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The perceived impact of the internet on family and social relations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Alolyan, Asma Ali (2015) The perceived impact of the internet on family and social relations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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This thesis considers the adoption of technology and perceived changing social attitudes and relations. Specifically it considers if there have been any perceived changes in family or social relations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and, if so, can this be traced to the relatively recent shift to allow more widespread access to the internet. Traditionally the KSA has been characterised as a traditional, socially conservative society with a strong reliance on extended kinship groups. These family units have traditionally been the focus for much social interaction, especially for the female members and a regular round of face to face interaction was an important part of the social norms. The adopted research design was a variant of the mixed methods methodology. In this case a questionnaire was issued to 300 young people at two universities and one high school in Riyadh. Following this, 50 interviews were conducted. These were a mixture of some under 28 (drawn from the questionnaire sample) and those over 28 (found using purposive sampling. The research was designed to explore if the internet was perceived by respondents as having an impact due to time displacement (i.e. time spent on line was reducing face to face interaction) or in terms of any perceived changes of underlying attitudes towards the norms of Saudi society. Broadly, the findings were that there was evidence that the internet was perceived as having led to significant changes in social relations due to time displacement. However, from the interviews, it was clear that to many women in the KSA the internet offered the means to sidestep traditional restrictions on social interaction. While most reported no change in social attitudes, those with relatively heavy usage did report an impact on both acceptance of existing cultural norms and social relationship.

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