Mobile Media Use in the Middle East

Study to examine the role of content in learning and civic engagement

Rachel Davis Mersey

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and others have played an undeniable role in shaping the current socio-political landscape of the Middle East, yet most mobile media research to date has focused on the business aspects of its use—not, for example, how its content might influence public education and engagement.

IPR media scholar Rachel Davis Mersey is helping to launch a new study that will seek to understand the development and diffusion of mobile media content in the Arab world. Working with John Pavlik of Rutgers University and Everette Dennis, dean of Northwestern’s campus in Qatar (NU-Q), the trio will deploy computer science methodology and data analysis with an eye toward creating a model of innovative mobile content designed to foster learning and engagement in the Arab world.

Most previous research on digital media innovation has focused primarily on how traditional businesses can create funding models and revenue structures in a networked, digital environment, Mersey explained. “Few studies of media innovation have focused on content and on how entrepreneurs might reinvent this basic building block of media,” she said.

“We have designed a study to address some of the questions about content and how it might be re-imagined as part of stronger relationships among media producers and consumers,” Mersey continued.

With funding from the Qatar National Research Program, the study will examine data from social networking sites, including location-based data, and will pair the data with field surveys and interviews with participants in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

This project marks a continuation of Mersey’s research on Middle East media and collaboration with NU-Q, where she was a research fellow in 2013. She served as a research adviser to the Media Use in the Middle East Study, an eight-nation survey conducted by NU-Q and Harris Interactive, which also recently received a grant from the Qatar National Research Program to develop a longitudinal study. This survey received international media attention for its comprehensive look at media use and attitudes among residents of Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. She also continues to work on projects in conjunction with Al-Jazeera.

Rachel Davis Mersey is associate professor of journalism and an IPR fellow.