Anonymous, 8 Apr 2020
Research on Middle East, Islam and digital media

Video Games in the Arab World and beyond - Interview with Vit Sisler

Video games are at the core of a renewed focus of interest and have given birth to what are now known as game studies. Games have to be considered as a fully legitimate field of study for both anthropologists and political scientists, as they are shaping worldviews, social networks and identities and they engage phenomenona of cultural domination/ resistance. They eventually crystallise new forms of collective mobilisation and action and have to be considered as cultural artefacts. Vit Sisler, a researcher in game studies, tells us more about the religious and other challenges that games are posing in the Middle East and Muslim world.

Convergence, Next Phase of the Information Revolution

Excitement over the revolutionary potentials of new media and information technologies in the Middle East that accompanied the advent of the Internet, satellite television and mobile phones in the 1990s focused on them as alternatives. New technologies, alternative channels, and indications of alternative political and other discourses breaking into the public suggested transformation of a public sphere, in the main organized institutionally, not only with new voices but also new people. The boundary-busting potentials of NMIT were seen first in terms of alternatives by those who welcomed them and by those with reservations. Indeed, reservations – moral, cultural, political anxieties over new information and communications technologies and new media – seemed to confirm their status primarily as alternatives.

Blogging, Networked Publics and the Politics of Communication: Another Free-Speech Panacea for the Middle East?

On December 10, the White House announced that President Bush would “commemorate the 60th anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights by meeting with activists who use Internet blogs and new-media technologies to promote freedom in countries with restricted media environments.” Two were from Iran and Egypt. Before celebration of blogging as free speech and ‘citizen journalism’ disappoints, like the Web in the 1990s or television in the 1950s, I want to consider how we might place a sounder social anthropology under media-minded constructions. And, lest yet another analysis of the Middle East fall into exceptionalism, how might such activities be grounded in what research shows about networked communication generally and specifically with globalizing media? As interest in global media turns to blogging, my concerns here are two.

Globalization, Democracy, the Internet and Arabia

In the 1990s, the notion of globalization as the macroscopic conception of contemporary change arrived with a primarily economic emphasis popularized through books like The Twilight of Sovereignty by Walter Wriston, retired CEO of Citicorp, and a penumbra of celebrations from the management world. Through think tanks, it became the doctrine de jour for theorizing the end of the Cold War that updated belief in superiority of markets over planned economies to a more contemporary justification for expansion of open markets beyond bond-trading, where Wriston found it. Globalization seemed to predict what neoliberalism preached; so it is not surprising that searches for globalization moved into additional realms that liberalism had long privileged as drivers of socio-political change in addition to the political-economic.

iMuslims: Rewiring the House of Islam - Interview with Gary R. Bunt

The Internet has profoundly shaped how Muslims perceive Islam, and how Islamic societies and networks are evolving and shifting within the twenty-first century. While these electronic interfaces appear new and innovative in terms of how the media is applied, much of their content has a basis in classical Islamic concepts, with an historical resonance that can be traced back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad.iMuslims explores how these transformations and influences play out in diverse cyber Islamic environments, and how they are responding to shifts in technology and society.

Unsolicited Religious E-mail: Researching New Context of Religious Communication

Most of the unsolicited e-mail is usually of business character and thus interpreted as something what teases and intrudes the privacy of mailboxes. However, specific number of the e-mails, labeled as spam, is represented by the messages with religious content. This paper deals with the descriptive typology of religious spam mail, distinguishing especially the missionary e-mails, chain letters and hoaxes in the new context of religious communication and the Internet. The study also tries to analyze the scheme of production and distribution of religious spam, including the impact to the recipients.

Propagating Islamic Creationism on the Internet

Although negative reactions accompanied the reception of Darwinism in the Islamic World from the beginning, a full fledged Islamic creationist movement did not appear before the 1970s. From the late 1990s onwards the subject became popular among Muslims in the diaspora. This was due to the efforts of Adnan Oktar alias Harun Yahya, a hitherto marginal figure in Turkey, to propagate his ideas via the Internet. The Internet allows him to adapt his propaganda constantly to new issues and creationist and anti-creationist publications and to recruit volunteers willing to translate his books. Thanks to the combination of a neglected subject with the innovative use of new media Oktar gained the opinion leadership in this field.

Second Life and The Sacred: Islamic Space in a Virtual World

Islamic religious spaces are present in the multi-user virtual environment Second Life. Because they are designed after emotionally-charged real life sacred sites, such as Mecca, and because their designers instruct users to follow behavioral regulations typical of real life Islamic sacred spaces, the virtual spaces are interpreted as ambiguously sacred. This paper examines this phenomenon, utilizing the theories of Ken Hillis to explain how characteristics of virtuality, combined with the factors listed above, have led to this ambiguity. As ‘the virtual’ contains such ambiguously sacred sites as Mecca (though not as sacred as the geographical location in the Hijaz), theorists of religion should consider virtually-mediated experiences as one form of contact with ‘the sacred.’

Digital Arabs: Representation in Video Games

This article presents the ways in which Muslims and Arabs are represented and represent themselves in video games. First, it analyses how various genres of European and American video games have constructed the Arab or Muslim Other. Within these games, it demonstrates how the diverse ethnic and religious identities of the Islamic world have been flattened out and reconstructed into a series of social typologies operating within a broader framework of terrorism and hostility. It then contrasts these broader trends in western digital representation with selected video games produced in the Arab world, whose authors have knowingly subverted and refashioned these stereotypes in two unique and quite different fashions. In conclusion, it considers the significance of western attempts to transcend simplified patterns of representation that have dominated the video game industry by offering what are known as 'serious' games.

Exploring the Religious Frameworks of the Digital Realm: Offline-Online-Offline Transfers of Ritual Performance

Looking at the constantly growing field of religion online, the shifts in and the new definition of religious frameworks become an increasingly important topic. In the field of religious rituals, it is not only the participant, location and conduction of the ritual that is affected by this shift; also the researchers have to overthrow their former theologically resp. systemic based definition of religiousness and spirituality due to the fact that on the Internet, religion is defined and realized in a completely different way by its participants.
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