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The significance and potential of cyberspace

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The creation and development of cyberspace has profoundly changed people’s thinking and behavioural habits. Current academic discussions on a range of issues such as web policy, web ethics, web culture and ideology have also become borderline academic topics.

Accurately grasping the connotation, characteristics and essence of cyberspace and scientifically defining its attributes in everyday life are the foundations and prerequisites for exploring this kind of problem. Otherwise, it will be difficult for us to understand and accurately grasp the origin and roots of these issues, which will influence the scientific nature of research.

For discussing the Internet-related issues, social science research mainly uses the “web society” and “cyberspace” as conceptual tools to impact on the topic.

With the fast development of web technology and people’s proactive participation in communication practices, cyberspace has been widely recognised and has affected people as a new form of environment. Nevertheless, there are still many differences in the understanding and definition of the cyberspace concept. Further work on theoretical identification is therefore needed. Many scholars have made a structural analysis of cyberspace and some consider it to be a three-tier structure, including:

A. the lowest physical layer, which forms the material basis of the web information system. The term cyberspace, for example, leads some people to think that information travels over the air: this is not the case at all! The Internet spreads via underground terrestrial and marine fibre-optic cables, and radio base stations are connected to this cable network. The antennas we see towering on the hills receive the signal from the network of underground cables and transform it into electromagnetic waves so that they can be transmitted and then picked up by our smartphones: in other words, the illusion that cyberspace is wireless in the air, while it is, in fact, ground-to-ground.

B. The intermediate grammar layer, i.e. the instructions, programs and protocols with which the machine interacts between the system designer and the machine user.

C. The highest semantic layer, which mainly refers to the information contained in the machine and to some services that are needed to make the system information work.

Other scholars classify it into five layers:

A. the “physical layer’ refers to the hardware devices that make up the computer.

B. The “protocol layer” emphasises that the different versions of communication protocols are, to a large extent, the source of power and authority in cyberspace and provide users with key identifying marks in cyberspace.

C. The “logic layer/code” is the software operated by the computer, which defines and limits the ways in which users can use the web.

D. The “content layer” mainly expresses the various objects and/or narratives created by the Internet users.

E. The “relations layer” emphasises the transmission of cyberspace, i.e. the social relationship between the users who make, exchange, disseminate and share web content embedded in objects and narratives.

As a result, scholars not only see the material and technical foundations that constitute cyberspace, but also reveal the human relation aspects contained in it, thus considering cyberspace as a kind of “virtual reality”. Some scholars have interpreted this “relational” aspect from a more specific viewpoint, and have considered cyberspace to be a stand-alone electronic field – separate from political professionals – a field containing many topics such as politics, economy, society, culture and religion.

Hence what is the essence of this “virtual reality”? Traditionally, with a view to meeting their basic survival needs, “real people” first engage in the production of material goods. In production activities, the division of labour, the practice of communication and the methods of production will inevitably arise, which – characterized by different behaviours – will give rise to different social forms.

It can be said that perceptual and concrete practical activities are the driving force behind the establishment of human social relations. In fact, the emergence of the Internet is exactly the product of human practical activities and an important result of the transformation of the objective world into human production practices. In other words, as a technical tool, the web represents advanced productivity and embodies the legacy of human knowledge, abilities and skills.

Based on the Internet technological platform, the social participation of “real people” enables the creation and development of cyberspace. The information flow is the basic form of existence in cyberspace. Information, as a symbol, brings the people’s actual social relations, which have consequential values and meaning.

Based on these attributes, cyberspace – as a product of human social practice activities – has further expanded and enriched the field and methods of human practice. It has changed people’s thinking and behavioural habits: new forms of real life.

In short, whether in terms of production, content or actual impact, cyberspace displays clear social characteristics and sociability is its fundamental attribute. It can be said that cyberspace is a new form of social space created with the development of web technology, and it is the further extension and expansion of social space in the context of information technology.

This process of extension and expansion produces and reproduces the social space itself, i.e. the space in which we actually live. For cyberspace, as in everyday life, people’s interaction and practice activities based on different interests and purposes – which cause the continuous differentiation of cyberspace – are marked by the generation of secondary spaces such as the Web, the forum, the post to be posted, and the circle of friends that begins to create widespread consensus.

On the other hand, once the secondary web space is generated, it will produce a certain value and meaning of aggregation (“pro”) or exclusion (“anti”), and will thus divide people into different web groups. Consequently, two relations are established between man and cyberspace: one is that people use the web as a means and instrument to be applied; the other is that the web constitutes the actual conditions of human existence: people “are” in the web, they exist only there, as the real is only necessary as a search for food and physical subsistence, and not even so much for sex.

In further analysis, man and cyberspace manifest themselves as a spatial relationship of symbiosis and coexistence. In this relationship, cyberspace has not only changed the way people receive, process, and send information (as in the past), but it has also changed the way information itself is generated, in a different and/or opposite way than before.

People have created and developed web technology through practice, but at the same time they have reshaped and improved themselves with web technology, as well as expanded the boundaries of life and achieved the spatialisation of life itself. It can be said that cyberspace is not only a space for the digital information flow, but also a space for social interaction, a new space in which the essential power of the human being can be shown in a new guise that is no longer casual or accidental, such as physiological birth.

People are used to summarising the basic features of cyberspace with words such as virtuality, anonymity (albeit illusory as noted in an article published a few weeks ago), freedom and openness, as well as trans-temporal and spatial features, and then making common sense of them. Usual and ordinary things, however, are more likely to be marked by omissions or illusions, not being able to grasp a fact or a truth in depth.

Cyberspace is often said to be “virtual reality”. When we call it virtual space, what does the word “virtual” mean? In a general sense, the word “virtual” has the following meanings: one refers to a kind of empty space, or something that does not exist in reality, while the other is to represent a potential possibility. For example, a piece of wood can become a table or a cupboard, and a stone has the possibility of being the statue of a leader or the sculpture of a lion. These can all be transformed into a certain reality by relying on intermediary human practical activities: the carpenter, the artist. “Virtual” can also be understood as a type of real existence, but this type of existence does not play a practical role, although it plays a certain role. The virtual nature of cyberspace can also be understood and defined from several angles. From a technical viewpoint, cyberspace is a spatial form based on digital and computer technology. It is not a world composed of atoms, but a virtual world composed of “bits” that simulate real things. From the identity viewpoint, the apparent anonymity (i.e. the illusion of it that the provider offers the user) brought about by virtuality deconstructs the subject’s professional role, social status, and even the gender of men and women, transforming X into what he/she would like to be, but is not.

As a result, “real people” become ghosts wandering in cyberspace. Past social interaction between people is turned into technical and symbolic interaction. When several computers are connected to form a huge network linking people through different interfaces, communication practices take place in which there is no longer any need for movement, travel, encounter. It is here that the virtual world takes shape.

The “virtual nature” of cyberspace does not certainly focus on the so-called emptiness=real existence, but its essence comes in the form of simulation and digitalisation. This virtualised way of constructing the world does not only contain the potential for the development of things, but also possesses the actual path of transformation from possibility to reality.  

The US computer scientist, Nicholas Negroponte, pointed out: “If the words “virtual reality” are seen not as noun and adjective, but as “equal halves”, the logic of calling “virtual reality” a pleonasm is more palatable”. The implication is that virtual can also be understood as part of reality. Virtual things will be as real as reality, and even more real than reality. Because, as a form of technology, the “virtual” cannot only unfold around real problems, but also reveal the real parts of things and bring people a realistic experience, making it easier to achieve people’s expected goals.

In short, we cannot regard cyberspace as an “unrealistic space” because of its virtual nature. Cyberspace is not an abstract space that depends on the human imagination to perceive and grasp. Its spatial form is embodied in what is by no means a figment of imagination.

“Freedom” is the universal value concept of modern political civilisation and it is the fundamental human right, second only to the right to life. The creation and development of cyberspace has given this right a new expression, i.e. the Internet freedom. Some scholars have specifically structured the Internet freedom into (a) freedom of expression on the Internet; (b) freedom of access to the Internet and (c) freedom of communication on the Internet.  

“Freedom of expression on the Internet” means that the so-called netizens can use the Internet to post and convey their thoughts, opinions and even personal feelings. They are not passive receivers of information, but proactive publishers and disseminators of this information.

“Freedom of access to the Internet” refers to the netizens’ rights to obtain and use the network infrastructure and to choose and obtain web information.

“Freedom of communication on the Internet” refers to the freedom of Internet users to use media.

In general terms, we can further understand and define web freedom by the following aspects. Cyberspace is an equal and open form of disseminating thought. Based on access conditions and technical thresholds for the release of basic information, everyone can participate freely, thus having the opportunity to freely release, access, choose and consume information online. At the same time, cyberspace overcomes – to some extent – the shortcomings of the information asymmetry of traditional media and breaks down the natural barriers of physical time and space.

Netizens can share information resources online and develop free exchanges and interactions. The virtual nature of cyberspace has actually hidden the different representations of identity, status, wealth, job, etc. in real social relations. Based on the fundamental characteristics of cyberspace, individualisation in it has been strengthened, thus generating a bottom-up inner power. With this kind of power, netizens generally have an autonomous experience of freedom. It can be said that for real people, the development of technology and the creation of the web space also have an important liberating significance from a psychic viewpoint.

Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web (WWW), wrote: “My ideal for the World Wide Web is that everything can potentially be connected. It is this ideal that gives us new freedom and enables us to develop faster than our own hierarchical classification system”. Nowadays, faced with the fast development of the Internet and the profound social changes it entails, some scholars have directly pointed out that the value and significance of the Internet lies in its internal values of civilisation. It  is the spirit of the Internet that advocates and supports freedom, equality, openness, innovation and sharing. The freedom of the Internet, however, is not absolute. Cyberspace itself has not only the function of individual empowerment, but also the function of “control”, which is mainly achieved through the creation of technical barriers. These types of operations can effectively set the authority to post information, as well as netizens’ access authority, and can selectively display or mask relevant information, thus intentionally guiding or even controlling the public opinion trends on the web, ranging from the illusion of being free and independent to that of being controlled and hetero-directed.  

This kind of operations, however, can also be used for special purposes, and the advantages gained by “hidden third parties” achieve a comprehensive monitoring of netizens and web information.

Quoting Michel Foucault, referring to Jeremy Bentham, cyberspace can become a “panoptic ring-shaped  prison”, i.e. a “super panoramic prison” for the observer. Milton Mueller had to say: “Although the Internet has greatly expanded the scope and interaction between public and individual discourse, it has also fostered the development of technology and organisational means to monitor and control online discourse”.

In the governance process, with a view to effectively regulate netizens’ sloppy and superficial use of “freedom”, and overcome misguided trends of thought such as cyber violence and rumours, cybercrime, fake news, cyber anarchism, unbridled liberalism and nihilism, States and governments have also actively intervened, striving to base netizens’ thoughts and actions on legal regulations and moral constraints. Only in this way can the Internet freedom truly embody the subject’s consciousness and awareness, the value of rights and obligations, and netizens’ public spirit.

Therefore, we cannot only understand the web from the perspective of individual freedom. It also aims directly at the creation and maintenance of a holistic public order. In short, cyberspace is not a non-proprietary technology-centred “space” system, but a human-centred system with “unification of rights and obligations”. The Internet freedom is not abstract freedom, nor freedom of individualism, but includes the protection of other people’s rights and the overall construction of public order. Therefore, the Internet freedom is ultimately a kind of “limited freedom” and the freedom to break this limit will turn into a destructive and consequently illegal force.

As mentioned above, cyberspace is essentially a social space. The production of cyberspace is fundamentally the production of human social relations, and this production process is completed through interactions between people. The characteristics of virtuality, anonymity and intertemporal nature inherent in cyberspace provide new spatial conditions for human interaction, which is prominently manifested in the “non-centrality” or “decentralisation” characteristics of the web interaction.

Manuel Castells pointed out: “The net has not a centre; it only contains nodes. Each node has a different relevance to the net”. Hence we ask ourselves: what kind of person crosses the “node”? What is the relevance of the mode of communication? First of all, the web communication is made in the electronic square and the whole process is completed in the links of production, exchange, consumption and processing of web information. It can be noted that web interactions are based on the Internet technical platform, using symbols such as texts, videos, voice and even emoticons, in various online communities, forums and other secondary spaces.

It is a typical technicality of activity. The virtual nature and anonymity of cyberspace, as well as the interaction between people, break down the restrictions of face-to-face communication and make them obsolete. The presence of the mind and the absence of the body become the technical behaviour of interaction.

Web interaction has also become a new form of spiritual communication for “real people”. Value and meaning are constantly being created in the process. Secondly, this production of value and meaning is more procedural, i.e. the production of value and meaning is created in the process of interaction between the subjects of the communication. It is no longer prefixed, given, instilled by a third party, but consciously forms the power and influence of the discourse in the interaction, thus constructing different worlds and modes of meaning.

Taking some question-and-answer web platforms as an example, netizens can edit together, share knowledge and experiences through the aforementioned interactive mode, with a simple registration. Between question and answer, netizens establish a social relationship by adding followers (actual followers), sending private messages and posting comments. In question-and-answer style interaction, these professional and rational answers can acquire the power of discourse more and faster, and are universally recognised by netizens.

In this world and in this way, on the Internet, the social network of the others, of the unknown selves, is constantly being constructed, and this is where the value and meaning of the new social relationship arise. Finally, the ‘non-centrality’ of web interaction does not mean ‘non-subjectivity’: the web subjects are always the main vectors of communication activities, and they are fully reciprocal.

Communication activities will establish new relations and will form a new social structure, but at the same time they will take place within the social relations and structures established with non-visible knowledge.

In real society, people’s communication activities are inevitably influenced by the subject’s pre-existing identity, manifested in specific social roles: status, wealth, physical beauty and other pre-existing elements even to their contrary – which makes interaction appear “not so natural”, but influenced precisely by wealth, position, and physical appearance factors.

Conversely, web interaction has largely changed the hierarchy of power and formal degrees of value in real society. When everyone becomes the centre, people enter the web space and enjoy the same opportunities and rights for communication. The structure of democracy is thus formed, which is not based on visible values in the known exterior (society), but on invisible values in the unknown interior (the web).

Obviously this kind of reciprocity is also discussed in a general sense, and it is not absolute either. For instance, some Internet influencers and opinion leaders publicly disclose their identities. The reason why they have a strong ability to “acquire unknown fans” does not exclude the aggregation of their social status (the aforementioned status, physical appearance and other pre-existing factors), so as to use it in real society. In other words, the known figure exploits the cyberspace to impose himself/herself within society; in other words, the shepherd leads nameless sheep where he/she wishes. There is therefore a certain degree of unequal power structure in cyberspace.

The activity of the cyberspace figure known from the outside, as he/she is present and active in real society, is represented by various information, involving all aspects of production and people’s lives, such as education, medical care, insurance, real estate, advertising, legal services, etc. The data flow is ultimately the information flow. The information flow in cyberspace, with its wide source, high speed, large capacity, rich content and form, completely surpasses the traditional information flow. As a result, the well-known figure who uses the net does so to overtake real opponents in his or her respective field, while the followers think he or she is a disembodied guru or anything else.

Through “nodes”, netizens can spread and receive information without being limited by time and space. On the one hand, the virtualised and anonymous characteristics of cyberspace deconstruct or weaken the subject’s fixed identity, which in cyberspace is strongly contextualized, thus showing ambiguity in the practice of fluid communication, as the nature of cyberspace has changed the traditional meaning of space-time coordinates.

The Internet physical equipment is the “new field” of the subject’s activities, but the meaning of the subject’s geographical “position” disappears, and the IP address determines his/her existence. Mobile identity can enable web subjects to become “ubiquitous” and to exist and be mobile across different web interfaces.

The fluidity of cyberspace reflects the following aspects: firstly, the dynamic nature of cyberspace. The characteristic definition of “flow” has the dual meaning of time and space. Due to the flattening and levelling of cyberspace, this type of flow is not a change in the position of individuals in the social class in a sociological sense, but is a flow without hierarchical meaning. Due to the borderless and trans-temporal nature of cyberspace, this type of flow has no physical boundaries in the topological sense, but takes on the undefined meaning of “place”.

Secondly, it reflects the interaction between web entities in the process of web information flow. Human needs are the source of information production, and the web information flow has become the bearer of value and meaning from the very beginning. It is also in the flow and collision of information that new values and meanings are created, thus showing the complex social relations between people. Therefore, in a fundamental sense, the information flow is a social movement related to the generation of meanings and signifiers. In Italy we had a great example, which later ended up in the disappointment of the vast majority of voters, to the benefit of a few who knew how to study (sometimes fraudulently) the bureaucratic apparatus.

Thirdly, it reflects the dynamic development of the social structure based on technological progress, which fundamentally reflects the procedural nature of the practice of “real people”. Castells pointed out: ‘Space is not a reflection of society, but an expression of society. In other words, space is not a copy of society: space is society”. This emphasises that the generation of cyberspace is fundamental to its self-generation.

On the one hand, the fluidity of cyberspace has become an endogenous force for the differentiation and integration of cyberspace itself and its dynamics influence and change the structure of value and meaning in cyberspace. On the other hand, through online and offline interactions, it ultimately transforms – through concrete actions – real society itself that, in turn, promotes changes in the overall social structure. Hence, as a “quality of flow”, cyberspace is basically embodied as a process of social practice.

The creation and development of cyberspace is the result of the continuous differentiation and integration of social space in its own changes. Hence, is cyberspace a so-called “public domain”? According to our understanding, we can see the basic elements that constitute the public domain: firstly, individuals with a rational and critical spirit; secondly, independent media and thirdly, public opinion forming a rational consensus.  

As to cyberspace, the public is active: when faced with general events, the public does not stand on the sidelines, but actively participates in the discussion of important issues to safeguard public interests and control power. This kind of fair and dialogic communication and interaction not only reflects the independent thinking, judgment, choice and even critical capacity of netizens as rational subjects, but also reflects their good moral and legal literacy, thus playing a key role in maintaining public order.

In the media sense, the basic characteristics of cyberspace make it relatively independent. There are no hierarchical and strict public power organisations, institutions or systems in cyberspace: it is open to everybody and people communicate and interact in a relatively free environment. The development of web technology – at least the one presented as such – also provides sufficient guarantee for this equality, freedom and independence.

When people online express opinions on various events, a large number of opinions and discussions are quickly gathered in the online public opinion with the help of the relevant platform. Through massive pressure, related issues are resolved in a fair or at least not covert way, and promote the reform and improvement of the relevant systems, and of the rules, too, where necessary.

It can be said that the critical and controlling functions of people online through public opinion have become a positive and constructive force. From this viewpoint, cyberspace has actually fulfilled its function of public domain. But can we infer from this that cyberspace is really in the public domain?  

As the main entity of the web, not all netizens can be called “public” in a rational spirit. On the contrary, with the exception of the netizens who are addicted to online consumption and entertainment all day long, some netizens arbitrarily vent their emotions by attacking and verbally abusing their opponents. Aggressive cybernetic pursuits, rampant defamations that ignore facts, and unprincipled cyber parodies make them outright saboteurs.

Public spirit and rationality are completely unfamiliar terms to such netizens. There are unidentified cyber forces that become the packagers and manipulators of information for further aims. Fake information with extremely unreliable sources and content, cybercrimes that trample on the bottom line of laws and morality, etc.

They have also turned cyberspace into a foggy environment. Hence, based on its complexity and in view of creating good web “ecology”, countries around the world are strengthening the management and control of cyberspace, thus achieving the penetration of public power into it. Therefore, we see that cyberspace is not completely independent in a theoretical sense.

In short, in the process of information flow and collision, there is the creation of value and meaning, but also its destruction. Web communication and interaction do not always contribute to resolving incidents of any kind, but in many cases simply act as a destabilising force. Indeed, we cannot simply decide that cyberspace is a “public” or a “quasi-public sphere”.

When discussing the spatial attribution of cyberspace, the yes/no-1/0 method of judging is the result of mechanistic understanding and application of commonly accepted public domain theories. It is very easy to hide the complexity of the structure and the inherent contradictions of cyberspace, and this prevents us from accurately understanding and judging the essential characteristics and functions of cyberspace – and by essential I mean and refer to utility as a shared value, and not to the individuals’ personal benefits.

In my opinion, the greatest significance of the public domain for cyberspace is that it must exist functionally. Cyberspace cannot simply be judged at the aforementioned 1/0 digital level, but can actually perform service operations for everyone. When attempting to orient and guide web subjects from “individualised” to “public” netizens, they can express not only their own needs for interest under the form of help with knowledge and exchange of purely personal experiences, etc., but also uphold the spirit of public rationality by actively paying attention to public events, supervising public power, and safeguarding everybody’s interests.

As a result, it is hoped that cyberspace will rise to the status of a “rational information agent”, and hence a proactive constructive force. When cyberspace plays the role and function of the public domain, it can effectively communicate the relationship between the private sphere and the power sphere, between the online and the offline space, and effectively rebuild the relationship between government, society and citizens, thus contributing to the adjustment and optimisation of the general order of social space.

Conversely, as far as the ownership of cyberspace is concerned, we cannot simply identify cyberspace as ‘being’ or ‘not being’ in the public domain, but we must seek to orient its role in the public interest. In a fundamental sense, cyberspace is a social space, a new ‘environmental’ form that extends and differs from the social space of everyday life with the development of the Internet technology.  

Nevertheless, based on the technical dimension, cyberspace as a “virtual reality” is different from the social environment in a general sense, displaying its own characteristics and operating rules that all too often defy moral, civil and criminal behaviours.

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7 Trends Reshaping a USD 3.9 Trillion Global Halal Industry

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The Global Halal Market (GHM) is not just growing, it’s exploding. Driven by a surging Muslim population, rising disposable incomes, and shifting consumer preferences, this behemoth is projected to reach a staggering USD 3.9 trillion by 2027. But what’s driving this explosive growth? Buckle up, because 2024 promises a thrilling ride fueled by cutting-edge technology, ethical consumerism, and personalized convenience. Here’s your deep dive into the 7 hottest trends reshaping the global halal landscape:

Halal Tech Revolution: Where Silicon Valley Meets Mecca

Forget clunky processes and opaque sourcing. The halal industry is getting a tech makeover, and it’s about time. Blockchain is ensuring ethical sourcing and transparent supply chains, from farm to fork. Imagine halal meat traced back to its free-range roots, with every step documented on a tamper-proof digital ledger. Artificial intelligence is optimizing slaughterhouses, automating processes, and ensuring humane treatment of animals. Halal e-commerce platforms are booming, bringing convenience and halal-certified products to Muslim consumers worldwide. Think Amazon, but with prayer apps, virtual tours of halal farms, and even halal-compliant fintech solutions – the future of halal is digital and delicious!

Ethical Halal: Beyond Compliance, Embracing Values

Muslim consumers are no longer satisfied with just a halal label. They crave sustainability, animal welfare, and organic goodness. Expect a surge in plant-based halal options, from juicy burgers to creamy milkshakes made with innovative pea protein and lentil blends. Ethically sourced meat, raised on antibiotic-free feed and roaming in spacious pastures, will be the new gold standard. And get ready for a beauty revolution: cruelty-free cosmetics and hygiene products that adhere to Islamic principles will pamper consumers with peace of mind.

Convenience is King: Busy Lives, Halal Solutions

In today’s fast-paced world, convenience reigns supreme. The halal industry is taking note, with solutions tailor-made for busy Muslim lives. Subscription meal kits will deliver pre-portioned, halal-certified ingredients straight to doorsteps, complete with recipe cards for stress-free meal prep. Halal food delivery apps will take the guesswork out of dining out, connecting users with a curated selection of restaurants and cafes offering delicious and compliant meals. And for those special occasions, on-demand halal catering will ensure stress-free gatherings, leaving hosts free to enjoy the festivities.

Beyond Food: The Halal Universe Expands

The halal industry is shedding its “food-only” label and branching out into exciting new frontiers. Halal travel is booming, with destinations vying for Muslim tourists by offering halal amenities, prayer spaces, and culturally sensitive experiences. Imagine exploring Marrakech’s vibrant souks or unwinding on a pristine Maldives beach, all while knowing your needs are catered to. Halal cosmetics are gaining traction, with innovative brands formulating products free of alcohol, animal derivatives, and harsh chemicals. And even the pharmaceutical industry is taking notice, developing halal-compliant medications and healthcare products that align with Islamic principles.

Science & Innovation: Reimagining Halal with Cutting-Edge Tech

Research labs are not just churning out papers; they’re cooking up a futuristic halal feast. Lab-grown halal meat is no longer science fiction, with companies like Eat Just and Aleph Farms creating meat indistinguishable from its conventional counterpart, but without the ethical and environmental concerns. Plant-based alternatives are evolving beyond bland tofu, with innovative textures and flavors mimicking everything from juicy steaks to succulent lamb shanks. Get ready for halal food reimagined with cutting-edge technology, offering delicious and sustainable options for the future.

Health & Wellness: Halal Goes Holistic

Muslim consumers are prioritizing their well-being like never before. Enter functional halal foods infused with ingredients like probiotics, antioxidants, and adaptogens, designed to nourish the body and mind. Sports nutrition is another burgeoning market, with protein powders and energy bars formulated specifically for Muslim athletes seeking halal-compliant performance boosters. And for those managing chronic conditions, dietary supplements tailored to diabetes management, weight loss, or heart health will offer halal solutions for holistic well-being.

Storytelling & Branding: Building Trust, Shaping Perceptions

In a crowded marketplace, differentiating your brand is key. The halal industry is catching on, embracing compelling narratives and values-driven branding. Showcase your commitment to ethical sourcing, sustainability, and community engagement. Share inspiring stories of the farmers who raise your halal meat, the scientists developing innovative food technologies, or the communities you empower through your business practices. By building trust and aligning with consumer values, halal brands can stand out.

Embrace the Halal Revolution:2024 is not just a year on the calendar; it’s the dawn of a new era for the halal industry. By harnessing the power of technology, embracing ethical values, and catering to evolving consumer needs, halal businesses can tap into a USD 3.9 trillion market brimming with potential. So, whether you’re a food producer, travel blogger, or tech whiz, join the halal revolution. Optimize your offerings, tell your story, and connect with Muslim consumers worldwide. The future of halal is bright, and the time to act is now.


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HALAL ECONOMY

Beyond Andalusia: Exploring Spain’s Islamic Heritage through Halal Tourism

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Spain’s evolving landscape of Muslim-friendly tourism is a testament to its rich Islamic history and its commitment to embracing diverse cultural needs. As we head into 2023, projections indicate a staggering 85 million international visitors to Spain, a 16.4% increase from the previous year, highlighting the country’s growing appeal as a global tourist destination. A significant portion of these tourists are from Muslim-majority countries, drawn to Spain’s Islamic heritage and the burgeoning availability of Halal services and tailored cultural experiences.

The Rise of Halal Tourism in Spain

Spain’s shift towards accommodating Muslim tourists is evident in the increasing number of Halal-certified establishments and services. The Spanish Halal Institute has reported a surge in businesses seeking Halal certification, a rise from 100 in 2010 to over 500 in recent years. This growth is not only a response to the rising Muslim visitor numbers but also a strategic move by Spanish businesses to tap into the lucrative Muslim market.

Muslim-friendly Services Across Spain

Beyond the traditionally popular Andalucía, other regions in Spain are adapting to the needs of Muslim tourists. Cities like Barcelona, Toledo, and Madrid now offer a range of Halal dining options, prayer facilities, and culturally sensitive services. For instance, the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona, a Halal-certified hotel, offers amenities tailored to Muslim guests, including prayer mats and Halal food options. Similarly, the Costa del Sol Hotel in Torremolinos has trained its staff in Muslim culture and traditions, enhancing the experience for its Muslim clientele.

Cultural and Historical Tourism

Spain’s Islamic history, particularly the legacy of Al-Andalus, is a major draw for Muslim visitors. Educational initiatives like walking tours in Toledo, led by Aicha Fernández, and Madrid’s Muslim and Arab heritage tours, organized by Rafael Martínez, provide insights into Spain’s rich Islamic past. These tours are not just tourist attractions but educational experiences, offering deep dives into the historical and cultural significance of Spain’s Islamic era.

Economic Impact and Market Potential

The economic potential of Muslim-friendly tourism in Spain is immense. According to a report by the State of the Islamic Economy (2022), the global Muslim population, a significant portion of which belongs to the rising middle class, is increasingly travel-savvy and demands tailored services. This presents a lucrative opportunity for Spanish businesses in the tourism sector.

Government Initiatives and Recognition

The Spanish government’s role in promoting Muslim-friendly tourism is pivotal. Efforts like the creation of Halal tourism guides by municipalities like Málaga, which won recognition at the Halal In Travel Global Summit in Singapore, underscore the national commitment to positioning Spain as a Muslim-friendly destination.

Challenges and Opportunities

Despite the progress, challenges remain. Celia Rodríguez, a Spanish revert, notes the scarcity of Halal options in some regions and the need for better-informed services for Muslim tourists. This gap presents an opportunity for businesses to further tailor their offerings and improve communication with Muslim clients.

Global Context and Future Prospects

Globally, the trend towards Muslim-friendly tourism is gaining momentum, with countries like South Korea and Japan also emerging as popular destinations. Spain’s strategic approach to embracing and catering to the needs of Muslim tourists not only enhances its competitive edge in the global tourism market but also promotes cultural understanding and inclusivity.


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TB Research Shows a Good Diet can cut Infections by Nearly 50%

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Tuberculosis is the single most deadly infectious killer of humankind. It claimed 1.6 million lives in 2021 alone. As the search for effective ways to fight the disease continues, the findings of new research offer hope: a good diet can cut infections by nearly 50%. Yogan Pillay and Madhukar Pai write that nutrition is a vaccine in all but name.

For centuries, we have known that tuberculosis is a social disease. It thrives on poverty and social factors such as malnutrition, poor housing, overcrowding, unsafe work environments and stigma. Globally in 2021 an estimated 2.2 million cases of TB were attributable to undernourishment, 0.86 million to HIV infection, 0.74 million to alcohol use disorders, 0.69 million to smoking and 0.37 million to diabetes.

But knowledge about social determinants alone does not always translate into tangible action and progress. A new trial in India, called RATIONS, aimed to determine the effect of nutritional supplementation on new cases of tuberculosis in households of adults with pulmonary TB. The research found that providing food baskets to people with TB and their households could go a long way to prevent and mitigate the disease.

No easy silver bullets

The TB community has typically looked for biomedical solutions, or “silver bullets”, for a social pathology, and we are struggling to make progress. Since the COVID pandemic, TB mortality and incidence have increased globally, putting TB back on top as the single most deadly infectious killer of humankind.  In 2021, 1.6 million people died of TB. In Africa, TB incidence is high (212 per 100,000 population) with a high case fatality rate because of the HIV epidemic.

Undernutrition is the most important cause of TB. This has been shown in studies in many countries, including South Africa, where researchers found poor levels of nutrition in patients admitted to a specialized TB hospital. Malnutrition refers to all forms of deficiencies in nutrition, including over-nutrition and obesity. Undernutrition refers more specifically to a deficiency of nutrients. While we know that many patients with TB have poor nutrition, the latest evidence is that undernutrition also plays a key role in TB within households.

The results of the Reducing Activation of Tuberculosis by Improvement of Nutritional Status (RATIONS) trial show that improved nutrition in family members of patients with lung TB reduced all forms of TB by nearly 40%, and infectious TB by nearly 50%.

This trial recruited 10,345 household members of 2,800 patients with lung TB.

  • All TB patients received a monthly 10kg food basket (rice, pulses, milk powder, oil) and multivitamins for six months.
  • In one group family members received 5kg rice and 1.5kg pulses per person per month, while the other group of family members did not get food baskets.

Food worked like a vaccine in this trial, cutting the risk of household members developing TB.  Nutrition could also protect against other conditions such as anaemia, diarrhoea and respiratory infections, but these were not not the main focus of the trial. An accompanying paper, based on the results of the RATIONS trial, showed that severe undernutrition was present in nearly half of all patients.

An early weight gain in the first two months was associated with 60% lower risk of TB mortality. The other benefits were higher treatment success and better weight gain. During the six-month follow-up period, a remarkable treatment success rate of 94% was achieved.

Getting food to patients

How expensive was the intervention? The cost of a food basket was US$13 per TB patient per month and US$4 per household member per month and could be delivered, even in rural areas, using field staff. Even before the RATIONS trial, the Indian government had recognised the need for nutrition support for people with TB, and in 2018 launched “Nikshay Poshan Yojana”, a direct benefit transfer scheme. Under this scheme, each TB patient receives a financial incentive of US$6 per month for the duration of the anti-TB treatment (typically, six months for people with drug-sensitive TB).

Emerging data suggests that while the scheme improves the treatment completion rates among patients with TB in India, they often receive their payments late. There is a need to improve the efficiency and provide timely payments.

The new RATIONS trial suggests that directly providing food baskets may be another effective strategy.

Many countries, including India, have other social security programmes, including public distribution systems  to provide food grains at subsidised prices. Using existing channels to provide extra food rations to people with TB, and expanding the menu to include proteins such as pulses and millets, is a strategy worth exploring. This could also have positive effects on other diseases such as diabetes.

Implications for South Africa

South Africa is one of the countries labelled by the World Health Organization as a “high TB burden country”.

What does this latest research mean for South Africa? Statistics South Africa reported that in 2021 2.6 million people had inadequate access to food and a further 1.1 million stated they had “severe” inadequate access to food. More than 683,000 children five years and younger experienced hunger.

This toxic mix requires prevention of TB by nutritional support, drugs to prevent TB infections and early diagnosis with molecular tests and treatment.

With high levels of food insecurity and undernutrition in South Africa, fuelled by the highest levels of inequality, it is critical that South Africa includes social benefits for people with TB and those in their households to reduce the prevalence of TB in the country and to meet the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

Regardless of how social benefits are distributed, action must be based on evidence. We need better tests, cures and vaccines for TB, but they alone cannot end the epidemic.  TB patients must be provided with the social benefits that they need and deserve, as a basic human right.

Courtesy: The Conversation


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