Category Archives: Government

Journalism Professor Analyzes Role of Political Cartoons, Social Media During Syrian Crisis

Journalism Professor Analyzes Role of Political Cartoons, Social Media During Syrian Crisis
By Mike Krings

Political cartoons aren’t just for newspapers any more. A University of Kansas professor and her students analyzed how political cartoons were presented on Facebook during the Syrian uprising, the themes they explored, reactions to them and what they can tell us about social media use in Syria.



When Syrians rose up against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011, the government began a severe crackdown against its people. Hyunjin Seo, assistant professor of journalism, and doctoral students Goran S. Ghafour and Ren-Whei Han archived and analyzed 164 political cartoons from the Comic4Syria Facebook page, a site devoted to posting cartoons from professional and amateur illustrators about the conflict and the suffering of the Syrian people. The researchers examined cartoons from July 24, 2012, when the page opened, until Nov. 23, 2013.Seo and her co-authors analyzed the images to understand more about the topics of the cartoons, the frames they used, characters depicted in them, how they depicted men, women and children and which types of images drew the most reaction from viewers.

Examining political cartoons from Syria in a digital age served several purposes, as social media has allowed more people to share political opinions freely. The medium is also undergoing transition from being the domain of newspapers, especially in countries such as Syria with significant media censorship.

“As the platform has become more democratic, I think there are a lot more studies that can be done about the role of political cartoons,” Seo said. “Their use in Syria was very interesting as the landscape of Syrian opposition is very complicated.”

The researchers analyzed the structure of the cartoons to determine common features. Of the 164 images studied, 81 percent featured Arabic only, while 11 percent featured English only and about 8 percent featured both Arabic and English. Nearly half, 47 percent, of the cartoons featured both male and female characters, 39 percent featured only male characters, and only 1.8 percent featured only female characters. The rest featured characters whose gender was unclear or did not feature human characters at all.

Of the cartoons featuring human characters, 60 percent featured only adults, while 28 percent featured adults and children, while 3.7 featured only children, and the remainder were characters whose age group was unclear.

Syrian cartoons averaged more than 243 “likes,” with the highest number of likes reaching 1,531. Comments made on the images averaged 11.77, ranging from zero to 110. The images were also shared frequently, including one that was shared 3,237 times.

The researchers examined frames used in the cartoons and identified six: freedom, oppression, international influence, hypocrisy, media influence and sectarianism. Oppression was by far the most common frame, at 52 percent, while freedom and international influence followed at 14 and 12 percent, respectively.

The president’s regime was by far the most common topic, featured in 89 percent of analyzed comics. Mental torture and physical torture were also common, featured in more than 50 percent of the cartoons as well.

The most common topics and frames did not necessarily draw the most viewer reaction.

“There were cartoons examining media effects and how they were distorting facts and supporting al-Assad’s propaganda,” Seo said. “Those were the cartoons that received the most likes.”

Cartoons with a hypocrisy or oppression frame followed media influence in most likes generated. Freedom and sectarianism received the fewest. Media-influence cartoons were also the most shared, followed by international influence and hypocrisy. Those patterns held true for cartoons that generated the most comments as well. Media influence was once again at the top.

In terms of cartoon topics, martyrdom was the most effective, generating more likes and comments than others such as mental torture, al-Assad’s regime and others. However, in terms of which topics were more likely to be shared, mental torture rated the highest, followed by martyrdom, international influence and the Syrian regime.

When examined by types of characters featured, those with political leaders of other countries received the most likes, comments and shares.

Seo and her co-authors will present their research in May at the International Communication Association Conference in Seattle. The research is part of an ongoing line of work in which Seo has analyzed the role social media can play in social change. She has studied social media use during the Arab Spring, Twitter images used in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Internet connectivity in the Middle East. She is beginning a new grant-funded study in which she’ll analyze the Facebook use of al-Assad and opposition forces during the ongoing uprising and civil war. She was also selected as an emerging scholar by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in recognition of her work.

The analysis of Comic4Syria images not only adds to visual communication studies, it helps provide a deeper look at how Syrians viewed the uprising, especially important in a region of the world in which media censorship is common practice and crackdowns were common against both Syrian and foreign journalists.

“Social media has emerged as an important channel through which Syrian civilians document the Syrian revolution and people around the world get a glimpse of what was happening in Syria,” the authors wrote. “By analyzing political cartoons posted to the Comic4Syria Facebook page, this research helps provide a more nuanced understanding of digital media-facilitated communication practices in Syria.”

Mike Krings is a public affairs officer in the KU News Service.

A Rebuttal to the New York Times: Why Give Crowdfunding “Investors” Trinkets When You Could Give Them Returns?

[Editor's Note: 99% of the time, I am an avid fan and reader of the New York Times. This past Sunday, I was thrown by the comments of the NYT's editorial team in an op-ed commenting on the SEC's forthcoming Title III rules on crowdfunding. Except for using Facebook's recent announcement to purchase Oculus VR, the timing for the piece seemed a bit out of left field. I reached out requesting a rebuttal to the NYT's op-ed.]

From The New York Times Editorial Board – March 29, 2014:

“Currently, only high-net-worth, high-income investors can legally invest in start-ups through crowdfunding sites. But soon, legislative and regulatory changes will open the sites to everyone.

That is where the Securities and Exchange Commission, with its explicit mission to protect investors, is supposed to come in. But the agency’s proposed crowdfunding rules, to be finalized in the months ahead, are a joke.”Full Article

A Rebuttal to the New York Times:
Why Give Crowdfunding “Investors” Trinkets When You Could Give Them Returns?
By Chris Tyrrell

The recent $2 billion acquisition of Oculus by Facebook is an ideal example of why continued delay in the release of final Title III crowdfunding rules is a bad idea. If Title III had already been in place, the contributors to Oculus would be receiving a return on their investment, instead of just thank you notes and “rewards”.As the second anniversary of the JOBS Act approaches, Title III crowdfunding is waiting for the Securities and Exchange Commission to pass the final rules empowering this new form of capital formation.
The New York Times takes issue with the draft securities crowdfunding rules, suggesting that funding portals that facilitate capital raises under the new law do not have to do enough to protect investors, and that the SEC is somehow asleep at the switch.Nothing could be further from the truth.

Funding portals are highly regulated. They have mandatory duties to educate investors on specific and general risks of crowdfund investing, and they have to verify the investors have actually learned the information provided. They have an obligation to run background checks on issuers and their principals. And they have significant disclosure requirements mandated by law and regulation.

Investors, too, have a high regulatory burden. They have to go through a formal process (much like creating a brokerage account) to receive investment information from a funding portal. There is a cap on how much an investor can invest in all crowdfund securities, across all companies, in any twelve month period. For many investors, it’s as low as $2,000.

Finally, issuers have significant regulatory and legal requirements. Besides the background checks they and all of their significant investors and officers must undergo, they can only raise $1 million per year. And they can’t advertise their raise directly – they have to send people to the portal. The regulations require that all investor communications go through the portal so that potential investors may read each others’ commentary regarding a particular investment.

The New York Times’ concerns that the SEC is abrogating its duty of investor protection are misplaced and misinformed. SEC staff and commissioners, with the input of stakeholders from all camps, have gone overboard to make sure that the regulations balance the concerns of capital raisers and investors.

The JOBS Act was a watershed moment in US securities law. Everyone, from investors to small business owners to job seekers can find something to celebrate in it. It liberates capital that will grow the economy and create jobs.

Chris Tyrrell is the founder and CEO of OfferBoard—an investment platform that leverages the technology of the Australian Small Scale Offerings Board (ASSOB)—the world’s oldest small equities funding platform—to help companies raise capital through Regulation D securities offerings. Chris is also the chairman of Crowdfunding Intermediary Regulatory Advocates (CFIRA), the leading advocacy organization for the equity crowdfunding industry, and a board member of ASSOB. 

New Competition to Encourage Innovation on E-Waste Prevention

New Competition to Encourage Innovation on E-Waste Prevention

The Future Tense initiative has announced the launch of the Green Electronics: A U.S.-China Maker Challenge, an unprecedented online DIY competition focused on preventing the creation of electronic waste (e-waste). The competition, a collaboration between Future Tense, China’s Tsinghua University and other partners, invites U.S. and Chinese makers to find creative ways to turn yesterday’s cellphone battery into tomorrow’s treasure.



“This is a great opportunity for the United States and China to work toward common goals,” said Emily Parker, senior fellow and digital diplomacy advisor at New America, who helped spearhead this project. “Both the U.S. and China want to encourage the innovation happening at the DIY or maker level, and both countries face the challenge of reducing e-waste.”Electronic products tend to become unusable after just a few years, and items such as computers, DVD players and cellphones frequently wind up in landfills. Some of the most creative solutions to this problem may come from U.S. and Chinese makers, many of whom already incorporate old electronic components into their DIY creations. Green electronics will encourage makers to showcase their creations online.

Participants will be invited to upcycle or hack an electronic product to create a new electronic product; repair an electronic product; create a sustainable electronic product; or create artwork from used electronic products. They will show their inventions on, where submissions will be accepted from April 7 – May 31, 2014. Following a round of public voting, a panel of judges will choose the best selections from each country.

Judges include Chris Anderson, former Wired editor; Joi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab; Mitzi Montoya, Vice President and University Dean for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University; and Sun Hong Bin, Dean of Educational Affairs at Tsinghua University. Partners include Instructables, TechShop,, XinCheJian, Autodesk, and Inventables.

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