How does digitisation shape Islam, i.e. its beliefs, practices, societies, political organisations, social institutions, and outlooks — much as past technological revolutions did?
This question deals primarily with the actors involved and the practitioners. Digitisation and globalisation concern the new ways in which religious knowledge is produced and spread around the world, how new modes of religiosity and religious experience emerge, and how new modalities of communication, dissemination of knowledge, community building and self-fashioning come into being. Digitisation and globalisation also influence the ways religious documents and material culture, old and new, are perceived, appropriated and applied in changing circumstances. Digitisation has reconfigured the boundaries between the public and private spheres; it has fuelled the circulation of visual resources from and about the Muslim world on an unprecedented scale, bringing to global attention evidence and phenomena that were hitherto overlooked, or simply not available. Digitisation has transformed the landscape of Islamic knowledge production and dissemination, and it has new moral implications for its use. It has also reshaped the very relation between senders and receivers, and has endowed the notion of audience with renewed meanings. There is a striking parallel to be drawn in this regard with Martin Luther’s rise to prominence and the unprecedented speed with which his message was spread as a consequence of the new printing and dissemination technology.
TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION MODIFY THE WAY MUSLIMS RELATE TO THEIR PAST?
This question deals with the ‘invention of tradition’, the definition of norms rooted in a reconstructed past and the choice of meaningful evidence of the past (be it written or oral, material or spiritual) to create a (world) community, to legalise certain institutions (such as the Caliphate), or to define new norms and new frames of normativity and sociability. The project builds on the premise that the mediation of Islam in the digital age may have new and unprecedented implications for the field of study, but the process of adaptation and renewal of specific forms, modes and practices is not at all new. Balancing continuities and changes within Islam requires study of the way Muslims engage with their own tradition today, and consequently how contemporary scholars can deepen their understanding of the impact similar processes had in the past.
HOW DOES DIGITISATION MODIFY AND REORGANISE SCHOLARSHIP AND RESEARCH ON ISLAM?
This question is about the conceptual, epistemological and methodological implications digitisation has for the study of Islam and the new skills and competencies it requires. These changes will not only deeply influence the ways in which Islam is being studied and the circumstances and conditions in which this takes place, but will also reshape and reconfigure the ways scholars disseminate their findings and use them. In order to respond appropriately to these new circumstances, more focus and, even more crucially, a coherent research agenda (WP6) are needed to apply new insights and to develop better modes of engagement between scholars of different disciplinary backgrounds in order to capture the process of digitisation. The MIDA project aims to bring together seemingly separate fields of inquiry and to explore common lines of development. This requires sensitivities that enable recognition and understanding of the processes at work. It also requires new skills and new tools for interaction, and, not least, a new generation of professionals, able to provide and assist various social actors, public administrations, NGOs and private companies with the necessary expertise and working tools.
This project has received the European union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement N°813547.