Rapid changes in the Egyptian political landscape show an evolving public sphere. Drawing on theoretical approaches of the public sphere and social movement theory, the main research question of the Media Culture Transformation project investigates the contributions of the online public sphere in shaping the political discourses in the highly contested constitution debates.
Previous research on online activism and democratization suggests that rapid and extensive progress in Internet and Communication Technologies (ICTs) shifted political communication towards less deterministic communication patterns, thus breaking the state monopoly of the media. Marginalized oppositional political actors express themselves more freely in the Internet, where a growing digital public sphere indeed resembles an extension of real life. Internet challenges established power structures by offering a communicative space to the marginalized and fragmented. Indeed, indicators in the past two years show a diffusion effect from the Internet to mainstream media.
The controversial issue of the constitution has been chosen as a prime example for an issue of institutional and legal change in post-Mubarak Egypt. Focusing on the process of drafting Egypt’s constitution, the communication streams of a number of social movements will be examined. The latter include 6th of April, Revolutionary Socialists, Salafyo Costa and The Muslim Brotherhood. The main hypothesis argues that since the movements have different positions regarding the constitution, these differences guide their discourses, communicative messages and mobilization techniques in their Facebook pages. The research applies qualitative content analysis. The research project is hosted by the Orient-Institut Beirut, Cairo office, and funded by the BMBF, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.