Along the Lines of the Occupation

Playing at Diminished Reality in East Jerusalem

in Conflict and Society
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  • 1 Lund University fabio.cristiano@svet.lu.se
  • 2 Al Quds Bard College for Arts and Sciences emiliodistretti@gmail.com
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ABSTRACT

Augmented reality enables video game experiences that are increasingly immersive. For its focus on walking and exploration, Niantic’s location-based video game Pokémon Go (PG) has been praised for allowing players to foster their understanding and relationship to surrounding spaces. However, in contexts where space and movement are objects of conflicting narratives and restrictive policies on mobility, playing relies on the creation of partial imaginaries and limits to the exploratory experience. Departing from avant-garde conceptualizations of walking, this article explores the imaginary that PG creates in occupied East Jerusalem. Based on observations collected in various gaming sessions along the Green Line, it analyzes how PG’s virtual representation of Jerusalem legitimizes a status quo of separation and segregation. In so doing, this article argues that, instead of enabling an experience of augmented reality for its users, playing PG in East Jerusalem produces a diminished one.

Contributor Notes

FABIO CRISTIANO is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at Lund University (Sweden). His research interests lie at the intersection of international relations (IR), cyberwarfare, and critical theory. He is currently finalizing his thesis on Palestinian cyberwar and hacking, engaging with the concept of jihad in order to explore how sovereignty and subjectivity are reproduced in relation to virtuality. Other areas of interest are war simulations, gaming, cyberdiplomacy, and the Internet as human right. At Lund University, he also convenes and teaches various courses on IR theory, diplomacy, war theory, Palestine-Israel, development studies, and digital pedagogy.

EMILIO DISTRETTI is the head of the Urban Studies and Spatial Practices Program at Al Quds Bard College for Arts and Sciences in Abu Dis (Occupied Palestinian Territory), as well as a research fellow at the Kenyon Institute (Council for British Research in the Levant) in East Jerusalem. He holds a PhD in aesthetics and politics of representation from the School of Art and Design at University of Portsmouth (United Kingdom). His research interests are multidisciplinary with a strong emphasis on new materialism, comparative colonial histories, geography, and theories of space. His current research explores representation and transformation of deserts as colonial spaces.

Conflict and Society

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