In this moment of political turmoil, readers confront a glut of increasingly polarized and virulent news media. While many of these developments are global, the challenges of which stories secure reporting and traction are particularly contested in the Arab world, where press institutions navigate the challenges of publishing transnationally, in numerous languages, as well as strictures on the freedom of press. In addition to concerns of censorship, social media has produced a tension between expertise and authority, in which editorial priorities (or expertise) do not necessarily coincide with those of the public – or the regime’s. This paper uses computational analysis to identify the competing centers of authority demonstrated in the Egyptian press, by considering the differential emphasis placed on a range of topics in a traditional print newspaper, social media, as well as official state organs. Analyzing gaps among these various outlets identifies the limits of what can and cannot be said in various realms, from the sciences and social sciences to public intellectuals writing on the state of the nation and world. In sum, considering the numerous publics articulated by this analysis provides insight into the production of numerous “realities,” “truths,” and visions for the future.
The advantage of using metadata in this paper is that most of it can be collected automatically with very high precision. In the case where this may not be feasible, some human intervention may be useful, although this should be relatively rare. The metadata also makes search much easier and more accurate. The paper aims at offering alternative narratives to mapping the development of concepts and events in the Arab world. It will dig into the corpus of thousands of journal articles to define the public places and public space where Arab writers developed their terms with less manual work. How do systematic readings highlight the history of public space(s) in the Arab culture? The hitherto untapped press sources will offer new insights into the social, cultural and political chronological history of the Arab world and its heritage.