Chris Harrison - Internet Map: Connection DensityDetail of Internet Map by Chris Harrison showing the connection density in the Middle East

“A definition is the start of an argument, not the end of one.” - Neil Postman, Crazy Talk, Stupid Talk: How we defeat ourselves by the way we talk and what to do about it (Delacorte Press, November 1976).

The percentage of internet usage in the Middle East is comparable to the rest of the world: roughly 20% of population is currently connected. If we take a closer look to the statistics, an interesting fact appears promptly: the use growth in this region is tremendous, reaching more than 1100% since 2000. This number represents the biggest use growth in the world during the last few years, closely followed by Africa (approximatively 1000%).

After the collapse of the dot-com bubble in 2001, the Web has shifted from version 1.0 to version 2.0 in 2006. It became “an attitude, not a technology” - made possible by the standardization of the systems it preached - based on collaboration (Blogs/CMS), decentralization (BitTorrent) and trust (Wikipedia). To some extent, it realized the concepts expressed by Brecht some 70 years ago.

Talking about the current version, Eric Schmidt once said: “Don’t fight the internet”. Of course, this is kind of obvious: fighting different kinds of media hardly makes sense. Why would someone fight against the newspapers, the radio or even the television?

On the contrary, this statement is quite problematic since it sounds like a cease and desist letter from the same corporations who are currently building these systems. This is the whole paradox of the actual paradigm: while enhancing creativity, participation, sharing, etc. the current version of the Web is putting its public in the role of a simple user, passively fitting into frames and blindly accepting one disclaimer after another without even questioning the hidden tasks the medium might run on the background.

My purpose is not about arguing whether or not this a Manichean choice and the public should make a fair judgement when it comes to take the decision of using the existing systems. In my opinion, it makes more sense to have a clear idea on how and why to use them, or in other words, to have an active and conscious user: the one who employes the available means by hacking or building upon these structures - or proposing constructive attitudes, if you will - to make relevant propositions, not the one who tries to dismantle them.

The Middle East is a global hotspot. As regards the focus brought on this part of the world in my project, the first apparent reason is this massive internet growth within a few years as mentioned above, which seems to catalyse changes in the political and social traditions. I believe these kinds of propositions can be considered as a starting point of legitimate alternatives in a permanently provisional region. Mainly focusing on Iran, Iraq, Israel and Palestine, I will try to share and comment artistic and theoretical propositions available online in relation with these matters of concern during the upcoming weeks.

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