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Is The Future NFT? Art Dubai Expo Features Digital and NFT Galleries

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Art Dubai 2016 Gallery Hall 1 scaled
  • For the first time, Art Dubai featured 18 galleries of digital/NFT art along with the usual contemporary and modern art, highlighting a global shift to digital art in recent years.
  • NFTs, which uses the same blockchain technology that cryptocurrency uses, transforms artist illustrations into virtual images that collectors can purchase and add to their virtual collection. 
  • Experts believe that we will continue to see artists adapt to the times and begin creating more digital art and NFTs in the future. 

In its return since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the 15th annual “Art Dubai” kicked off in Madinat Jumeirah on March 10th. The three-day event highlighted art forms of various mediums including a newly launched digital/NFT section.

The art expo featured the usual contemporary and modern art but also introduced 18 galleries of digital/NFT art which highlighted a global shift to digital art in recent years. Interest in NFT, which is short for non-fungible tokens, increased substantially during the pandemic lockdown.  

NFTs, which uses the same blockchain technology that cryptocurrency uses, transforms artist illustrations into virtual images that collectors can purchase and add to their virtual collection. The blockchain technology works as a trackable and transparent way to show who the true owner is of the digital image. Though critics of NFTs state that a digital image can be easily screenshotted, the actual owner of the NFT is the sole person who can legally sell or use the purchased NFT image. 

With Dubai becoming a cryptocurrency global hub, it’s no surprise that Art Dubai featured digital and NFT art, with the hopes that it can seamlessly bridge the gap between modern and digital art forms. 

Artistic Director of Art Dubai, Pablo del Val stated, “We’ve been observing how the digital universe has been developing and having a stronger voice during the lockdown. What we intended is to put together something that could be a 360-degree project, that could become a bridge between the digital and the physical, where both worlds can get together. “ 

del Val continued stating, “NFTs at the moment are like an entire universe by itself – a universe that people are afraid of entering because people don’t have knowledge of this universe. I think this is an edition that is stepping up, that is bringing something new.”

The digital/NFT galleries were lined with tablets, QR codes, virtual reality headsets, and more in hopes to bring art pieces to life and create an experience for guests. 

Solo exhibitor, Marina Fedorova, was initially against digital art but changed her mind after seeing its positivity during the pandemic. Fedorova stated, “I believed that there was nothing better than paper or canvas with some paint on it…however, these times changed my opinion significantly, made me understand that new technologies are just a new tool in the artist’s palette.”

Fedorova continued stating, “If the smartphone absorbs our contemporaries’ attention entirely, why not look at paintings through the phone screen and learn a story beyond the canvas?” 

In an attempt to “demystify” crypto terminologies such as minting and blockchain, Bybit, a cryptocurrency platform, also held a series of talks during the three-day event hoping to educate art collectors who may be interested but hesitant to dive into the digital/NFT world. 

NFTs can go for a significant amount too. One art piece sold at the expo by Finnish artist, Vesa, sold for 50 Ethereum or $127,000.

With NFTs and digital art continuing to reign across the globe, experts believe that more and more artists will begin to make a shift to adapt to the changing technological times.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Born and raised in the Bay Area, California, Faiza is a mother of two with a degree in Psychology and Paralegal Studies. She is passionate about lending her voice to those who are disadvantaged.

Entertainment

Ms. Marvel: Helping Muslim representation or just mere tokenism?

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While relatable, Ms. Marvel’s Muslim identity is displayed as a hindrance to her teenage aspirations rather than as a way of empowering her. The writers seem out of touch with the growing faithfulness of Muslim teens.

Two episodes of Disney’s new series, Ms. Marvel,” starring Iman Vellani, have graced our TV screens. The sassy teen superhero with a Pakistani-Muslim background has made headlines for many reasons, not the least of which is that, for the first time, Muslim teen Marvel fans have someone who can represent them; someone who looks like the person staring back at them in the mirror every day, and with whom they can identify in their daily struggles and way of life. Or do they?

Does tokenism reflect the obligation of Islamic Faith?

Tokenism has always been an easy way forward for multi-million dollar companies trying to appeal to a wider audience. In recent years, Disney hasn’t shied away from engaging in the practise to attract viewership.  But the problem with tokenism is that it is something whereby the struggles of minorities – who are often marginalised by society – are trivialised and caricaturised for financial gain, while those who carry out such portrayals fail to compensate or help the minorities in question.

The very first scene in the first episode of Ms. Marvel is such a case in point. It begins with the teen protagonist, Kamala’s family, wishing her luck on her driving test in the morning. The audience gets a first glimpse of what a Pakistani Muslim family’s typical interaction looks like. According to Disney: Kamala’s brother, a tall man with a dark beard and glasses, attired in the traditional Pakistani dress of Shalwar-Kameez, is too preoccupied with his prayers, apparently having forgotten his surroundings and time, to which his father ironically suggests that he might “starve to death” should he keep on praying for longer. The son’s rather earnest – sounding response “May Allah forgive you one day,” conveys the sombre, traditionally religious Muslim, at odds with his bubblier, modern and westernised family. Thus, the very first scene seems to subtly impart the notion that to fit into society, and in fact, function as a normal human being, one must abandon seemingly cumbersome and outdated practises like ‘praying’ – and those like her brother, who are so ostentatiously Muslim, are the only ones who really follow such basic tenets of the Islamic faith.

Norms of one’s faith versus cultural ideals

As the episode advances, interactions with her parents where certain boundaries set by her religious upbringing become apparent. Kamala tries to convince her parents to let her go to the “AvengerCon” – a comic and cosplay convention dedicated to the heroes of the Marvel Universe. Her parents’ instant concerns about Kamala’s wearing a “skin-tight” suit for her cosplay, meeting “strange boys” and “going to a party” do partially translate to a predominantly Muslim household, where living by certain moral values and rules is of great importance, and while they are certainly relatable to everybody who is familiar with Islamic teachings, it was perplexing that it was portrayed as something that Kamala was obliged to do by her parents rather than something she herself felt as a Muslim. After all, what is the point of trying to tout a show as an example of Muslim representation when the main protagonist is shown to be hindered by that very identity?

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Kamala Khan wearing traditional clothing

Kamal ends up going to the convention after rejecting her parents’ cringeworthy suggestion that her father dress up as a ‘big’ hulk – which he does as a demonstration- and she as a ‘little hulk’ and they go together. As a hijab wearing Muslim woman, I can say that a comic convention is the last thing my parents would object to. Somehow, the writers seem to be confused with the balance between liberality and conservatism in those who practise the Muslim faith and not just those born into Pakistani-Muslim backgrounds.

Honest Conversations

That’s not to say that it’s all negative. In the second episode, more of Kamala’s Muslim identity is showcased positively as a conversation between her and her Hijab wearing best friend Nakia has  a heart -to- heart conversation in the school’s bathroom when Kamala just expresses how out of place she feels with the rapid changes taking place in her life, saying      she can “barely keep up.” This is where Nakia responds with “Are you kidding?” Between the hijab and the girlies my parents can barely make eye contact with me anymore,” she says, implying that her environment (including her family) is also challenging her identity and belief system by putting her in an insecure position. When Kamala, impressed by Nakia’s steadfastness, asks her how she makes things “look so easy” Nakia responds in an honest and heartfelt way and opens up a meaningful conversation, allowing the audience to dive deeper into the complexity and beauty of defending a Muslim identity in a western world:

“My whole life I’ve been either too white for some people or too ethnic for others. And it’s been this very uncomfortable, sucky in-between. So, when I first put this on, I was hoping to shut some people up (referring to hijab), but I kinda realized I don’t have to prove anything to anybody. Like, when I put this on, I feel like me. Like I have a purpose. It’s probably why I ran for the Mosque Board. And remember, you’re the one who convinced me to do it in the first place.”

Ms Marvel
Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel with Nakia Bahadir

That’s something that maybe the show did right; showing the struggle faced by those Muslim teens who are growing in their faith – a phenomenon that began its slow rise after 9/11 and the discrimination that so many Muslims face in the United States and West in general – without the faith of their parents being a factor.

Lack of Muslim Representation in its entirety?

Although it is a coming of age storyline, and many Muslim teens may indeed identify with the cultural struggles between East and West, between how their classmates expect them to conduct themselves versus their parents, there is some disparity in the portrayals of the Islamic faith and its positive influence on a teenager’s lifestyle. Many comedic moments take place that showcase the culture of Pakistani immigrants to the United States, and it seems that this is then passed off as religion rather than what it really is; a clash of cultures. What if Kamala wore the hijab like her best friend, and had chosen to wear it? Would that be too much for viewers to handle, too much religiousness in a character who is to become the hero of the story? Does it empower and normalise the hijab too much for Western audiences who have been conditioned to reject this part of the faith as medieval?

Having Kamala, a Muslim teenage girl, as Ms. Marvel is a crucial step in overcoming stereotypes and affirming the large demographic of Muslims in the United States and the Western world in general. However, one wonders how much of her Muslim identity can be seen as a representation for the majority of Muslim girls around the world and how much of it stems from clichés, seemingly included to make up for the inaccuracy of Muslim life in key parts of the story. However, there is still some way to go; this season is set to have six episodes in total.

So far, it’s been a nice try from Marvel, but, it seems that somehow, there is still an empty space for a female Muslim superhero whose religion, rather than culture, is embraced as the source of her empowerment, while at the same time her role as a well – rounded member of American society is realised.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

SumOfUs’s Researcher’s Avatar Sexually Assaulted in Horizon World’s Game

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  • In Meta’s virtual reality platform, Horizon Worlds, the avatar of a 21-year old SumOfUs researcher was sexually assaulted. 
  • Meta confirms that it has set up safety tools in Horizon Worlds in order to prevent negative experiences, especially since there were earlier reports of virtual assaults and inappropriate behavior in February. 
  • One of the safeguards introduced was Personal Boundary, which prevents any avatars from coming within a set distance of 4 feet of each other in order to respect the avatar’s personal space. The company also offers other ways in order to block and report users as well.
  • Nevertheless, SumOfUS reported that the researcher was “encouraged” to disable the Personal Boundary feature, and was approached by 2 male avatars in a room, one of whom was observing and the other got fairly close to her. She also witnessed lewd comments, homophobic slurs, and virtual gun violence. 
  • SumOfUs has filed a resolution with some of the shareholders, requesting a risk assessment of the human rights impacts in the metaverse. A shareholder meeting is set to be held on Wednesday. 
  • SumOfUs’s campaigns director Vicky Wyatt stated, “Let’s not repeat and replicate [real-world issues] in the metaverse. We need a better plan here on how to mitigate online harms in the metaverse”.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Society

Saudi Asks Disney to remove controversial LGBT scene from Doctor Strange 2

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Screenshot 2022 04 27 at 11.31.53
Theme Park Tourist, via Wikimedia Commons

Saudi Arabia has asked Disney to sensor 12 seconds of a lesbian character with two mothers, from Marvel film, before it can be screened in the Kingdom. 

Officials said that the film, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, is not banned but the kingdom is “still trying” to get Disney remove the controversial reference. 

According to Nawaf Alsabhan, Saudi Arabia’s general supervisor of cinema classification, the requested cuts amount to “barely 12 seconds” in which a lesbian character, America Chavez, refers to her “two moms”. The character is played by the actor Xochitl Gomez.

The Doctor Strange sequel is being released around the world next week. Disney has not accepted the request to sensor as of yet. 

Alsabhan said “It’s just her talking about her moms, because she has two moms. And being in the Middle East, it’s very tough to pass something like this.”

“We sent it to the distributor, and the distributor sent it to Disney, and Disney has told us they are not willing,” he added.

But about the movie being banned, Alsabhan has denied the reports.

“It will never be banned,” he said. “There’s no reason to ban the film. It’s a simple edit … So far they have refused. But we haven’t closed the door. We’re still trying.”

It was reported in Hollywood as unconfirmed reports that the film has been banned in Kuwait. In Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar advance tickets have been removed from sale but not in the United Arab Emirates.

Previously in November, Marvel movie The Eternals was stopped by the regulators for featuring a gay couple. Edit requests were made from Gulf countries, which were refused by Disney. The movie did not screen in the countries. 

In Saudi Arabia, movie ticket sales totalled US $238m in 2021. 

Disney is willing to accept loss of its millions of dollars of market share in the Gulf countries, just to promote a controversial agenda against the sentiment of people of the countries. On the other hand the kingdom has its resolve to protect the sentiment of its citizens by refusing to screen the movie.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Entertainment

A Netflix Original: Adding Advertisements to Boost Profits

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On April 18, 2022 Netflix Inc. reported that it had lost subscribers for the first time in over a decade. The following morning Netflix’s stock plunged 35%, adding to the streaming platform’s slump. Netflix lost 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter of this year and it expects to lose an additional 2 million in the current quarter. The media giant blames the loss on increased competition and password sharing as well as several macroeconomic factors such as “sluggish economic growth, increasing inflation, geopolitical events such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and some continued disruption from Covid.” In the face of such extreme revenue drops, Netflix announced that it may turn to a new avenue for profits: advertisements. 

Netflix’s turn towards advertising could pull the platform out of its slump and even increase profits in the long-run. Selling advertising slots would raise immediate revenue and ad-tier subscription plans could bring customers back to the media giant. Subscribers looking to save money could opt for a lower priced Netflix plan that includes ads while subscribers willing to pay more can continue using Netflix without commercial interruption. 

Advertising is now found on nearly every media service and it carries immense implications which are often overlooked. Every internet search and online purchase done by a consumer is recorded and added to a data log which can then be exploited and integrated to match consumers to certain advertisements. By targeting buyers with products they are more susceptible to buying, corporations can control consumer demand to create an infrastructure of desire. This infrastructure relies on corporations using modern marketing technologies, such as targeted ads, to create trends in society which fuel waves of demand for different products over time. These demand waves are the foundation for buyer-driven supply chains which manipulate  aggregate demand to drive increased production of a product in the supply chain. If Netflix adds advertisements to its platform it may become a major player in the global economy’s supply chain empire.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Saira is a Muslim American with a passion for writing, economics, and justice.  With a background as a UC Berkeley graduate with a bachelors in economics allows her to quantitatively analyze critical developments from around the globe as well as their long term impacts on financial systems and social welfare. She is dedicated to reporting in an investigative, honest and compassionate manner to give voice to those who need it most.

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Daily Brief

Netflix is Expected to Lose 2 Million Subscribers by July as Shares Already Drop 35%

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  • More than $50 billion was wiped off Netflix’s market value and shares have decreased by 35%. It was revealed that there was a relevant drop in subscribers and experts predict that millions of more viewers are expected to let go of the streaming service. 
  • There are many problems that can contribute to this decline in viewers and market value; first being that Netflix faces a lot of competition from other streaming rivals such as Disney, Apple, and Amazon Prime, and second, after Netflix left Russia, it had raised its prices. 
  • What put things into perspective was when William Ackman, one of America’s best known investors, forwent his $1.1 billion investment and lost $400 million. His hedge fund had bought the shares only 3 months ago, but Ackman lost confidence in the company’s prospects and felt the investment was too risky. 
  • In a trading update, Netflix revealed that it had lost 200,000 subscribers in the last three months, and was expected to lose two million more by July. Many consumers are cutting back on streaming subscriptions due to limited funds and there is just too much content to choose from amid all the other streaming rivals. 
  • Netflix also faces another challenge of struggling to expand due to consumers sharing passwords; Netflix estimates that about 100 million non-paying households utilize the service in this manner. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

Slap Heard Around the World Has Now Gotten Will Smith Ban From The Oscars 

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  • At the 2022 Oscars Award Ceremony, Will Smith shocked the public by slapping comedian Chris Rock, which resulted in a ban from the Oscars gala and any other Academy events for 10 years. This news came after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, the organizers for the awards ceremony, set forth disciplinary action for the actor. 
  • Will Smith has apologized for his actions and went on to resign from the Academy, which means he will be unable to vote for future Oscar nominees. This reaction by Will Smith was caused when the comedian Chris Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head. The actress has been suffering from a hair loss condition called alopecia. Will Smith went on to win the best actor role for his role in the film “King Richard”, where he portrayed the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. 
  • This action from the Academy came as a shock to the actor as he said in a statement he had felt betrayed of the trust he had in the Academy and was heartbroken over his actions. He went on to fully accept the consequences of his actions. There have been a few who have resigned from the academy, however his award will stay intact. 
  • In addition to the ban, two studios, Sony and Netflix, are putting a pause to future projects of Will Smith. The comedian Chris Rock has publicly apologized for his joke and hurting Jada and Will Smith. He did tell fans at a show last month that he is still processing what happened and will talk about the incident at some point. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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