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Nouveaux médias et culture transnationale en Tunisie : quels enjeux socio-culturels ?

Abstract : New media and transnational culture in Tunisia : what are the socio-cultural issues? From time immemorial means and techniques of communication have been considered remarkably useful tools in the quest for individual and collective emancipation and also as real catalysts for social change. The transnationalisation of networks and cultural exchanges may be seen as bringing this about, notably in Southern societies. Latterly, news items and even expert opinion have supported this idealistic vision of Communication Technology by reducing the ''Arab Spring'' to a technological performance of social networking (Castells, 2011). In reality, in Maghreb and in the Arab World, the mass use of new media and the Internet may be hailed as the forerunner of a new political outlook (Mohsen-Finan, 2009 ; Gonzalez-Quijano & Guaaybess, 2009). In Tunisia, dissenting voices published on the Web by cyber-activists may be seen to have lead to a transformation of the public sphere in a country where an authoritarian state monopolised political expression and was opposed to any form of autonomy in civil society (Lecomte, 2009). These different findings highlight the dynamic ''libertarian'' effect of the new media made possible by the technology of the World Wide Web. From its inception the Web was destined to become a network open to all, short circuiting systems of state control and carrying with it hopes of social reconstruction from ''the base upwards'' (Cardon, 2010, p.13). Without calling into question any of the socio-cultural and technological strengths of ''cultural globalisation'', it is important for us, nevertheless, to question the way individuals see and envisage their integration into global society. The impact their social and cultural practices have on the political agenda, for example, is an important measure of what is socio-politically at stake in ''globalisation''. In fact one can see how the use of ICTs can become a powerful catalyst in social protests, as was the case in the revolutionary uprising in Tunisia. However, in order for the public sphere to be completely transformed other factors need to be present, such as, for example, a determination to overthrow the establishment and an ability to mobilise the masses. When examining current changes in Tunisian society, (without claiming to provide an in depth analysis), we are lead into an analysis of certain Internet practices, namely how individual accounts are used by the blogosphere before the fall of ex president Ben Ali. By studying personal on-line testimonies we are able to establish the way in which individuals make the most of transnationalisation, demonstrate their social and cultural choices and pronounce on their individual to public rights. Instead of taking a holistic view of the public sphere it is preferable to use Bernard Miège's notion of ''partial public space'' (Miège, 2010) and Peter Dahlgren's notion of specific features in the domain of ''the public sphere on-line'' (Dahlgren, 2005). The space opened up by Tunisian bloggers can, of course, be considered as a movement of competing public interests (Fraser, 2001, p. 139) but at the same time as one which has its own specific structural features, whether they be political, social or cultural. One possible objective of the movement being to open up discursive space. But as Dominique Cardon points out, in this space ''the dividing line between private sociability and public debate is blurred by a new sensitivity which leads individuals to reveal more about themselves and create links between their private lives and public issues'' (Cardon, 2010, p. 11). In the light of these elements, digital space provides a new platform for public exchanges. Reading and studying the accounts published on the Net by bloggers in Tunisia shows us that digital practices are determined by the assertion of self and one's values with a view to instigating individual and public action; action which may appear less like traditional political militancy and more like the liberation of personal expression. Whilst aiming at achieving citizenship, these practices focus on notions of individuality and autonomy in one's personal life. In this way emergent declarations from a sphere made up of people who are ''autonomous'', ''amateurs'' (Flichy, 2010) are put into perspective and we can demonstrate to what extent the global network of the Internet has underpinned civic activism in a society struggling for freedom of expression. Our hypothesis is that affirming one's individuality on a blog goes hand in hand with civic practices in the sense that it can be seen as active participation in the city state. The use Tunisian internet users made of digital freedom basically illustrates a willingness on their behalf to see themselves as private citizens, ones that political authorities had constantly sought to marginalise. Even though constrained by digital boundaries, the mobilisation of certain bloggers embodies, in reality, this sense of individual emancipation and brings with it elements of a new societal project, which once again refutes culturalist theories about holistic society. Through the study of certain Tunisian blogs in which self assertion combines with civic culture, our questioning focuses on the form and content of digital texts setting themselves up as new culture : what are the formal aspects highlighted by Web users in their blogs? How do bloggers associate their individual need for autonomy, by claiming freedom of expression on the Net, with collective action setting its sights on a new model of society? Would this place of public exchange be a joint extension of the private sphere and its problems? Our enquiry is based on a socio-discursive analysis of a sample of blogs which have been added to for several years and which have a wide audience in spite of censorship. It strives to guide thinking about this new culture of participation afforded by the Net in Tunisia by illustrating how complex the issue is. A complexity which comes, in particular, from the political and social constraints which, in some respects, govern individual expression, but also from the determination Tunisian bloggers have shown, throughout the different phases of mobilisation, to be victorious in the field of on-line discussion.
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Zouha Dahmen-Jarrin. Nouveaux médias et culture transnationale en Tunisie : quels enjeux socio-culturels ?. Communiquer dans un monde de normes. L'information et la communication dans les enjeux contemporains de la " mondialisation "., Mar 2012, France. pp.257. ⟨hal-00826067v2⟩

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