Social Media remains most preferred source of news in the UAE, study shows. [Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)]
(Gulf News (United Arab Emirates) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Dubai: Social media, including Facebook and Twitter, is the most preferred source of news in the UAE, revealed a research paper on mobile internet habits.
The paper, by Yousuf Khalifa Al Ghufli, 24, an Emirati analyst specialising in Public Policy and Social Research in Abu Dhabi, and Tania Gupta, an Indian Internet Research Professional and Digital Analyst at Oxford University, England, was presented at the Gulf Research Centre Cambridge (GRCC) last week at the 2014 Gulf Research Meeting.
"We used a mixed methods approach, where we started off with a survey followed up with semi-structured interviews. We surveyed 158 respondents and interviewed 13 people." Al Ghufli told Gulf News.
He added that the most interesting insight was that when it comes to preferred methods of news consumption "habits of expatriates who are long-term residents in the UAE are more similar to [those] of Emiratis than to the consumption habits of expatriates who are short-term residents, regardless of nationality".
Other significant findings, Al Ghufli said, were that expatriates use mobile internet more often in communicating with friends and family, while Instant Messaging (such as through Whats App and BlackBerry Messenger) is the most preferred method for communicating with family and friends as opposed to social media, voice-over-IP apps (such as Skype) and video and/or photo sharing websites.
The paper also showed that Emiratis are more active in using mobile internet than expatriates, but expatriates use mobile internet more often in communicating with friends and family than Emiratis.
Gupta said that the results helped them understand how technologies such as mobile phones have come to be a part of people's daily lives. "Academics call this process the domestication of technology, where these devices become so ubiquitous, individuals don't think of them as separate technology and use them for cultural practices, such as family traditions and marking religious practices."
She explained that the paper showed that rather than this domestication breaking tradition and replacing face-to-face interactions, mobile internet was being used to reinforce the idea of a family, the day-to-day interactions of household and social relationships.
They said that some of the results were unexpected. "We were hypothesising very different culturally-specific uses of mobile technology amongst expatriate and native communities. What we saw is that while the cultural practices were similar across these communities, the use of the mobile internet differed in the way these practices were expressed." Gupta said.
Gupta and Al Ghufli decided to tackle this issue in their paper because they said they felt there was a gap in the study of societies in the Arab Gulf, which Gupta said merited research.
"Larger topics such as the impact of big data, individual privacy, community participation and internet governance are starting to trickle across the world as major concerns. We wanted to bring early sociological research and discussions to the region and amongst societies," she said.
The duo plan to expand the study in order to gain more insights in terms of age groups and gender. "Such insight would be very valuable for the development of an effective education policy." Al Ghufli said.
Gupta added that this was just an exploratory study. "We would definitely like to listen more closely to community stories such as through ethnography."
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