Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.
Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.
Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.
Author ORCID Identifier
Open Access Dissertation
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
Emily E. West
Marwan M. Kraidy
Communication | Communication Technology and New Media | Critical and Cultural Studies | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | International and Intercultural Communication | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Media
This research project examines small-scale media initiatives that promote counter-sectarian narratives and more inclusive discourse in displaced and war-affected communities. I call these initiatives “online spaces of possibilities,” which I define as fields of cultural production that offer a culture of possibilities embedded in the actual online and offline practices of media producers and audiences, who navigate capitalist technological structures and violent cultural environments to produce positive affect of affinities and connections in war and displacement contexts.
In this dissertation, I explore two major research questions: how do displaced media producers use digital media to engage with displaced audiences across the political spectrum; and how do marginalized, displaced audiences use digital media to wield power and cope with unjust life conditions. I examine displaced media producers’ strategies of transformative possibilities to engage with displaced audiences across the political spectrum through seven case studies: Enab Baladi, Radio Rozana, ARTA FM, Radio Souriat, Syrische Frauen in Deutschland, Let’s Stand Again, and Diaspora Kitchen. To show the ways in which marginalized, displaced audiences use digital media to wield power and cope with unjust life conditions, I examine as case studies the audiences of three social media initiatives (Syrische Frauen in Deutschland, Let’s Stand Again, and Diaspora Kitchen). I analyze the audiences of these social media initiatives as diasporic networked counterpublics.
Methodologically, I develop a multi-methodology approach that combines decolonial methodology, community-engaged participatory research approach, and ethics as method approach. I conducted this research fieldwork intermittently over 4 years (2018-2021). My main method is 83 online and offline interviews, supported by online and offline ethnography, and document analysis.
Throughout this study, I show that in a cultural environment dominated by ideology, violence, and polarization, “online spaces of possibilities” produce a culture of possibilities that is enabling because it empowers media producers and audiences to engage cognitively and emotionally in pursuing and achieving media projects and goals to alleviate the inequalities and injustices that shape their communities’ everyday experiences. However, it is also constraining because it is shaped under regimes of power in their homeland and diaspora which includes authoritarianism, platform capitalism, and racism.
Alhayek, Katty, "SYRIAN ONLINE SPACES OF POSSIBILITIES: ALTERNATIVE AND ACTIVIST MEDIA FOR DIALOGUE AND RECONCILIATION" (2021). Doctoral Dissertations. 2252.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
Available for download on Tuesday, September 01, 2026
Communication Technology and New Media Commons, Critical and Cultural Studies Commons, Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication Commons, International and Intercultural Communication Commons, Social Media Commons