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The growing complexity of modern communications leads to enhanced abilities for individuals to disseminate information to the public. Traditional definitions of mass communication theories must to evolve to consider new modes of communication. Engaged individuals using modern technologies become citizen journalists and informed opinion leaders, able to take over the agenda setting functions of traditional media sources, including gatekeeping and framing techniques. In times of conflict, individuals increasingly use social and digital media to inform the public, rather than relying on traditional news outlets, leading to the need to expand traditional definitions of agenda setting theory. This paper draws conclusions from the Arab Spring conflicts to show how the use of digital and social media has changed the traditional characterization of agenda setting theory, allowing individuals to gain the ability to influence the communication of salient issues to the public, as opposed to conventional media sources.

To examine the how digital and social media use has influenced agenda setting theory, the prominence and relevance of key events occurring in the Arab Spring were analyzed to frame survey questions aimed at understanding the primary source of information for the public. A sample population of individuals who actively use both traditional and new media were surveyed to understand which modes of communication played a more key role in setting the agenda during the Arab Spring. This study provides insight into how digital and social media influenced the role of agenda setting during the Arab Spring, and thus how the traditional theory of agenda setting should expand to consider the rise of new modes of communication.





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