OMG Did You Hear about the Fire??? User Generated Content Circumvents Traditional Media and Governmental Controls in Qatar

Susan Dun, Motasem Kalaji

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In the mass media, historically, the line of communication between audience members and the media has basically been a one-way street. The media generate content that the audience then passively receives, although some feedback mechanisms such as writing letters to the editor have existed. However, with the advent of the Internet, a revolution of what it means to be an audience member and a phenomenal shift in this one-way communication model has been occurring. Audience members now act as content producers and can disseminate information to other audience members, taking on the role the ‘media’ have historically exclusively owned via the creation of user-generated content or acting as citizen journalists. Due to a plethora of widely used social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, user-generated content is instantly shared, bypassing traditional channels. While it is quite interesting to view how such a phenomenon manifests in different parts of the world, Qatar presents a unique case within which a clash is occurring between the old and new styles of media content dissemination coupled with a government that has historically withheld information about local events. The public in Qatar recently circumvented this practice by creating and consuming user-generated content (UGC) when a tragic fire broke out in a local mall in Qatar, in which 19 people, including 13 children, perished. The vast majority of information available both locally and internationally came from residents of Qatar, who tweeted, Facebooked and used sites such as YouTube and Flickr to share their first-hand information about the event. To understand the use of media both surrounding the Villagio fire and more generally in Qatar, we surveyed residents and citizens of Qatar. In the chapter we explain our survey and findings, drawing conclusions about the role of UGC in circumventing governmental attempts to control information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAll the World's a Stage
Subtitle of host publicationTheorizing and Producing Blended Identities in a Cybercultural World
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9789004404205
ISBN (Print)9789004370708
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Arab Spring
  • Censorship
  • Citizen Journalism
  • Media use
  • Qatar
  • UGC
  • User-generated content
  • Villaggio fire

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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