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1 From the Moroccan Arabic verb h’rag (“to burn”), the word hrig has

been used in the context of “burning the traffic light” before it has become

the household term for “illegal migration.” Hrig has been predominantly

used to describe the attempts of desperate young migrants who risk their

lives on board of pateras (small boats) or hidden in the asphyxiating

trunks of lorries and trucks to make it to the Spanish shores. The term

“virtual hrig” has been recently appropriated by cybernetic communities

to describe online interaction in search of virtual partners.

2 Cited in R. Dudd (1989, p. 310).

3 Similar concerns about the role and implications of new technologies and

cyberculture have been made by a number of thinkers. Howard Reingold,

one of the first theorists of virtual communities, noted that to “the millions

who have been drawn into it, the richness and vitality of computer-linked

cultures are attractive, even addictive” (1994, p. 3). C. Odone, for

example, has also noted the empowering dimension of computer-mediated

interaction: “… the web could serve as the first building block in the

creation of a whole new social solidarity, founded upon cross-cultural,

interdisciplinary dialogues and cemented in an ‘empowerment’ and ‘enfranchisement’

of marginalised individuals” (1995, 10). By contrast,

Sobchack believes that “the new electronic frontier promotes an ecstatic

dream of disembodiment,” an estrangement he calls “alienation raised to

the level of ekstasis” (as cited in Culcutt, 1999, p. 21). M. Poster (1990)

laments the dispersion and dislocation of the subject through electronically

mediated interaction while Kevin Robins perceives in new technologies “a

negative agenda” and “the desire to rise above reality, as if we’ve been

living as caterpillars and new tech will turn us into butterflies” (as cited in

Culcutt, 1999, pp. 20-21).

4 In this respect, I note, with Brian Winston, the pitfalls of technological

determinism: “when considering the impact of technology it is absolutely

necessary to keep the realities of our socio-cultural-economic arrangements

- including their dynamics - in mind. It is not enough simply to look

at technology and its dynamic and assume, in a deterministic fashion, that

because a technology exists or is possible its diffusion is therefore

inevitable” (1995, p. 226). However, I also underline Andrew Feenberg’s

(1995, pp. 14-15) celebration of the democratic potential intrinsic to

technology: “Coupling the technical design process to aesthetic and

ethical norms and national identities through new and more democratic

procedures is no utopia. Modern technologies open not only possibilities

internal to the particular world they shape but metapossibilities corresponding

to other worlds they can be transformed to serve. Technical

change is not simply progress or regress along the continuum so far traced

by the West; it may also come to include movement between different


5 Turner even pins the survival of societies on the availability of liminal

spheres: “any society that hopes to be imperishable must carve out for

itself a piece of space and a period of time in which it can look honestly

at itself. This honesty is not that of the scientist, who exchanges the honesty

of his ego for the objectivity of the gaze. It is, rather, akin to the supreme

honesty of the creative artist [...] All generalizations are in some way

skewed, and artists with candid vision ‘labor well the minute particulars,’

as Blake knew. This may be a metalanguage, but all this means is that the

“meta” part of it is not at an abstract remove from what goes on in the

world of “getting and spending,” but rather sees it more clearly, whether

more passionately or dispassionately is beside my present point. Whether

anthropology can ignore this incandescent objectivity and still lay claim to

being “the study of man” I gravely doubt” (Victor Turner, 1984, p. 40).

6 I note here that even in the frequently cited case about the use of the

Internet by Zapatista rebels in Mexico, the impact of this new technology

must be kept within perspective. As one activist has warned: “Despite all

the media hype which came with the discovery of the role of cyberspace

in circulating Zapatista words and ideas, subcommandante Marcos is not

sitting in some jungle camp uploading EZLN communiqués via mobile

telephone modern directly to the Internet. Zapatista messages have to be

hand-carried through the lines of military encirclement and uploaded by

others to the networks of solidarity” (Cleaver 1999, as cited in R.

Stoecker, 2002, pp. 151-152). See also “Zapatistas in Cyberspace: A

Guide to Analysis and Resources” at http://www.eco.utexas.edu/faculty/


7 See Hafkin (2002) for a historical account with progress index of the

African Information Society Initiative covering the period 1996-2002.

8 See “La téléphonie mobile touche aujourd’hui 1 marocain sur 4” in La vie

économique, (2003, April 4, N0. 4210). For a historical survey of

telecom liberalization process in Morocco, see Hatif Telecom New:

Retrieved June 13, 2003 from the World Wide Web:


9 Maroc Telecom, the public telephone service provider, has further

reduced the rate of connectivity for cybercafés by about 47%. This

decision will most likely constitute a significant impetus to the cybercafé

business and to the extension of democratic access to information and

communication technologies. In a recent press release, the Ministry of

Industry, Trade, and Telecommunications has indicated that there are 7

million mobile phone subscribers in Morocco (they were 3 million in 2000,

5 million in 2001, and 6 million in 2002) while fixed phone subscribers

stopped at 1, 990,167. According to the same document, there are now

2,500 cybercafés in the country and, while there are only about 45,000

Internet subscribers, the number of Internet users is estimated at about

1,000,0000 (al-Ahdat al-Maghribia, 2003, December 24, N0. 1796,

p. 10).

10 See also a special report on the crisis of reading in Morocco (La crise de

la lécture. In L’Opinion (2002, April 21).

11 A court ruling in Cairo, Egypt, granted the right to divorce to a woman who

accused her husband of Internet addiction. The plaintiff explained to the

court that her husband spent an average of 14 hours a day online and

mostly visiting adult sites, a fact which the court thought made him fail his

marital duties. The information was reported by the Egyptian daily al-

Gomhouriya in its December 18 2002 issue (as cited in Tel Quel, (2002,

December 21-27, N0. 57, p. 40).

12 Chatbi quotes a cybercafé owner who asserts that up to 60% of Internet

users are teenagers (Chatbi, 2002, p. 16). My own observation tends to

confirm that the representation of cybercafé clienteles is largely under the

age of 25.

13 Data in Tables 1 and 2 comes from an exhaustive 2001 national study,

which sought to analyze the behavior and lifestyle of Moroccan youth.

Funded by the Moroccan government, the study surveyed about 18,000

young people across the country (Consultation nationale des jeunes,

2001, Ministère de la Jeunesse et des Sports).

14 In al-Ahdat al-Maghribia’s controversial section “From Heart to Heart,”

a gay correspondent writes that while he feels alienated by his immediate

social environment, he has found in chatrooms enough solace to help him

negotiate his homosexuality (al-Ahdat al-Maghribia, 2003, January 7,

N0. 1447, p. 10).

15 Though Savicki, Lingenfelter, and Kelley (1996) call for “caution” in the

interpretation of gender proportion in Internet discussion groups, the

findings of their quantitative research demonstrate that the percentage of

online male subjects and messages outnumber female online experience.

16 In this, Layla supports the claim of disillusioned feminists who find that

computer-mediated interaction has not kept its emancipatory promises

concerning the construction of an alternative space to the patriarchal

structure (see Savicki, Lingenfelter & Kelley, 1996; Soukup, 1999;

Dahlberg, 2001).

17 This story reads very much like Nora Ephron’s “You’ve Got Mail” which

stars Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.

18 In 1998, Internet access in Morocco cost about U.S. $40-50 per month

for a subscription that included 15 hours online plus the cost of the

telephone connection (approximately $2 per hour). This cost was quite

high for a country with one of the region’s lowest per capita gross national

products (Morocco’s GNP per capita was U.S.$1,250 in 1997, according

to The World Bank, World Development Report, 1998/99, p. 191).

By 1999, the average subscription dropped by about $20 per month for

unlimited access, with telephone charges remaining at about $2 per hour.

The owner of a major Casablanca-based Internet Service Provider

“pointed out that Internet growth was impeded by the structure of

telecommunications in the country. For the services it provides them with,

IAM (Ittissalat Al-Maghrib) ‘imposed whatever prices it wants’ while

competing with them as an ISP itself” (Human Rights Watch, “Morocco,”

June 1999).

19 For views of mental health workers and therapists on the nature of Internet

addiction, see R. W. Greene (1998), “Is Internet addiction for worrywarts

or a genuine problem?” in CNN.Com, posted September 23.

Retrieved October 10, 2003.

20 Dalil al-Internet, 2002, March, N0. 21, p. 7.