“Culture and Digital Transformation: Challenges and Opportunities for Southwest Asia and North Africa” – Dar al-Kalima University and Cafcaw 24th International Conference

The 24th International Conference on Culture and Digital Transformation was held on Friday, June 10, and Saturday, June 11, 2022, at the Elias Beach Hotel in Limassol-Cyprus, with a total of 56 in-person participants and 9 online speakers via Zoom from 17 countries. Several in-person and online attendees took also part in the conference sessions and activities.

The conference was organized by Dar al-Kalima University (Bethlehem – Palestine) and the Christian Academic Forum for Citizenship in the Arab World (CAFCAW). It was preceded by three youth workshops which took place in May 2022 in Beirut, Amman, and Cairo. 

As digital transformation has impacted the way we create, display, experience, and consume culture, the conference and workshops were dedicated to the exploration of current practices and future trends in the use of emerging and interactive digital technologies and platforms in different Southwestern Asian and North African (SWANA) cultural realms such as in cultural heritage, arts, and religion, as well as the effects of digital transformation on tradition, identity, education, cultural diversity management, and sustainable development. 

The aim of the conference was to promote critical and interdisciplinary approaches and dialogue between participants from diverse fields and backgrounds on digital advances. It provided an excellent forum for academics, artists, and practitioners to present and discuss the latest advancement and problems, as well as future directions in digital transformation and culture in today’s SWANA environments challenged by the pandemic “new normal”.

Conference Themes:

1- Cultural Heritage and Digital Transformation.

The study and preservation of SWANA cultural heritages have been evolving in the last few years through digitization and digitalization, but this evolution has been facing several challenges including economic and political. The momentum is now to preserve local and regional cultural heritage (both tangible and intangible) through digital transformation by making use of the unprecedented opportunities brought by technologies such as Data, AI, virtual museums, and immersive augmented experiences that offer visitors the possibility to appreciate artifacts, artworks, narratives, traditions, etc. in context. What are the current practices of cultural heritage preservation in the SWANA region? What are the main obstacles to its expansion? What about the future prospects of cultural heritage being preserved in the metaverse(s)?

2- Digital Visual and Performing Arts: Current Practices and Future Trends.

Digital arts have boomed in the last few years on a global level: from NFTs to CryptoArts and Digital Tokens, these new forms of arts and art platforms are attracting collectors, investors, and artists alike. While traditional art forms are still holding their rightful place in the Southwestern Asian and North African art world, digital arts are on the rise, they are shifting the contemporary art landscape, and are paving the way for the future. What are the current practices of digital art — especially digital visual and performing arts — in Southwestern Asia and North Africa? What are the obstacles that artists have to overcome? How are governments supporting artists and the cultural/creative sector during the Covid-19 pandemic? What could future art ecosystems look like, at the crossroads of art, science, technology, and commercial industry? 

3- Religious Practices in the Digital Age: Opportunities and Challenges.

How is religion represented online? What are the current uses of digital technologies and platforms in religious engagement and practice in Southwestern Asia and North Africa — how do digital technologies and platforms shape the practice of contemporary religion? How new media can influence and alter faith and spirituality, and how are they employed by religious groups and individuals? What are the moral, ideological, and ontological implications of the digital lives of individuals and communities? What are the opportunities and the challenges of religion and spirituality in a digitalized world? 

4- Impact of Digital Transformation on Tradition and Identity – focus on Education, Gender Issues, Content Creation, and Socio-cultural praxis/traditions.

Digital transformation is changing traditional practices, customs, and values (family and social hierarchization and communication, gender perceptions and relations, work culture, content creation and dissemination….) and is having a progressive effect on individual/collective identity in Southwestern Asia and North Africa. The Covid-19 pandemic has accentuated divides and isolation brought with these changes, but it also opened doors for new forms of connection, new values, new social practices, and identity reconstructions. 

5- Impact of Digital Transformation on Cultural Diversity Management and Sustainable Development.

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation initiatives worldwide, but how governments and companies have been able to better manage diversity and create sustainable environments through digital transformation in Southwestern Asia and North Africa? What are the projects that put cultural pluralism towards inclusive societies and sustainable development at the core of digital transformation strategies? The World Economic Forum, in its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), delineates how the power of technology can be harnessed to facilitate sustainable and inclusive growth, and this is especially relevant for Southwestern Asian and North African countries, as new studies are showing that governments and companies with high investments in sustainability through digital transformation are correlated with resilience, social cohesion, better governance, operational performance, and success, despite the risks and vulnerabilities brought about by the pandemic. 

These main themes were addressed by speakers, moderators, and attendees via in-person and online presentations of research papers, talks, artistic performances, and discussions in official and unofficial settings, from June 9, 2022, upon the arrival of most participants, to June 12, 2022 – departure day. The publication of research papers and talks will be completed by Dar al-Kalima University in 2023, including a book in English and another one in Arabic.

The Conference was divided into 9 sessions over 2 days (June 10 and 11) — as detailed in the conference program — which followed an introductory dinner on June 9, and an introduction session on the morning of June 10. Presentations/talks and discussions were done in Modern Standard Arabic and English. Most sessions had a hybrid format, with in-person and online participants and attendees. Artistic performances and a mixed art exhibition (physical/virtual) took place on June 10, and a concluding session wrapped up the main concepts and learning lessons and offered participants time to reflect on the conference content and format, and identify the main recommendations to move forward. 

Thank you Dar al-Kalima University and Cafcaw for this opportunity to organize/manage this Conference, and thank you to all participants for your valuable contributions!

PRESS COVERAGE

-الإذاعات

شبكة الرقيب الاعلامية: https://www.facebook.com/daralkalimaUniversity/videos/709156783769585

-وكالات الأنباء

https://www.al-ayyam.ps/ar_page.php?id=152fe770y355460976Y152fe770

https://www.raya.ps/news/1126739.html

Qudsnet.com

https://www.wattan.net/ar/news/367183.html

Nabd.com

https://www.daralkalima.edu.ps/ar/news/1647626301

تقرير (2):  وضع اللمسات النهائية استعداداً لإنطلاق مؤتمر “الثقافة والتحول الرقمي” الدولي 

-وكالات الأنباء

https://www.wattan.net/ar/news/374626.html

https://www.alwatanvoice.com/arabic/news/2022/06/09/1477209.html

https://www.daralkalima.edu.ps/ar/news/1654702998

https://www.albawabhnews.com/4594644?fbclid=IwAR3veRdFzQxkD0f39I4kSZ19EacwbBixCiPAd7Lof50yr8DLhgkIySyRT-w

تقرير (3): جامعة دار الكلمة تفتتح أعمال مؤتمرها الدولي بعنوان “الثقافة والتحول الرقمي” في قبرص

-الصحف

صحيفة القدس

صحيفة الأيام

-وكالات الأنباء

https://www.maannews.net/news/2069069.html?fbclid=IwAR0EuPK8qs9NWx_dkZ9hnm4IurBi7OluJymIdy8kWXjv0ivQs26E9vY4Z8A

Qudsnet.com

https://www.daralkalima.edu.ps/index.php/ar/news/1654876555

تقرير (4): جامعة دار الكلمة تختتم أعمال مؤتمرها الدولي الرابع والعشرين بعنوان الثقافة والتحول الرقمي

-الصحف

صحيفة القدس

صحيفة الأيام

-وكالات الأنباء

youm7.com

https://www.vetogate.com/4618029?fbclid=IwAR1kVbGITijeorOBm5WXTe641oRXS80jmV_fPuEqliFALBUaG7Cj2VMUP0Y

https://www.elmydannews.com/183648?fbclid=IwAR06Y60k0PC0FN4Cc-mbsqNaTA13RvqqXvXTQWazU8D7igJsM03lHwpE7zE

https://www.albawabhnews.com/4594672?fbclid=IwAR36dHrB0zqICcD8HxqzqWjaGRidYFK6pTfA793xnQ2-kQjE3iK5yiLrl4M

youm7.com/story

https://www.wattan.net/ar/news/374943.html?fbclid=IwAR3veRdFzQxkD0f39I4kSZ19EacwbBixCiPAd7Lof50yr8DLhgkIySyRT-w

Qudsnet.com

https://www.alwatanvoice.com/arabic/news/2022/06/12/1477654.html?fbclid=IwAR1UYT8QwzFeDtBtRTO-T55rjJ7s7VyJyze3yEvekW8qiWXOjXaUiMKwIII

https://www.daralkalima.edu.ps/ar/news/1655017928?fbclid=IwAR2lOgxPBvpxpdl1UL6fZbh9oBL6cP76DpyBnLsMrYNDN7wxo7V7mdJvlPc

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