Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Carol Winkler

Second Advisor

Dr. Amelia Arsenault

Third Advisor

Dr. Michael Bruner

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Sahar Khamis

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Shawn Power


The wave of mass protests in the Middle East and North Africa highlighted the crucial role of information communication technologies in mobilization and political change. Debate among scholars revolved around the Internet’s potential for toppling authoritarian regimes. However, rather than seeing the Arab Spring as a direct result of social media, this study examines how the online and offline media strategies converged, interacted, or prevailed within the various socioeconomic and political contexts. It looks at the purposes and functions of each medium, with a discussion of the dialectical relationship between them.

Drawing on interviews and fieldwork in Morocco, as well as a critical examination of the movement’s communications, this study contributes to the debate about the role of social media and the Arab Spring. It analyzes an Arab Spring movement that did not call for regime change, investigates relationships between the activists’ use of online and offline media, and examines the multiple forms of communication flows in meaning making and nation building within dominant and non-dominant Moroccan publics. Finally, the study explores how the February 20th movement’s communication approaches functioned within the historical, cultural, and sociopolitical context of Morocco in the present day.

The findings show that the activists generally relied on the online social platforms to respond to state allegations against the movement, counter hegemonic practices of the state, and to mobilize followers both locally and internationally. While the online environment helped set the agenda for political discussion, it was also, unable, on its own, to mobilize the Moroccan people to the streets. Online platforms simply could not substitute for traditional offline communication, with the result that the activists had to utilize both online and offline communication channels. Dismissing the notion that a homogenous Moroccan communication strategy prevailed in the February 20th movement, the demographic and political contexts in specific cities played a major role in the choice of communication platforms or messages. The study found the activists relied on offline communication strategies, with a particular focus on aesthetic practices to mobilize the subaltern publics. Through implentation of various cultural and linguistic practices, the movement worked to reformulate the traditional concepts of nation and state, create a shared history of oppression and resistance, and envision a new era of participatory politics.