AREACORE (Arab-European Association for Communication and Media Researchers)’s symposium of network coordinators, held in Berlin on March 22nd and 23rd, 2014, was an opportunity to discuss and plan ahead for the main events of its initial DAAD funded project on “Communication in Transformation – Transforming Communication Studies” in 2014. In doing so, the symposium tackled the main problems facing Media and Communication research and education in the Arab World today. Through its projects AREACORE aims at working on those problems. As the association's main goal is to strengthen joint research and expand horizons among Arab and European scholars in the field of communication, and in particular to facilitate communication research across Arab countries and between Arab and European scholars, the symposium sought to address the projects and collaborations that foster this learning and exchange process.
As discussions between the coordinators on these topics proceeded, specific problems seemed to always surface. The first barrier to the development of the field in the Arab region was identified as a deficiency in high quality research, due to many factors, namely the lack of highly qualified educators, financial and bureaucratic difficulties, and a lack of a general policy that favors quality over quantity. The second barrier, closely associated with the first, is the low visibility of research. In addition to English language, media research in the Arab region is conducted in Arabic and French, and does not often reach the high standard publishing that favors mostly English as a writing language. Also, there is a lack of high quality journals in Arabic which publish and give visibility to researches conducted in Arabic. A third problem facing the project is the lack of an institutionalized communication platform that would connect scholars from across the Arab world and create opportunities for joint researches and collaborations. These, and other problems, were discussed at the symposium, and asserted the need for AREACORE to exist and orient its projects, in accordance with its mission, to address those problems.
The symposium set forth the planned events and projects for 2014 that include a conference in Tunisia in October, a Summer academy in Beirut in August, a joint online course between FU Berlin and Cairo University in winter term 2014, and a Winter school in Berlin in December. While the Tunis’ conference aims to make Arab research on social media more visible and wants to attract senior and young scholars, the other projects have a bottom-up-approach to teach students digital and cross-cultural media literacy. The students are the media practitioners and/or the communication scholars of the future – through the DAAD support AREACORE aims to encourage them from the beginning to become critical thinkers!