, students and media professionals throughout the Middle East, the United States and the rest of the world to discuss the innovation of media and its ongoing, but often uneven, impact on a changing region. Panels and workshops discussed a variety of topics, including ethics and rules of engagement with innovative media; social media and social change; Arab diaspora and innovative media; image of Arab women in Arab media, as well as the training of journalists and media professionals in the digital media era.
“This is a valuable opportunity to share ideas and exchange lessons and to encourage and promote cross-cultural, intellectual and scientific dialogue,” said Naila Hamdy, chair of AUC’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communication and AUSACE president in her speech at the opening ceremony. She added that the 14th anniversary of the founding of AUSACE presents “an opportunity to look back over those years and consider the transformations, challenges, concerns and advancements that have occurred in changing the Middle East.” 

AUSACE was attended by a large number of media academics and scholars from different Egyptian and Arab institutions, including AUC, as well as Cairo, Ain Shams, Suhag, Kuwait, Lebanese, Sharjah and Algeria universities. It was also attended by media professors from the United States, Europe and Asia including Douglas Boyd, University of Kentucky; Philip Seib, University of Southern California; M.D. Lawrence, University of Poona, India; and Mohamed Al Nawawy, Queen University, USA.

In his study, “New Arab Media, New Politics: How Evolving Media Environment Affects Political Dynamics,” Seib believes that, with the number of Arab satellite channels, blogs and other Internet forums growing significantly, the new Arab media is directly and indirectly affecting the political dynamics of the Middle East by broadening political discourse in the increasingly crowded and competitive media universe. “The media is no longer the media. It has a larger popular base than ever before and, as a result, has unprecedented impact on politics at many levels,” he said, adding that the media can be a tool of conflict and instrument of peace. “It can make traditional borders irrelevant and unify peoples scattered around the globe,” he explained. 

Another study, “The Revolution will be Blogged: New Media Cultural Configuration in Egypt,” by Courtney C. Radsch of the American University, Washington, D.C., examined the culture of blogging in Egypt from the advent of blogging in 2003 through 2009, using case studies to explain why activism became the blogs’ dominant articulation and why citizen journalism emerged as a dominant form of post-millennial activism. The research discussed the reasons why people blog; the identities they create and their level of anonymity; why some bloggers became famous; why they became citizen journalists or activists; and how freedom of expression was invoked and boundaries renegotiated.

Other studies focused on the effect of media on social issues such as Eman Essam’s study, “Breaking Silence along the Nile: Facing Sexual Harassment in Egypt Through Facebook.”  Essam, of Cairo University, discussed the influence of Facebook in combating sexual harassment as a phenomenon that spread recently against women in Egypt. The study raises the question of whether Facebook was used to break Egyptian silence and brings the issue to public debate.

Established in 1995, AUSACE’s primary mission is to develop professional relationships and educational exchange among faculty in Arab and American universities, media professionals and students. Through assistance from sponsoring institutions, governments, media outlets, and universities, including AUC, AUSACE holds workshops and annual international conferences. The 13th annual conference was held in Virginia in 2008 under the theme, “Best Communication Practices in an Interconnected World,” and the 12th annual conference was held in Dubai under the theme, “Communications: Crossroad of Globalization.”

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