Queen Rania takes to Web to break stereotypes of Arabs
Jordan's first lady launched a YouTube page in March to begin a dialogue between Arabs and Westerners.
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On the other are people like pollster John Zogby, who, in his forthcoming book, "The Way We'll Be," uses a decade's worth of polling data to predict that global communications technology will fundamentally alter how new generations think.Skip to next paragraph
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"[YouTube posts] most certainly can change attitudes," said Mr. Zogby. "We have found in our polling ... that there is a new generation of global citizens developing – people, because of the Internet, because of opportunities for travel, who have a global sensibility and greater appreciation for other people and other cultures."
"What's important here is that there's a direct correlation between those with global sensibilities and those who are networked, via Facebook, and YouTube, and so on," he concludes. "These network facilities really enhance those kinds of global mentalities."
Rania, too, is expecting that online communication, especially with the younger generation, can overcome political barriers.
"They're a nontraditional generation, and we need nontraditional means to reach out and engage them. Their creativity, energy, and optimism can foster greater understanding and closer ties between people of different cultures and move us past these present hurdles."
Plenty of research backs up the theory that social contact between people can change attitudes. For example, Muslims living in Europe report much more positive views of Europeans than Muslims living in the Middle East or Africa, says Richard Wike, associate director of the Pew Global Attitudes Project, one of the world's leading polling organizations.
This may seem obvious, but academics still debate how attitude change works in the real world, never mind in online communities. Talking to someone over the Internet isn't the same as living next door to them or going to the same film club every week.
"Each particular variable is simple and obvious, but it turns out that they interact in complicated ways," says psychologist Curtis D. Hardin, who studies attitude change in ethnic groups.
"I think Queen Rania's [YouTube page] is one of the more impressive attempts to use YouTube for social change," writes Ethan Zuckerman, cofounder of the citizen's media website Global Voices. "It's going to take some time before it's meaningfully affecting global stereotypes, but it's a terrific start."
The YouTube initiative ends Aug. 12, on International Youth Day. But Rania hopes the conversation she's started will continue long afterward.
"More and more regular users are returning and moving beyond comments to conversations with new friends," she says. "It's at that level that you begin to see people question their assumptions and reconsider stereotypes. That's what this project is all about."
• Queen Rania's YouTube site is located at www.youtube.com/user/QueenRania