Universiteit Leiden

nl en


SAILS Lunch Time Seminar Bart Barendregt

Monday 21 November 2022
online only
Bart Barendregt

One Among Zeroes |0100|, Towards an Anthropology of AI in Islam 

Digital technologies and religion have more in common than meets the eye, as they both produce futures in both professional and popular imagination. Secularists have long described religion scathingly, as ‘backward’, and the fate of faith as sealed. If ever absent, faith is now back in the public arena, and its future is digital. Islam offers a thought-provoking case, not only as major world religion, but also as the ‘liberation theology’ of the global South. The ideal of an Islamic information society spearheading the latest technologies offers a model for an alternative to the dominant pathways of digital transition: Californian ‘big tech’, the Chinese social credit system, or European regulation.  

The |0100| Team investigates the Islamic Information Society’s most controversial component – artificial intelligence – with multimodal and mixed methods, comparing and contrasting narratives and imagery of digital religious futures in the national settings of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, each with a considerable yet differently positioned Muslim population. It situates ethical dilemmas surrounding algorithms, bots and deep learning by ethnographically and longitudinally observing and interviewing makers and users. Innovatively using a historical analysis of future-making discourse, we probe big and ‘thick data’ (‘in situ’ and through digital ethnography) and use infographics, animations and comics to both map and represent ‘scripted futures’. |0100| delivers salient ethnographic portraits as well as an overarching socio-anthropological analysis, of what digital everyday religion is like, how Southeast Asians use AI ‘in the wild’, and how digital technology contributes to exciting societal experiments and ethical dilemmas. 

Studying religious digital futures anthropologically means openly and seriously contemplating the multiple possible directions of digitalizing societies. It raises public awareness of the moral decisions implied in how and why we let technology shape our lives, and reminds experts and policymakers about the fact that the future is always configured here-and-now. 

Bart Barendregt is scientific director of the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology (CADS) and a professor and UNESCO Chair of Digital Diversity.  He is currently PI of the NWO-VICI project One Among Zeroes |0100| Towards an Anthropology of Everyday AI in Islam. 

Join us!

The SAILS Lunch Time Seminar is an online event, but it is not publicly accessible in real-time. Please click the the link below to register If you would like to join.

Click here to register!
This website uses cookies.  More information.