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January 14, 2012 2:22 PM   Subscribe

"The online world of Islamic extremists, like all the other worlds of the Internet, operates on a subtly psychological level that does a brilliant job at keeping people like Abumubarak clicking and posting away -- and amassing all the rankings, scores, badges, and levels to prove it. Like virtually every other popular online social space, the social space of online jihadists has become "gamified," a term used to describe game-like attributes applied to non-game activities. It turns out that what drives online jihadists is pretty much exactly what drives Internet trolls, airline ticket consumers, and World of Warcraft players: competition."

"One man in particular has been able to take advantage of the incentives of online gamification to pursue real-life terrorist recruits: Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born al Qaeda cleric hiding in Yemen, famous for having helped encourage a number of Western-based would-be jihadists into action. Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged Fort Hood shooter, for example, massacred a dozen soldiers after exchanging a number of emails with Awlaki. Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bomber, admitted Awlaki influenced him, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was one of Awlaki's students prior to attempting to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day 2009. Part of Awlaki's success is due to his creative use of the principles of gaming both online and off, by using himself -- or his personal affirmation -- as a prize. His supporters vie for the right to connect with Awlaki, whether virtually or actually -- a powerful incentive that, from our observation, drives many of them into, at the very least, more active language about jihad."
posted by vidur (22 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great job on the online gaming stuff al-Awlaki, but, you know, Game Over.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:28 PM on January 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Like al-Alawki, or Cheney... I'm the cult of personality..."
posted by symbioid at 2:33 PM on January 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is the post title really necessary? Seems to me it leans toward associating mainstream Muslims with the the tiny minority that the content of the post addresses.
posted by demonic winged headgear at 2:35 PM on January 14, 2012 [24 favorites]


This might strike you guys as an outside shot, but maybe the guys who post about Jihad and Islam are posting about Jihad and Islam because they like talking about it? Just because an online forum features 'gamification' in the form of post-count and 'thanking' posts and reputation (all features existent in online forums before the word gamification was even coined) does not necessarily mean that it's valid to apply the buzz-word to what's going on here - I mean, this shit comes built-into vbulletin and phpbb and all other forms of forum software. I seriously doubt someone sat down and was like "Jihad! Let us enable a post count under an Avatar so people are more inclined to express our desire for Jihad on an internet forum."
posted by Veritron at 2:35 PM on January 14, 2012 [10 favorites]


We must never let them acquire the destructive power of favorites.
posted by Trurl at 2:38 PM on January 14, 2012 [23 favorites]


i don't think that is what is driving them
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:42 PM on January 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


"One man in particular has been able to take advantage of the incentives of online gamification to pursue real-life terrorist recruits: Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born al Qaeda cleric hiding in Yemen, famous for having helped encourage a number of Western-based would-be jihadists into action. Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged Fort Hood shooter, for example, massacred a dozen soldiers after exchanging a number of emails with Awlaki. Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bomber, admitted Awlaki influenced him, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was one of Awlaki's students prior to attempting to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day 2009. Part of Awlaki's success is due to his creative use of the principles of gaming both online and off, by using himself -- or his personal affirmation -- as a prize. His supporters vie for the right to connect with Awlaki, whether virtually or actually -- a powerful incentive that, from our observation, drives many of them into, at the very least, more active language about jihad."
Is it just me or is that one of the most ridiculous paragraphs ever written? I mean How on earth is that "Gamification"? Isn't that pretty standard "leader" or "popular person" or "human social hierarchy" stuff that's been going on forever?

I mean, that's like saying highschool is being 'gamified' by popular girls because girls people who 'play the game' earn more 'popularity' and earn rewards like sitting with the popular kids at school lunch counters.
posted by delmoi at 2:42 PM on January 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, it's another facile concept ("gamification") that's then applied without any rigor to explain some social phenomenon. How do we know this is going on? Did the author check whether these people might have participated regardless of the "gamified" elements? Are there any plausible control groups? Does something have to have numerical rewards to be "gamified," or is the simple acquisition of reputation and other social rewards in a community enough? If so, how is it anything new? It's all so vague and hand-wavy.
posted by shivohum at 2:45 PM on January 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seems to me it leans toward associating mainstream Muslims with the the tiny minority that the content of the post addresses.

Seconding this. What does dietary law have to do with terrorism?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:48 PM on January 14, 2012 [13 favorites]


How do we know this is going on? Did the author check whether these people might have participated regardless of the "gamified" elements? Are there any plausible control groups? Does something have to have numerical rewards to be "gamified," or is the simple acquisition of reputation and other social rewards in a community enough?

Oh shit, you just killed the meme. Now how am I going to write this DoD sociology grant?
posted by benzenedream at 2:58 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm very much with the doubters in the comments at FP on this one.
posted by telstar at 3:02 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it seems like this discussion conflates gamification with "people interacting on the Internet." this extremist emperor has no clothes.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 3:04 PM on January 14, 2012


I mean, that's like saying highschool is being 'gamified' by popular girls because girls people who 'play the game' earn more 'popularity' and earn rewards like sitting with the popular kids at school lunch counters.

High school comes pre-gamified. Not a very good game, though.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:11 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is the post title really necessary? Seems to me it leans toward associating mainstream Muslims with the the tiny minority that the content of the post addresses.

AFAIK, "halal" has the approximate meaning of "permissible under Islamic law", which is roughly the justification used by Islamic terrorist organizations. Since they are the subject matter of the article, I thought the title was ok. No political/social/religious comment was intended in the choice of the title, just some wordplay.

posted by vidur at 4:54 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


maybe representatives of the political groups on all sides could sort out all their issues with a few dozen games or so of GMT's Labyrinth? y'know, like at the end of Spies Like Us but instead of Risk
posted by Bwithh at 5:29 PM on January 14, 2012


This article completely misunderstands gamification, which is a legitimate term. It seems to thing "vying for social status" = gamification, which means evolution implemented gamification about 100 million years ago.
posted by mek at 5:38 PM on January 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


the gamification wank i've been seeing on my feeds inre: marketing has been really ridiculous the past few months and then i read this *smh*
posted by liza at 7:23 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Speaking of "HalalFilter": Iran squeezes Web surfers, prepares censored national intranet
posted by homunculus at 7:56 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


High school comes pre-gamified. Not a very good game, though.
The problem is that the word is gameification meaning, the application of a verb, like 'gamify', which would mean to turn something into a game, which I guess you could say highschool and human society in general in some ways resemble it still wouldn't be "gamification"
AFAIK, "halal" has the approximate meaning of "permissible under Islamic law", which is roughly the justification used by Islamic terrorist organizations. Since they are the subject matter of the article, I thought the title was ok. No political/social/religious comment was intended in the choice of the title, just some wordplay.
Well, there are lots of religious scholars who don't think it's all so halal, apparently. Beyond that though, since since "halal" just means "you can eat/do it if you're Muslim" then using the adjective 'halal' to refer to terror-related things isn't that different then calling them 'Islamic' Like using "Islamic websites" to refer to Islamic terror websites.
posted by delmoi at 8:41 PM on January 14, 2012


delmoi, like I already said, it was minor wordplay without any intention of serious comment. HalalFilter is clearly a tweak on MetaFilter, with the Meta being replaced by "allowed under Islamic law" to refer to the kind of discussions some people are having (they consider their actions and these discussions to be cool under Islamic law; I don't know enough Islamic law to agree or disagree) on some websites that share some characteristics with community websites like MetaFilter. That's all that happened.
posted by vidur at 11:34 PM on January 14, 2012


Sure, Anwar al-Awlaki can offer himself as a prize, but it's hardly rubber dinghy rapids.
posted by smcg at 1:49 AM on January 15, 2012


I'm not sure why it's so surprising that the internet is such a huge source of materials for "Islamic terrorists."

For one, real-life venues for discussion are pretty limited in most Muslim countries that I am familiar with. For another, an awful lot of Muslims have a very real sense of the ummah, or global Muslim community, which the WorldWideWeb lends itself very well to. This means that Muslims who want to discuss politics and/or religion are going to most likely end up on some online forum. And materials are going to get downloaded from the internet because, duh, it's the cheapest way of disseminating materials in places where print can be pretty tightly controlled. It seems pretty obvious to me that most terrorists would be a subset of "those who frequent 'hardline Islamist' web forums and possess materials downloaded from the internet."

I also looked at the post title a little sideways, but then shrugged. In the grand scheme of things, I hear a lot worse pretty regularly.
posted by bardophile at 2:31 PM on January 15, 2012


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