Category: LAU


“I don’t think social media is tomorrow. I think social media is yesterday.” These prominent words seemed to stealthily creep through the stage, to strike everyone speechless, and remain there for a while before melting into thin air. Octavia Nasr, said these words, filling the Gulbenkian stage at LAU with her enthusiasm, her positive view of the world, and her vivacity that originated from her offline and online interaction.

She started her lecture by pointing out the fact she prefers not to talk about the past especially about what happened in the summer (the CNN-tweet dilemma) because “everything that can be said was said”, as she puts it. She stressed that people who would show up in public places and ask her questions about such issues shows signs of what she called “lazy journalism”.

She moved then to talk about social media and tackled two essential questions “How did social media affect our lives? What is the relationship that exists or should exist between traditional media and new media?” She made the point that the level of reach one can get through social media is unpredictable. Diverting her sight to where LAUsocial students were sitting who were live covering the lecture (You can check their live coverage of Nasr’s lecture by clicking on this: http://www.lausocial.com/Live.html ), Nasr said that #LAUsocial students were lucky to study social media while in university. “I know that social media is going somewhere and I want to be in the driver’s seat. I want to set the agenda.” Nasr said enthusiastically.

Octavia Nasr between traditional media (represented by photographers) and new media (represented by #LAUsocial)

Moving to speaking about traditional media’s views of social media, she said that she would like to “tell traditional media how wrong they’re in being afraid from new media. I want to tell them how they are wrong in treating social media as traditional media because it’s not traditional media and it’s anything but traditional media.” She explains further that her mission in life today through her Bridges Media (http://blog.octavianasr.com/2010/10/octavia-nasr-launches-bridges-media.html) is to bridge the gap between what traditional and new media.

Octavia Nasr joined twitter in 2008 and wasn’t active until 2009 and in the process she thought that she would like to meet ordinary citizens. She wanted to hear about something new rather than the recycled talk of the politicians and journalists. She searched through the region for those people and organizations that were on twitter and were active. She monitored them for a while before she made the decision to follow them. “In social media, you really have to be yourself if you want people to listen to you.” On twitter, people are smart, Nasr stated. Most of them aren’t passive about what’s diffused to them from media outlets. They are “La Crème de la crème”, as Nasr puts it, except that their voices are not heard according to Nasr.

To highlight the potency of social media in delivering factual material and allowing citizens’ voices to be heard, she gave an example of a report she made using social media tools. She tweeted the following: “Are you Arab? Will you be monitoring Obama’s trip to the Middle East? “and so on… and provided her email address. Some retweeted and others replied directly or via email. She ended up live tweeting as Obama was speaking in Cairo and they came out with a hashtag before hashtags were popular at that time. Also she ended up doing a report from a purely social media perspective. It was a test, but the result was amazing, as Nasr puts it.

The way she thinks, the positive outlook she has towards what happens to her, her ambitious view towards making a change in the world, her humorous and witty way to criticize the traditional media whether in Lebanon or outside Lebanon, and her diligent communication offline and online made me appreciate that a person like Octavia Nasr exists among us.  

You can check a video  I took at the lecture: http://youtu.be/6Li-fNjDnhQ?a

(picture from LAU website: http://www.lau.edu.lb/news-events/news/archive/major_theater_production_bring/)

And she slammed the door open…said “You are dancing, pigs? Keep it on!” and vanished through the other door of the dark Irwin Hall Theater. The director Lina Abyad chose this time, with her presence in the performance, to be part of Kafka’s inner psyche. Like a psychoanalyst, she invited us to take a journey into Kafka’s mind and into his life that is loaded, at least with what we witnessed on stage, misery and harsh patriarchal dominance.

“A first sign of the beginning of understanding is the wish to Die.” Kafka’s Diaries. With that quote we could draw a bleak picture of what the performance would be, but with the creativity of Abyad, the performance included some hilarious moments but still in the framework of agony and inner pain. LAU’s spring major theater production, Kafka, His Father, the Boss, the Wolf, and the Pigs, was performed on May 8,9,13,14,15,16 at LAU Beirut’s Irwin Hall Theatre. The performance revolves around flashbacks from Kafka’s bitter childhood intermixed with readings of the letter that Kafka himself wrote when he was 36 years old and that was apparently never delivered. The letter was first translated into English from German and published in 1966 titled Letter to his Father. In 2008, a new English translation was published under the title Dearest Father. Abyad and Rachid Al Daif translated the texts to formal Arabic and the performance was in both Lebanese dialect and formal Arabic. The Lebanese dialect reduced from the potency of the play, but the use of formal Arabic when reading parts of the letters regained it.

Kafka’s miserable psychological composition found a compelling theatricality when his inner psyche was revealed on stage, but maybe Abyad’s vision was too internalized, too dependent on triggering associations in the contemplative minds of audience members. Maybe the mere act of exposing Kafka’s troubled relation with his father on stage was a catharsis that Abyad wanted to be involved in. Having many actors resembling the same persona –Kafka- who rush around during which another Kafka reads some lines of his letter, aids in creating a hallucinatory dimension. It’s not only a psychic pain, but also a sense of alienation. This is shown when the thoughts of Kafka seem literally alienated from, though multiplied in number, his body where it becomes under the subjugation and supervision of the father figure. In fact, the notion of patriarchy resembled in the play goes in line with the Arab societies where the father figure sits on the top of the pyramid and controls the family members. The play’s powerful effect originates from the affirmation of patriarchal authority which motivates its plot.

 Previous plays directed by Abyad like her last year’s “The House of Benarda Alba” written by Lorca tackle the same theme of parental oppression of their children and depicts the conflict between the parent and the child.  With the new play, the oppressor is not the mother but the father  under the same theme of traditions’ constraints. The previous play forms a trilogy expressing what Lorca saw as the tragic life of Spanish women. It is also a play expressing the costs of repressing the freedom of others. In this play, one’s individualism is threatened and the longing for freedom is seen through the symbolic meanings given by the acts of Kafka’s climbing the ladder and his conversation with the bird. The play could be also understood from political perspective where the father figure designating the Arab regimes is to be obeyed and not questioned.

The multiple Kafka personas seeking freedom via bird symbol

It was announced that two artists will join us in this session; however, this was apparently a joke and the real artists to be discussed were Sabah and Haifa Wehbe!  The session was moderated by Nabelah Haraty, an instructor at the Lebanese American University, Humanities Division. The papers presented were:

-“A Psychological Profile of Sabah” presented by Ahmad Oueini who is the Chair of the Education Department at LAU.

– ” Performing the Body: Haifa Wehbi in the Becoming” by Zeina Meskaoui who is  an LAU instructor at the School of Architecture and Design.

 -“Islam Online Guides Husbands and Wives Toward Marital Bliss” by Mona Abdel-Fadil who is currently a PhD fellow.

From the presentation about Sabah

Dr. Oueini, talking about the psychological profile of Sabah, drew a kind of piteous image of her regarding how she used her extravagant lifestyle and her multi marriages to reach fame, but that contribute to her own downfall. He said that she made a ridicule of herself by abusing her own voice, marrying guys of her grandson’s age, and producing horrible songs. He said that she is to be blamed for this failure and made a comparison of her situation with other aging singers like Fairuz. He stressed the idea that Sabah’s songs revolve around Sabah and she used herself as a subject rather than content of her songs to reach fame. Dr. Oueini mentioned also that Sabah’s American alter ego is Norma Desmond, the character in silent movies who turns into a ballistic egocentric murderer. He said that Sabah is similar to her considering the fact that Sabah lives in denial of the fact that the public have abandoned her and she rejects this and this is her defense mechanism she uses. I found interesting the example given by Dr. Oueini about how Sabah was not experiencing successful aging. He said that she was 55 in 1982, and she played the role of an 18 or 19 year old in “Wadi Shamseen” play. When asked by Dr. Samira Aghacy, the Dean of Arts and Sciences Department at LAU, about the recent joint singing between the young singer Rola Saad and Sabah, Dr. Oueini said that it was a great idea but he added that she had to do this long before to revive her art;  now it is too late.

Haifa is simply Haifa

Zeina Meskaoui, the second speaker, talked about how Haifa uses her body as a source for empowerment. She said that she controls her audience members through her body. Meskaoui pointed out that Haifa constructs an elusive identity with her body where she is a hybrid of a modern and a traditional woman (eastern-western-local-global identity) where she mixes Eastern belly dancing with Western nightclub moves. Meskaoui quoted a journalist describing Haifa as “Promising but not delivering” and considered her as an ideal Arab woman. I think she exaggerated in her approach where she built her argument on the basis that as women become more sexual they become closer to perfection. This is ridiculous and phony. The discussion was much diluted and not because the subject of it which is Haifa is absurd, but nothing new was presented.

discussing Haifa

  

Mona Abdel Fadil talked about Islam Online (IOL) and focused on the marital counseling articles they post on their website. It is important to point out here that her paper she presented was part of her research-topic which is marital counseling on Islam Online. She gave different examples of articles giving advice to the married couple on how to deal with problems arising from conflicts between them. One article discussed how to interact with the in laws and others focused on how to keep the relationship going on when one of the couple is barren. The topic of the third paper didn’t go in line with the papers presented at that session and I didn’t feel it was connected thematically.

Overall, I had more expectations of that session in terms of content, but I quite enjoyed Dr. Oueini’s presentation the most. They had technical difficulties during the session for example; Sabah’s “yana yani” song was supposed to be presented as a video and used as a demo for comparison, but only the sound track was played. Also the interview made with Dr. Dima Dabbous, the director of the Institute of Women’s Studies in the Arab World was of poor quality in terms of technicality. The sound wasn’t clear as well as the image. I was very excited to hear what Dr.Dabbous, had to say about the current trends of modern singers, but I missed it.

I didn’t find something new presented to us and didn’t add anything new to what I know except for the Islam online counseling that gave only examples without dealing with the impact of such trend on the society.

Scribblelive.com experience was not what I’ve expected. The videos and images I took couldn’t be uploaded so I had to use twitpic for images and youtube for the videos and I discovered later on that the sentences I was posting on scribble just didn’t show up. For me this was an amateur experience and I think we should have done before a tryout live session as to experiment it then go and do this project.

I did not get much user engagement for my session; only for one who asked me if Haifa was present at the conference.

For reviewing the live coverage I did, please go to http://live.lausocial.com/

For viewing the videos I took during the session, you can check these links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxvgZvzDF2w

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qexEQ4XzX8E

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMZSlspYEW4

LAU’s Institute for Media Training and Research (TIMTAR), & the Department of Communication Arts is organizing a 3-day conference about the Arab Popular Culture and the Media that will take place from April 21 to the 23rd. 40 scholars from around the world will present their papers that are tackling, among other things, new rising popular culture, religion, cinema, music, literature, gender, architecture, emigration, and the internet. The 2nd session that I will hopefully cover include a paper entitled”Islam Online Guides Husbands and Wives Toward Marital Bliss” by Mona Abdel-Fadil that will focus on how Islam Online Arabic incorporates pop culture into their threads . Another paper entitled ” Performing the Body: Haifa Wehbi in the Becoming”  that will be presented by Zeina Meskaoui will highlight on how the body images create an identity. Also among the papers presented there would be one entitled “A Psychological Profile of Sabah” by Ahmad Oueini. For following the live coverage of the session, follow my tweets : @maysashawwa or on scribblelive.com(http://www.scribblelive.com/Event/Arab_Pop_Culture_and_the_Media) Hope you’ll be able to enjoy the session as well as to contribute to it via tweeting or posting your own questions.

With a smile on her face, Maya Zankoul stepped in announcing the good news of getting a new job at telephone.com. (She has illustrations of this at her blog. You can check them here. ( http://mayazankoul.com/2010/04/15/new-job-musing/).
She paid LAUsocial a second visit introducing to us the Creative Commons. The Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that provides individual creators and institutions the ability to give a standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work. As indicated in the Creative Commons website, “The Creative Commons licenses enable people to easily change their copyright terms from the default of “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.” ”
She also told us about her experience with the CC where after she shared her work with Naeema, they came up with a poster for the CC Beirut Salon event (http://mayazankoul.com/2010/03/31/announcing-cc-salon-beirut/) that took place yesterday. From news stations like Aljazeera (http://cc.aljazeera.net/ ) to bloggers and music bands like the Meen band, they all can share, add, and remix their work to get a better enhanced one! Because of Creative Commons, Maya Zankoul now has her comics translated to Arabic though they sound weird in Arabic! lol
As in the article on Yallastartup blog by Donatella, “we need to innovate , not only to preserve, we need to produce not only consume! “

Vivacious as her cartoon character that she draws on her blog, Maya Zankoul stepped into LAUsocial class and added her own “Zakouli’s” flavor to it. She is a 23 years old Lebanese graphic/web designer and blogger. She started by putting her work online and it grew into a book Maya Zankoul’s Amalgam. Zankoul’s illustrations reflect the many frustrations she and many Lebanese citizens face in their daily lives in Lebanon.

On her visit to our class on Thursday 18th of March, she showed in her presentation the different media tools she uses online. She stressed on the importance of social media and how she relies on twitter and blogs as her primary sources of news and finds them more efficient than news spread through traditional media outlets. She mentioned that nowadays we don’t need C.Vs anymore, by being online especially on twitter; one could have the opportunity to present himself/herself and his skills and competencies. She told us how beneficial twitter was in promoting her work and interacting with different people all over the world. She quoted someone who said that we should stop separating our online and offline lives emphasizing on the importance of social media in our daily lives.

After her presentation, there was time for answering our questions. When asked if she has any privacy concerns, she said that everything used to be private unless you made it public but nowadays everything is public unless you turn it to private. When asked about the meaning of Amalgame, she said that Amalgame is a blend of diverse things and it was the name of her portfolio at university. In her blog, she criticizes a lot of Lebanese women and when asked about why she does so, she said that she would like to see in the media true images of Lebanese women who aren’t only interested in trivial things as they are being depicted in advertisements.

Then she posted, live, on her blog a post about the new numbering service used at banks and Liban Poste and she actually did this in front of us. You can check it here: http://mayazankoul.com/2010/03/18/a-miracle-at-lebanese-banks/ The most thing I liked about Maya Zankoul is her passion for the work she is doing and her persistence where at some point she mentioned that when she was searching for a publisher for publishing her online work, no one accepted and said that online is not real to go for it, but eventually she didn’t give up and VOILA, her book was born.

“This Spring, “Amalgame”  will be touring Lebanon, along with book signings!” (Maya Zankoul’s blog)

Maya Zankoul is a Lebanese graphic/web designer and blogger. She started by putting her work online and it grew into a book Maya Zankoul’s Amalgam. Her sketches represent situations that she faces in her daily life in which she criticizes the Lebanese society. She will be visiting our Media, Technology, and Culture class this week and these are the questions I would like to ask her:

 Which of the new media’s outlets made you most reachable to your audience members?

 Have you faced any censorship issues? What about self-censorship? Do you practice it in your daily life blogging?

What is your main message you would like to deliver through your blog?

Do you think that art is more expressive than words when it comes to delivering a certain idea?

You criticize in your blog women in Lebanon and how they are being used as sexual objects especially in ads, how do you view women’s status in Lebanon?

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Do you plan to produce a film based on your little comic strips like the film Persepolis?

Whenever you need to have a good laugh, Maya Zankoul’s blog or website are the right destinations, so go visit them: http://mayazankoul.wordpress.com/ http://www.mayazankoul.com/

Enough Fights!

A volcanic fight erupted at the Lebanese American University Beirut campus at the eve of the beginning of a peaceful weekend. At 6:00 p.m on Friday, students started to crowd at the upper gate and the mere shouting between them turned to hitting. The security guards calmed down the situation and the police officers rushed over and stopped the fight. LAU gates were closed. An eyewitness told me that the reason for the fight was that someone owed student money and the dispute between them intensified and turned to a big issue. Another eyewitness told me that there were other small-scale quarrels that took place since noon. Others said that it was a clash around a political issue. Regardless of the reason for the conflict, I think that if the students want to settle their disputes, LAU isn’t a place for that. It is very agitating that in the 21st century reputable universities are still the places where clashes occur.    

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