Social Media and Honesty: Expressing Yourself Anonymously

Nowadays, social media is a given.  Whether you tweet, update your Facebook status, or enjoy uploading images of a midday meal or two, the assumed default is that everyone is involved in at least one type of social media.  That assumption, combined with our own need to be ever-connected, continues to feed the development of new and intriguing takes on social media.  Case in point:  Sarahah.

Created by Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq and named for the Arabic word for ‘honesty’, Sarahah enables users to send anyone in their social network—friends, family, coworkers—anonymous messages.  The goal, he says, was to enable people to give feedback to others without fear, as factors like age gaps or rank differences can make it difficult to have open, constructive discussions.  As such, the site explicitly avoids recording the identity of who sends what, so users can send and receive messages without worrying that their confessions will be linked back to them.

The site was originally made to help businesses, but quickly grew beyond such specific scope thanks to 270 million views and 20 million users.  Most popular in Egypt with nearly 2.5 million users, the site is also gaining ground in Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, as well as Syria and Kuwait.  This number will undoubtedly continue to grow as the service develops further—and with its FAQ page revealing a ‘reply to message’ function is in the works, clearly there are plans to do just that.

Although this specific social media service is a trending, up-and-coming new platform, this is not the first time its foundational idea of ‘anonymity’ has been a means of the, somewhat oxymoronic, privately public social media confession.

In January of 2005, for example, a project wherein unidentified people would send in decorated postcards with a personal, untold secret on it was created.  Over the course of two years, the project, and community around it, expanded to such an extent that the PostSecret webpage was launched.

Whisper, released in March 2012, is primarily a mobile app, although it does have its own website.  The app follows PostSecret precedent of secrets or confessions overlaid on pictures, with the difference of all the submissions being digital.

Finally, there’s Yik Yak—a smartphone app launched in 2013 with the goal of allowing people to create, view, reply to, and vote on anonymous posts…but only those created by other users within a 5-mile radius of one’s location.  As of late, however, the app has begun to shift away from complete and total anonymity by granting users the option to post under their specific profile name.

Whether it’s through snail mail like PostSecret or an online site like Sarahah, it’s obvious that people desire an anonymous means to connect and be heard—especially in those instances where the topic of conversation is sensitive or potentially uncomfortable.

References

Rashwan, N. (2017, February 27). ‘Ready for honesty?’ An anonymous message site takes off. Retrieved from BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-39067533

Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. (n.d.). PostSecret – Wikipedia. Retrieved from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PostSecret

Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. (n.d.). Whisper (app) – Wikipedia. Retrieved from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whisper_%28app%29

Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. (n.d.). Yik Yak – Wikipedia. Retrieved from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yik_Yak

 

Erin Shores

Graduate Assistant | International and Area Studies Library

MSLIS Candidate | School of Information Sciences

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Statement regarding Executive Order barring refugees and citizens of seven countries

To echo the University of Illinois President’s statement regarding the Trump Administration’s order barring some immigrants, the International and Area Studies Library shares the University’s value of international students, scholars, exchanges, and perspectives as a central aspect of the University’s mission.  The International and Area Studies Library would like to reiterate to the campus community that it provides a safe space for students, scholars, and the community to study, research, and discuss any topic or subject, including the current policies regarding immigrant and refugee access to the United States.

In addition, the individuals at the International and Area Studies library are able to provide all students, scholars, and members of the community with access to important resources to learn about and make sense of the rapidly changing policy environment that relates directly to many regions of the world and issues of international importance.  From print and electronic resources to human expertise, the International and Area Studies Library is available to assist you.

Support for Research on the Topic and Regions Affected

If you are specifically interested in learning more about the seven countries targeted by the Trump Administration, please contact Laila Hussein, Middle East and North African Studies Librarian.  Professor Hussein has expertise in Middle East and North African Studies and Human Rights. She can also help people interested in accessing and understanding contemporary research and journalistic resources from these regions in Arabic and Persian.

Assurance of Privacy and Confidentiality

The University Library’s faculty and staff are professionally obligated and committed to maintaining patron confidentiality.  No question you ask, resource you use, or book you read will be shared without your consent (Library Privacy Policy).

Librarians can also provide advice and instruction on privacy enhancing technologies that you may wish to consider using in online research and electronic communications.  (See Library Freedom Project: https://blog.torproject.org/blog/guest-post-library-freedom-project-bringing-privacy-and-anonymity-libraries or Heritage Foundation for more information on privacy and technology issues: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2004/05/technologies-that-can-protect-privacy-as-information-is-shared-to-combat-terrorism)

Contacts

To contact an expert in Middle East Studies, get help with research on this topic, or learn more about services, resources, and advice that the Library can offer please contact:

International and Area Studies Library: Room 321, Main Library; 1408 W. Gregory Dr.; Urbana, IL, (217) 333-1501 Email: internationalref@library.illinois.edu

For specific visa advice, and counseling, please contact International Student and Scholar Services

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: International Student and Scholar Services, (217) 333-1303 (isss@illinois.edu)

Steve Witt
Associate Professor
Head, International and Area Studies Library
Director, Center for Global Studies
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Champaign, Illinois 61820 USA
Phone: 217.265.7518
Email: swwitt@illinois.edu

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Adventures in Arabic, Part III

This week we bring you our third and last entry in the “Adventures in Arabic” series. The content in Parts I, II, and III reflect eight months of elementary study of the Arabic language and include not only linguistic observations of interest but literary, cultural, religious, and strategic ones, too. Thank you for joining me on this journey. Or, that is, شُكْراً (shoo-krahn).

A girl writes Arabic calligraphy on a wall. Image Credit: Nur Meryem Seja on Flickr

A girl writes Arabic calligraphy on a wall. Image Credit: Nur Meryem Seja on Flickr

GRAMMAR

Gender applies here, too.

Remember that binary distinction that you had to make in Spanish class between el niño (boy) and la niña (girl)? Yes, gender appears as frequently and as importantly in Arabic, too. Just like the romance languages, French, Portuguese, Italian, Romanian, and more, nouns are divided into two classes, masculine and feminine, and the adjectives that modify them must abide by certain rules to respect the conventions of grammar. Even in English, word pairings like actor/actress, bachelor/bachelorette, god/goddess, host/hostess, waiter/waitress represent a similar concept.

Words belong to families.

A visual word map that traces different manifestations of the root ف-ه-م. Image Credit: Blogger Sawitri from myarabicnotes.blogspot.com

A visual word map that traces different manifestations of the root ف-ه-م (f-h-m). Image Credit: Blogger Sawitri from myarabicnotes.blogspot.com

Consider, for a moment, these groups or “families” of words below:

happy, happily, happiness, unhappily

interest, interesting, disinterested, uninterested

simple, simplify, simplistic, simply

In English, we have a base form of a word that provides a sort of template for additional suffixes and prefixes that we affix to its beginning or ending to establish new meanings. As outlined in the initial text used for Arabic 201, Alif Baa by Kristen Brustad, et al, in Arabic, “words are usually formed from a core of three consonants that constitute [their] basic meaning[s], called the root[s] of the word[s]. Words are formed by putting roots into different patterns or syllable structures” (207). For example, the root ب ت ك (k-t-b) will always address something in relation to the act of writing or the written word; the root س ر د (d-r-s) will always address studying; and ع – م – ج  (j-m-3*) will always address groups or plurality. These roots are organized in different patterns and coupled with various short vowels to indicate nouns, verbs, people, adjectives, and more.

k-t-b,  aktab (I write), maktaba (library), kitaab (book)

d-r-s, tadros (she studies)dars, (lesson), madrasa (school)

j-m-3*, aljamaعa (Friday), jaamiعa (university), tajmع (group)

SCRIPT

Transliterations are approximations.

A transliteration involves using the script of one language to write another. Unlike the Latin or Roman script used to write English, the Arabic script does not have letters for “p,” “v” or “x.” So, writing “Patricia,” “Victor,” and/or “Xavier” pose unique challenges. “P” and “v” are typically substituted by the Arabic letter “ب” (baa) while “اكس” (iks) is used to establish the sound of “x.” Accordingly, to make additional negotiations, “Champaign” is written as  “شمبين” (shambeen); “Europe” is “أوروبا” (oorooba) and “Harvard” is written as “هارفرد” (harfard). Also note that there is no capitalization in Arabic.

 The Arabic script can appear to be more “dainty” than the Roman script.

Take these words for example, all typed without any formatting and in the same size font. The Arabic words appear to be more condensed as they take up less space.

dog كلب

cat قطة

 fish سمك

Print vs. handwriting

There is a difference between reading a standardized font in print and reading someone’s cursive handwriting. This distinction would seem obvious as, inter-culturally speaking, even handwriting in English differs in appearance from language in print. See below:

A typed grocery list, from right-to-left and top-to-bottom: milk, eggs, strawberries, sugar, flour, banana, orange, meat, chicken, fish, dates, gum, eggplant, wipes, soap, juice, honey, watermelon, ice cream (a transliteration), chocolate (a transliteration).

A typed grocery list, from right-to-left and top-to-bottom. It reads: “milk, eggs, strawberries, sugar, flour, banana, orange, meat, chicken, fish, dates, gum, eggplant, wipes, soap, juice, honey, watermelon, ice cream [a transliteration], chocolate [a transliteration]”.

The same grocery list, as above, but in handwriting. See the previous image’s caption for a translation of the listed items.

The same grocery list as above, handwritten. See the previous image’s caption for a translation of the listed items.

 

 CULTURE

Some names are very common.

As in English with names like Michael, Matt, John, Jennifer, Stephanie, and Mary, there are certain names that will appear over and over again in Arabic. Among them are Ahmed, Mahmoud, and Mohammed (Muhammad) for men and Fatima, Khadija, and Salma for women. As in English with names like Mary and Sara, some of these stem from holy texts. Mohammed, for example, and the many derivations thereof, refers directly to the founder of Islam.

You can make yourself a celebrity by reciting the Koran.

In many Islamic societies, the recitation of Koranic verses, or “قراءة (qirat), is a highly prized ability. Many young talents who sing well on shows like American Idol, The Voice, and The X Factor are applauded for their voices; reciting the Koran in some places in the Middle East can garner fame and attention.

STRATEGY

Typing.

If you take learning Arabic seriously, there are some invaluable resources you need to have handy. Some of the greatest of these are the tools used to type the language in the absence of an Arabic-lettered keyboard. Each of the sites below will allow you to type and/or select the letters you need to create Arabic language texts.

A dictionary.

Guess what word is used most frequently in the Arabic language. “The” or “ال” is the first; the twelfth is “God” or “الله”; and the 93rd is “world” or “عالم. With A Frequency Dictionary of Arabic: Core Vocabulary for Learners, students of Arabic can review the words that are most frequently used.

A screenshot of the University of Illinois' Summer Institute of Languages of the Muslim World

A screenshot of the University of Illinois’ Summer Institute of Languages of the Muslim World

Thank you for joining us on our Adventures in Arabic. In addition, we encourage you to study any other language with a script different from your own. In a world of shrinking borders, knowledge of your neighbors will surely be valued in whatever profession you assume. On the University of Illinois campus, Arabic is offered not only through the curriculum but also through short-term IFLIP courses and intensive SILMW courses over the summer. For more posts like these, be sure to like our Facebook page and tune in next semester for more from Glocal Notes and the International and Area Studies Library.

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“The Fairer Sex” Writes

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What writers would you highlight to commemorate Women’s History Month? Comment below!

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Image Source: suggestive celine (via Flickr)

March is Women’s History Month and an appropriate time to highlight some of the women’s voices that represent world literature. After all,

  • American Hillary Clinton, who is an author of five books, is running for the U.S. presidency,
  • Nigerian Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who is an author of five books, has a TED Talk that opens our courses concerned with social justice,
  • and Pakistani Malala Yousafzai, author of one book, continues to fight for the equal education of girls and boys.

Check out these literary works from across the globe that engage discourses of women’s and gender rights in ways that are frequently subversive, occasionally confrontational, and always powerful.

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Mahasweta Devi. Image Source: TopNews

Draupadi” by Mahasweta Devi (1978)

Tags: India, South Asia, Bengali, short story

In a poor, post-colonial town in India, rumor has it that an infamous young woman, “Dopdi,” who has yet to reach the age of 30, has become a menace to local authorities. Fighting for labor rights and attacking officials without warning, she presents a dangerous local figure. Yet no one can identify her with any certainty. While the police have laid traps to draw her out of hiding in the forest, Dopdi continues to evade capture. In the end, what is meant to be Dopdi’s undoing invigorates her spirit and renders her an even more powerful threat. The best reading of this story is dependent on minimal research into the South Asian mythical epic of the Mahabharata. Themes of gender, sexual violence, and classism are strong threads in this short and powerful work. To continue the conversation addressing sexual violence as a world phenomenon and its prevalence in South Asia, attend the April 5th evening screening of India’s Daughter at the Spurlock Museum.

More Like This: Gayatri Spivak’s essay Can the Subaltern Speak? (India and postcolonial nations), most any title by Jhumpa Lahiri (India & the USA)

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Gayatri Spivak. Image Source: Rosa Luxemburg-Stiftung on Flickr

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Jhumpa Lahiri. Image Source: Il Circollo del lettori on Flickr

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (1988)

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Tsitsi Dangarembga. Image Source: Pan American Center on Flickr

Tags: Zimbabwe, Africa, English, novel

In this novel, “Tambu” is a young girl living in a country then known as Rhodesia in the 1960s. Because she is female, her ambition for academic study is not well supported by her community—that is, until her older brother suddenly dies and someone must take on a role of leadership and status to save her family from economic ruin. As Tambu is introduced to a new world of privilege, knowledge, and experience, readers examine what she leaves behind and what these sacrifices mean in shaping a new, hybrid identity. This bildungsroman succeeds in taking on the ambitious goal of engaging discourses of gender, colonialism, and competing cultures in a work deemed one of the most important to have come out of Africa. If you are a current University of Illinois student and interested in these themes and this novel in particular, consider taking a course taught by Dr. Manisha Babb. She teaches a cross-listed course called Modern African Literature offered in the English, African Studies, Comparative World Literature, and French departments, respectively as ENG 470, AFST 410, CW 410, and FR 410.

More Like This: Mariama Bâ’s Une si longue lettre (Senegal), Maria Nsué’s Ekomo (Equatorial Guinea)

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Mariama Bâ. Image Source: Wikipedia

A photo of Maria Nsue. Image Source: escritores.org

Maria Nsué. Image Source: escritores.org

Emails from Scheherazad (2003) by Mohja Kahf

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Mohja Kahf. Image Source: Aslan Media on Flickr

Tags: Syria, the Middle Eastern Diaspora, poetry

Do you remember Scheherazad(e)? She was the sole wife and queen to King Shahryar who eluded death by telling tales within tales that never ended? The stories of Aladdin, Sinbad, and Ali Baba all stem from this famous text. Mohja Kahf, a poet of Syrian descent, revisits this legacy in her compilation of poems. Emails from Scheherazad. Her bi-cultural identity informs and enriches her work, as seen in the poem “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears.” In it she describes being the product of both a Middle Eastern and an American culture. She regularly contradicts the widely held notion that being a Muslim and a woman is synonymous with being oppressed and her poems allude to globally recognizable female characters who face adversity—Eve, Malinche, Hagar, and more—suggesting a shared history and resilience. To get more connected to the local Muslim community on University campus, check out the United Muslims and Minority Advocates (UMMA) on Facebook.

More Like This: Arabian Nights/One Thousand and One Nights, Mona Eltahawy’s Headscarves and Hymens (Egypt & the USA), Ghada Abdel Aal’s I Want to Get Married (Egypt)

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Mona Eltahawy. Image Source: Aspen Institute (via Flickr)

 

A photo of Ghada Abdel Aal. Image Source Christopher Rose on Flickr

Ghada Abdel Aal. Image Source: Christopher Rose (via Flickr)

Yentl, the Yeshiva Boy by Isaac Bashevis Singer (1983)

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Barbara Streisand as Yentl. Image Source: Ziegfeld Girl on Flickr

Tags: Poland & the Jewish Diaspora, Yiddish, short story

This text is actually written by a man. Because it inherently engages questions of genders and their roles in society, and also features a female protagonist, it remains relevant to global literature that tackles issues concerning women’s lives. The main character in this work, Yentl, has been spoiled by her father as a child by being allowed to study sacred rabbinical texts, an activity strictly reserved for men in her community. When her father dies, not wanting to abandon her religious learning, she makes a plan to hide her sex and continue on her path of erudition. However, there are some unanticipated expectations associated with her new role as a male. The cinematic adaptation of Yentl starring Barbara Streisand is inextricably linked to this literary work. If you’re an enrolled student and interested in this area, seek out the Program in Jewish Culture & Society for more about works written in Yiddish and on the Jewish diaspora. A selection of the program’s courses can be found on the program’s website.

More Like This: Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank, Deborah Feldman’s Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots 

A photo of Anne Frank. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Anne Frank. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

A photo of Deborah Feldman. Image Source: Zimbio

Deborah Feldman. Image Source: Zimbio

Kinsey Report” by Rosario Castellanos

An image of Rosario Castellanos. Image Source: Milagros Mata Gil on Flickr

Rosario Castellanos. Image Source: Milagros Mata Gil (via Flickr)

Tags: Mexico, Latin America, Spanish, poetry

The title of this poem refers to American sexologist Alfred Kinsey, whose published works on human sexual behavior became well known in the mid to late 20th century. While this poem makes for a quick read, it remains in the reader’s memory indefinitely. It features six different feminine voices that expound on the condition of their gender. One woman reports on her marriage which has become a hollow and juridical union of self-sacrifice and anxiety; another fears being deemed a prude for lack of sexual activity or a whore for any carnal intimacy engaged outside of marriage; a third wistfully awaits a Prince Charming who will whisk her away from any care she might have. All of the voices problematize notions of female gender and show how societal expectations and traditional roles can, to say the very least, be limiting. For ways to find more Latin American literature, see this lib guide.

More Like This: All titles by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (Mexico), all titles by Clarice Lispector (Brazil), Sabina Berman’s (Mexico) Entre Villa y una mujer desnuda

A drawing of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Image Source: Wikipedia

A drawing of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Image Source: Wikipedia

A photo of Clarice Lispector. Image source: ana.claudia on Flickr

Clarice Lispector. Image source: ana.claudia (via Flickr)

Happy reading, sharing, and happy Women’s History Month! Let us know what additional authors you would add to this conversation. Also drop by the Main Library’s Marshall Gallery (first floor, east side of the building ) to see an exhibit curated by Leanna Barcelona highlighting women’s history at the University of Illinois. If you want even more titles, visit the Undergraduate Library’s post to commemorate Women’s History Month last year.

For more posts like these, make sure to like our Facebook page, where we share a new Glocal Notes article every week of the semester.

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