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Happy New Year 1, January 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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So it’s 2010. How very strange. Here’s hoping that everyone has an interesting, productive and entertaining 2010.

I start this year in Doha and assume that I’ll end it in London, though it’s hard to tell. Come ‘this’ post in 365 days I wonder what I’ll be blathering on about? I guess by then I’ll have written a few tens of thousands of words on my PhD (or at least, I better have..) and will have met at least one Qatari foreign minister official-type person, thin on the ground as they are.

This year, thinking briefly in retrospect, I’m most pleased with my article on migrant workers in Kuwait, my Iranian-British relations piece for RUSI and – should they ever be published… – the two book chapters that I’ve written for edited works. Here’s hoping that things continue to progress in a similar fashion.

My blog has – thanks to your kind and appreciated patronage – been going from strength to strength. Viewing figures (if that’s the correct phrase) has been going up at a 45 degree angle month on month from around 550 per month in January 2009 to 7400 in December 2009. This kind of trajectory is extremely pleasing and it’s got me hooked for, I would guess, the long-term. Please keep your comments coming, they’re always interesting and just about always useful and insightful! So far, since the start of the blog (I can’t isolate yearly figures) I’ve written 466 posts in 36 categories with 1,498 tags generating 338 comments, in case you’re curious.

Anyway. Once again, a merry new year all around.


Harvard Arab blogosphere study 28, June 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East.
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Harvard University has recently released the findings of what looks to be a fascinating major new study into the Arab blogosphere. I have not had time to read it as yet, but their key findings are below. The paper can be found here.

We conducted a study of the Arabic language blogosphere using link analysis, term frequency analysis, and human coding of individual blogs. We identified a base network of approximately 35,000 active blogs, created a network map of the 6,000 most connected blogs, and with a team of Arabic speakers hand coded 4,000 blogs. The goal for the study was to produce a baseline assessment of the networked public sphere in the Arab Middle East, and its relationship to a range of emergent issues, including politics, media, religion, culture, and international affairs. A Country-based network (view the full map): The Arabic blogosphere is organized primarily around countries. We found the primary groupings to be: Egyptian (largest, with distinct sub- and associated clusters, e.g., Muslim Brotherhood bloggers, including some women); Saudi Arabian (second largest and focused comparatively more on technology than politics); Kuwaiti (divided into English and Arabic language sub-clusters); Levantine/English Bridge (bloggers in the Levant and Iraq using English and connected to the US and international blogospheres); Syrian; Maghrebi/French Bridge; and Religion-Focused. Demographic results indicate that Arabic bloggers are predominately young and male. The highest proportion of female bloggers is found in the Egyptian youth sub-cluster, while the Syrian and Muslim Brotherhood clusters have the highest concentration of males. Arabic media ecosystem: Bloggers link to Web 2.0 sites like YouTube and Wikipedia (English and Arabic versions) more than other sources of information and news available on the Internet. Al-Jazeera is the top mainstream media source, followed by the BBC and Al-Arabiya. Arabic bloggers tend to prefer more politically oriented YouTube videos over cultural ones. Personal life and local issues are most important: Most bloggers write mainly personal, diary-style observations. But when writing about politics, bloggers tend to focus on issues within their own country, and are more often than not critical of domestic political leaders. Foreign political leaders are discussed less often, but also more in negative than positive terms. Domestic news is more popular than international news among general politics and public life topics. The one political issue that clearly concerns bloggers across the Arab world is Palestine, and in particular the situation in Gaza (Israel’s December 2008/January 2009 military action occurred during the study). Other popular topics include religion (more in personal than political terms) and human rights (more common than criticism of western culture and values). Terrorism and the US are not major topics. When discussing terrorism, Arab bloggers are overwhelmingly critical of terrorists. When the US is discussed, it is nearly always critically.

Saudi censors 25, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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Here’s a link to a blog which has subsequently been banned in Saudi Arabia over an article which shows pictures of an album that was deemed too salacious for general release without a whisk or two of the censor’s pen. This is eerily reminiscent of the treatment that Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ album got in Saudi which I documented some time ago.

Hat tip: Saudi Jeans