By Ouyidir Abdelmounaim
By Ouyidir Abdelmounaim
Morocco World News
Fez, September 19, 2012
Among the most important aims of a website is to reflect the image of the subject it projects and expose obviously the common characteristics of human life. Representation in a website makes use of pictures and figures to emphasize related topics such as social stereotypes, fetish images and accumulated knowledge. When we try to go deeper into analyzing the notion of representation, we decipher that it stems either from positive images or negative stereotypes. Positive imagery depicts the positive concrete portrayal of the human life in the city. It represents men’s life while experiencing poverty, challenging their daily tasks, attempting to achieve their dreams and revolting against life hurdles..
In the present, websites depict Fez, a city that has grown to become the third largest in Morocco after Casablanca and Rabat. Despite the fact that websites constitute evidence about Fez, their permanent existence and immediacy create an important impact of the public image of the city and its tourist sphere.
At the same time, they have neglected a wide range of the cultural characteristics of Fez and the social and economic value of this urban space. This vibrant representation across the foreign websites is reflective of the fact that the city is reduced to a space of leisure and touristic entertainment. There are many perspectives that highlight the instrumental use of websites. Accordingly, websites are presented as a means to publicize the city, and as a channel for urban projection for tourism generation. Closely bound up with this view is the idea that the websites attract tourists and capital investment. They also operate as a method for enhancing and promoting the visibility of the city.
A search on the net for websites and information on Fez reveals in concrete terms that Fez is fetishized into a site of hotels, travel agencies, historical monuments and a world cultural patrimony. This might not be done on purpose by the webmasters, but this fact reflects the Western view of an oriental city. The notion of consumerism overwhelms the websites. Different links and entries are generally devoted to addresses of hotels, “riads”, rented houses and markets. I came across no single western website that tackles and presents Fez without considering it as a place of fun, tourism and exotic pleasure.
Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia, for example, represents Fez in the Arabic version differently from the English version. The content in Arabic is well illustrated, containing most of the information about the cultural, social, ethnic, political, historical and intellectual perspectives of the city. However; in the English version, as with the French one, the posted information is not well illustrated, nor intellectually diversified. This raises the question: is it only a matter of language and data translation, or is it a pragmatic strategy to offer just the needed information for western audiences in comparison with Orient viewers?
If we go deeper in this analysis and compare the way that Fez city and Casablanca are presented in Wikipedia with the way that London is presented, we notice a huge difference. London has devoted to it 21 pages with content that is well illustrated and diversified, containing 31 links or entries. However Fez is devoted only 5 pages with 9 entries. And Casablanca is given 8 pages with 27 entries.
Most of the websites that I came across while searching on the net are American, German, Spanish and French; they share the same strategy in presenting Fez as the city where one can find historical monuments, enjoy listening to sacred music, lodge in luxurious hotels and even have the possibility to buy an old Riad with a majestic and panoramic view.
Fez in these websites is only a museum, a globalized site that has to be tamed and put into a commodified frame. There is an obvious marginalization and even ignorance of the local Fez people, the local culture and the original implication of the Moroccan subject. Fez is represented as specific urban space with typical cultural symbols associated to it, a place where the sacred and the historical occupies the whole image in order to broadcast a particular picture of Fez and Morocco as a place of peace and cohabitation.
When I moved to consult the websites that are in Arabic, I noticed that they are generally Moroccan: government websites, like the website of the Wilaya of Fez and the provinces and another one of the Ministry of Culture. Except its historical heritage, geographic placement and few notions about its social and cultural background, these websites likewise give just a little bit of information about Fez.
The expectation of the reader is frustrated if s/he is curious to know as much as possible about the city apart from its historical and geographic entities. The information presented in the websites shapes the conception of the audiences, be they Moroccans or not. The hegemonic power of the exhibited knowledge on the net has double effects on the subject itself (meaning the image of Fez) when it restricts its horizons of visibility into special patterns and on the receiver of this information when their perspective of knowledge is narrowed and violently oriented into a single direction.
When we take the example of Fez city and try to compare the way this city is presented within Western websites and a few other Moroccan websites, we come to the conclusion that the provided information is scattered, inadequate and has one single oriented and oriental vision. Fez city is restricted into a narrow framework that depicts its glorious cultural features as one single fetishized space of leisure and entertainment. The websites ignore a large amount of the knowledge that should be made available about the city.
Edited by Benjamin Villanti
© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed