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date: 21 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Digital infrastructure has been rapidly embraced in the Arab Middle East and North Africa in the last decade, opening a unique window for computational social science and network data science scholars. However, there are currently two coexisting social and economic realities in the region, which result in very different usages and dynamics of networked communication: countries with chronic civil unrest in which digital media have largely served as mobilization tools (e.g., Tunisia, Egypt), and relatively stable and wealthy societies that face social change and economic hyper-development (e.g., Qatar, Kuwait). Given such diversity across the region, how and why should social scientists study digital networks in the Middle East? What can digital networks teach us about the social and political aspects of the modern Middle East? In sum, while claims about digital technologies’ impacts across the region have been critiqued for being speculative and overblown, we suggest that digital technologies have instead broadened our ability to understand ongoing transformations among Arab states and societies.

Keywords: computational social science, social media, social disrupter, social observatory, collective action

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