Holy Tweets: Exploring the Sharing of Quran on Twitter

This is super exciting! Our paper Holy Tweets: Exploring the Sharing of Quran on Twitter is now published in the proceedings of the ACM Human Computer Interaction Journal (link to free arxiv version). The paper is ready to be presented in Oct ’20 during The 23rd ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing.

The paper addresses an important topic, i.e., how Quran is being shared on Twitter and for what purpose — no, not for recruiting jihadist as approached by many Western researchers. We also share valuable discoveries regarding the top shared verses in our dataset, what Quran categories are often shared on social media, and when. We also discovered and shared the concept of “digital memorial accounts” and “digital remembrance agents” — bots that tweet on behalf of someone, alive or dead, to ensure the stream of good deeds continues for them, whether in their current life or when the die.

Top shared verse in the fragment verse category (Ayah 1, Surat Al-Talaq)

Abstract: While social media offer users a platform for self-expression, identity exploration, and community management, among other functions, they also offer space for religious practice and expression. In this paper, we explore social media spaces as they subtend new forms of religious experiences and rituals. We present a mixed method study to understand the practice of sharing Quran verses on Arabic Twitter in their cultural context by combining a quantitative analysis of the most shared Quran verses, the topics covered by these verses, and the modalities of sharing, with a qualitative study of users’ goals. This analysis of a set of 2.6 million
tweets containing Quran verses demonstrates that online religious expression in the form of sharing Quran verses both extends offline religious life and supports new forms of religious expression including goals such as doing good deeds, giving charity, holding memorials, and showing solidarity. By analysing the responses
on a survey, we found that our Arab Muslim respondents conceptualize social media platforms as everlasting, at least beyond their lifetimes, where they consider them to be effective for certain religious practices, such as reciting Quran, supplication (dua), and ceaseless charity. Our quantitative analysis of the most shared verses of the Quran underlines this commitment to religious expression as an act of worship, highlighting topics such as the hereafter, God’s mercy, and sharia law. We note that verses on topics such as jihad are shared much less often, contradicting some media representation of Muslim social media use and practice.

I’m excited to hear your thoughts and comments on this work.

Top shared verse in the complete verse category (Ayah 1, Surat Al-Fath)

My Experience at the Internet Research 15 Doctoral Colloquium

I just got back from Korea where I was attending IR15: Boundaries and Intersections (AoIR ’15). The main focus of this years conference was on studies and workshops that are engaging with complexities arising from points of intersection within and beyond the digital world. So, submissions included topic on the interface between the techno- and the –social and digital mobilities between and through spaces. Many other topics were discussed (please refer to the call for proposals for more information on IR15.) During my time in the conference I had an opportunity to discuss my work with great mentors and Ph.D. students from different countries, such as Australia, France, and England. It was really interesting to talk with other people about the different methods and theories they work with, and to get their feedback on mine.

It was my great pleasure to have been officially selected to attend the conference’s Doctoral Colloquium which was organized this year with the help of Microsoft Research Social Media Collective lab in New England. The full-day pre-conference workshop was divided into 4 sessions and organized in a way to allow us to breakout in a smaller group and discuss and then come together to state the highlights of our discussion to the larger group. The first session was about introducing our current work. In this session we discussed our work with our assigned mentor and receive critical feedback and comments on our topic and state of our research. My mentor for this session was Christian Sandvig, who is an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan. Christian, gave me great and practical feedback on the framing of my work and narrowing it down to a manageable dissertation. The Second session was about knowing our audience, where we discussed ways to navigate disciplinary intersections with our mentor. My mentor for this session was Sharif Mowlabocus, who is a Senior Lecturer (Assoc. Prof.) in Digital Media at the University of Sussex, UK. My time with Sharif was very useful, as he helped me navigate the different disciplines of my research and the interesting intersections between privacy, transnationalisim and social media. The third session was about become a teacher and a researcher at the same time. My mentor for this session was Sun Sun Lim, who is Assistant Dean for Research at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and Associate Professor at the Department of Communications and New Media, National University of Singapore. Sun sun, had such great advice on teaching and managing time. She told me that one thing I need to keep in mind ==> not showing fear or lack of self-confidence in the classroom because “students smell fear” and they are there to learn from someone they assume know something more than them #truth #teachingwisdom. The forth session was about the professional life after the Ph.D. My mentor for this session was Airi Lampinen, who is a social scientist with an eye out for the everyday efforts needed to regulate interpersonal boundaries in the context of networked communication technologies. Airi, was great in giving me practical advice on how to approach the job market, especially that I am looking for an internship this year and she’s got a great experience with hiring committees. Finally, we had a closing discussion session as a full group to reflect on the day and the takeaways.

I really encourage every Ph.D. student (who passed their qualifiers or not yet ) to consider IR16: Digital Imaginaries, which will be held in Phoenix, AZ, USA, 21-24 October, 2014. Please feel free to send me any questions regarding the conference or my work.