Park Scholar Saturday Seminar
By Jessica Corbett '15
This fall’s Saturday Seminar, held on September 8, focused on technology and the "Arab Spring," a wave of revolutionary protests that took the Arab world by storm in late 2010.
Scholars read and discussed Wael Ghomin’s “Revolution 2.0,” a memoir that recounts Ghomin’s role in the Arab Spring. He is a Google executive who anonymously founded a Facebook page that helped spark the revolution in Egypt.
Ghomin initially founded the page in honor of Kullena Khaled Said, a man beaten to death by the Egyptian authorities. Khaled Said’s death was initially portrayed as a drug-related suicide, and was a source of contention between the Egyptian government and the general public. Ghomin’s posts on the page were written in Khaled Said’s voice, and many of the posts were included in the memoir.
For the first portion of the day, scholars broke off into small groups and shared their reactions to the book. Small group discussions were facilitated by Park Scholar Program Director, Dr. Matt Fee, Assistant Dean Bryan Roberts, Associate Dean Virginia Mansfield-Richardson, Associate Professor Arhlene Flowers and Assistant Professor Jack Powers.
Senior Stephen Burke said, “I think I got more out of the discussion this year than others because I was able to draw upon the experiences of other Park Scholar books for this conversation.”
After lunch, scholars gathered in the Park Auditorium to watch “How Facebook Changed the World: The Arab Spring,” a program by the BBC that compared and contrasted the revolutionary efforts in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya and Syria.
“I feel like the BBC documentary made a valiant effort to try and cover a modern topic that seems to change every second in the news, and was effective in portraying the progression of different Arab countries in their fight for independence,” senior Amy Obarski said.
After the screening, scholars broke up into smaller groups and each group was assigned one of the countries addressed in the screening. The groups discussed the issues in their individual countries, how social media affected the revolutionary efforts in their region, and the current state of the country, nearly two years after these revolutions started. Some counties, like Syria, are still in complete disarray.
“I think it was an extremely relevant topic, especially because it exemplified the power of the digital age in relation to media and the responsibilities we have to take with it,” junior Cady Lang said.
Relevance is a key aspect of the Park Scholar book discussions and each book chosen pertains to media and local, national or global issues.
The effects of the Arab Spring are still prominent today, with the recent assassination of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens. Stevens, along with three other Americans, were killed at the American embassy on September 12.