There is a major transformation taking place in the Arab and Muslim worlds. People in these nations are poised on the edge of a significant new social landscape. Called the Internet, this new frontier not only includes the creation of new forms of private communication, like electronic mail and chat, but also webbased forums, which for the first time enables public discussion between males and females in conservative societies. This paper has been written as a result of an ethnographic study conducted in Saudi Arabia during the period 20012002. The purpose of the study was to understand how online communities in Saudi Arabia are affecting people. The results of the study indicate that while participants to a large extent used online communities in accordance with their cultural values, norms and traditions, the communication medium and the features associated with it, such as the anonymity and lack of social cues, have affected them considerably. For example, many participants became more flexible in their thinking, more aware of the diverse nature of people within their society, less inhibited about the opposite gender, and more selfconfident. On the other hand, participants neglected their family commitments, became less shy and some became confused about some aspects of their culture and religion. These findings and their implications for the Arab and Muslim worlds will be highlighted in this paper.
Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society – Emerald Publishing
Published: Feb 29, 2004