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The Liquefaction of Publicness: Communication, Democracy and the Public Sphere in the Internet Age, Vol. 25 - 2018, No. 1

A Youth-Driven Virtual Civic Public Sphere for the Arab World

, pages: 66-74

The past three decades have been highly climactic for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The advent of satellite television and the Web, coupled with emerging democratic orientations, marked the region’s first political engagement with digital communications at a global scale. The failure of the digital public sphere, however, to deliver on democratisation promises during the so-called Arab Spring suggested a broader failure of the region’s traditional elites to properly address emerging challenges. In this article, the writer argues that the MENA’s youth, with their progressive civic outlook and extensive digital social engagement, hold a good promise for better governance in the region. Research has shown Arab youth to be developing a hybrid identity that lends itself to both local and global features such as diversity, co-existence, women empowerment, innovation, freedom, national pride and tolerance. A review of an online sample of young Arab bloggers and influencers suggests a huge potential to leverage virtual space to promote civic culture in the region. The article concludes that a convergence of young demographics, cyber engagements and progressive orientations is likely to give rise to a sound civic culture with significant implications for good governance. As future leaders in media, education, culture, business and politics, Arab youth will most likely bring their progressive civic views to positively bear on the realities of their communities.

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