Spatial & Social Connectedness in the Arabian Gulf: How to connect when connection is forbidden

Being back in the region after living abroad for too long has been eye opening for me in many ways. I consider myself a person with feet in two worlds: The West and The Middle East. It is a very unique place to be and I feel very privileged. I’m reminded of this privilege in the most random moments, for example, I will be dining  in a restaurant in Doha and I could clearly understand and empathise to both types of the restaurant clientele: the locals and the expats.  This superpower needs more than just being bilingual. It is not only a language power … language shapes maybe 40%. In my opinion, it is the understanding of the lived experience of both places, feelings of home and what ‘home’ means to both parties,  along with language and some other secret ingredients. Fascinating ! Right…

A photo from Susie of Arabia’s blog showing a restaurant dining area in Jeddah. In the photo you can see the segregation between expats, Saudi women and Saudi men more clear by color. The expats (wearing Western clothing) in one corner, the men (wearing white thobs) all together taking somewhat the bottom side corner, and then the women (wearing all black) clustered at the top corner. 

Anyways,  this experience inspired me and my mentor, Sarah Vieweg at QCRI to write together a position paper to the CSCW16 Workshop on Spatial and Social Connectedness in Virtual and Mediated Environments. The theme of our submission is focused on explaining the unique work environment in 2 Gulf countries (Qatar and Saudi Arabia) and how the day-to-day interactions are shifting slowly to mediated environment and in many cases aided by technical solutions. We provide the example of Instagram shops and how they are empowering to women who lack the support or approval of the family to either work outside the home or start their own business.

Here is a link to the submission. As usual your thoughts and comments are always welcomed.



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Norah Abokhodair

I'm an applied social scientist with a passion for researching and developing the next generation of social and collaborative technologies. Currently, I'm a Research Program Manager at the Microsoft Learning Innovation Lab where our cross-functional team of PMs, UX Researchers, and Software Engineers employ design thinking to discover the future of seamless learning experiences, leveraging the power of Artificial Intelligence.

2 thoughts on “Spatial & Social Connectedness in the Arabian Gulf: How to connect when connection is forbidden”

  1. Hi Norah
    After visiting your website I saw the term “Arabian Gulf”. As, I didn’t know where this Gulf is located, I decided to ask you give me some information about it to me.
    Many thanks

    1. Hi Iman,

      Thank you for your interest in my blog. The Arabian Gulf, is the sea bordering the countries I am addressing in my research–the GCC countries. It is referred to in english as the persian gulf. If you had any questions related to my research topic please don’t hesitate to ask.

      Thank you!

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