GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
The Geography of Discussion in Muscat, Oman
Paper Proposal Text :
The public spaces in cities have long been considered as spaces of encounter and discussion. With the advent of social media, the discussion, in particular in societies with limited freedom of speech and strong state censorship as Gulf countries and Oman in particular, moved to the new platforms creating emergent practices in the space of the city. The city of Muscat has grown rapidly over the last decades. As shown by [von Richthofen, Aurel; Sebastian Langer, 2015] the urbanization process catered for individual housing and rarely provided for public spaces. At the same time the use of mobile devices exploded. In Muscat, digital technologies, cultural specificities and urban sprawl created an extensive web of social interaction not necessarily following the spatial configuration of the city.

In this context, social media offer an intangible political arena mediated by the infrastructure of the city. In the city, or in the physical space, people build up increasingly dense webs of shared understanding grounded at least in part on the points of reference that these settings afford [Mitchell, 2005]. Moreover there is the emergence of hybrid spaces, where social practices happen in physical public spaces, but part of the social interaction is possible only thought social media. In this heterogeneous context it is useful to locate the setting of certain speeches, discussions.

The paper will try to answer the following research questions:
- What are the volume and the characteristics of public discussion in social media in Muscat, Oman?
- Is there reciprocity among topics of discussion and their localization?
- Is it possible, by recognizing trends of discussion, to recognize new meanings and practices in physical spaces?

This paper presents a case study: Muscat and social media and try to understand the dynamic between the city and the ongoing discussion on social networks.
The methodology consists in collecting and visualizing geo-located social media data, previously aggregated on different topics. The paper will present a series of visualization, maps, realized though the collection of Social Media Feeds (Twitter and Instagram), generated by users in Muscat. The feeds, collected for three weeks, have been word filtered, with words that are currently used by media in Oman when describing certain topics. The aim is, on one hand to grasp the dimension and the quality of the current discussion going on though social media in Muscat, but also to localize discussions in the infrastructure of the city of Muscat: from society and political hot topic to the city of romance and social gathering. Through such analysis the different discourses develop in the spaces of the city appear, showing a new emergent geography.


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