“The Orient was almost a European invention, and had been since antiquity a place of romance, exotic beings, haunting memories and landscapes, remarkable experiences.” Edward Said, Orientalism (1978)
If the West invented the Orient for itself, how much more Edward Said’s comments ring true for the newly created CyberOrient, the representation of people and cultures in the imagined intellectual space of an over-imagined Orient, politicized Middle East and diverse Islamic world. In the real world bombs go off, bullets tear apart flesh, buildings are burned and hatred is bred and spread on a daily basis. These same events can be simulated on the Internet, but the real story is how this new technology fosters a virtual reality in which representation seemingly becomes as real in impact as the reality we live and die in. The virtual Middle East and Islam in cyberspace: this is the focus of the new online journal CyberOrient, sponsored by the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association and based at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University in Prague.
The main purpose of this electronic journal is to provide a forum to explore cyberspace both as an imaginary forum in which only representation exists and as a technology that is fundamentally altering human interaction and communication. The next generation will take e-mail, websites and instant availability via cell-phones as basic human rights. Internet cafes may someday rival fast-food restaurants and no doubt will profitably merge together in due time. Yet, despite the advances in communication technology real people in the part of the world once called an “Orient” are still the victims of stereotypes and prejudicial reporting. Their world is getting more and more wired, so cyberspace becomes the latest battleground for the hearts and minds of people everywhere...