#mit10

Abstracts

Session 1
9:00 AM to 10:30 AM

1. Civic Media Across World Contexts
Classroom E25-117

Moderator: Evan Lieberman, MIT

Hande Uz Özcan, Baskent University, “Analysis of Polarization of Turkish News Media via Schmittian Political Theory”

This paper analyses the effect of rising authoritarianism of the AKP Government on Turkish news media. Since 2002, AKP is the ruling political party of Turkey. With the rule of AKP, that call itself ‘conservative Democrat,’ the structure of Turkish media ownership has concentrated tremendously in the hands of pro-AKP businesspeople. In the similar vein, the authoritarianism of the AKP government rose remarkably after the ‘Gezi Revolt’ in 2013, and it has reached its pick point after the ‘Military Coup Attempt’ in 2016. Furthermore, following 2016, the government enacted a ‘decree law’ to punish ‘so-called’ traitors. However, by this decree law lots of left-oriented news media, hundreds of left-wing academicians and journalists not only fired from their jobs but also most of them try to continue their lives behind bars where are the concrete examples of the ‘panopticon’s of the state. Hence the freedom of information, freedom of press and expression were severely diminished under the authoritarian rule of AKP. Additionally, media and media professionals that are critical of the AKP could not use their democratic rights in a political climate in which even the judiciary lost its independence. Another consequence of AKP politics in power was the polarization of both citizens and journalistic community as ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ AKP.’ Using Carl Schmitt’s political theory in the conceptualization of ‘friends and enemy,’ this paper aims to discuss the polarization in Turkish society and the concurrence of not only AKP-critical but also non-AKP media by using various means/methods.

Daniel Josephy-Hernández, Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica, Jorge Rivera-Marin with Ai Tomita “New Japanese Nationalism in Anime”

GATE (2015-), an anime directed by Takahiko Kyōgoku, is about an alternate timeline in which Japan that is invaded by a Medieval fantasy army from beyond a magical gate. In order to prevent future invasions, the Japanese government sends the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) to establish a military base beyond the gate, thus the name of the series. The ongoing manga (2011-) was created by Yanai Takumi, a former member of the JSDF. The anime consists of 24 episodes, and started airing in 2015. This talk explores how GATE is used to inculcate themes of modern Japanese right-wing nationalism.

GATE is about crossing both literal and metaphorical gates, and it takes aim at several important tropes for Japanese nationalists, attacking both modern politics and historical memory. The series tries to exorcise the shame of Japan’s continued reliance on the United States’ nuclear umbrella by killing, in effigy, US military personnel. It also attempts to portray the critics of Japan’s past and future wartime behaviour as the result of the feminisation of Japanese politics, embodied by hysterical, anti-war female politicians. To drive home the achieved equality with US military prowess, and to demonstrate the soul- liberating properties of war, GATE remakes iconic scenes from US Vietnam War films into bloody celebrations of killing technology that is, ironically, mostly made in the US. This article analyses the relationship between GATE and the new wave of Japanese nationalism that began with the government of Shinzō Abe, and the use of anime to promote a specific military agenda.

Hamidreza Nassiri, University of Wisconsin-Madison, “The Other Side of Digital: Detrimental Effects of Digital Technologies on Global Democracy with A Focus on Iranian Cinema”

Claims that affordable and accessible digital technologies have democratized media production, exhibition, and consumption ignore the existing structures that enhance power imbalances. In this paper, I will argue that the dominance of digital technologies in film had detrimental impacts on global democracy. Global democracy refers to a system of equity among nations in the globalized world.

Using Iranian cinema as a case study, I will argue that the global discrepancy in economic capacities, the issue of technological adaptability in different environments, and the disparity in acquisition and flow of knowledge have created complications for low-income nations, pressured to follow the global digitalization trend. Institutions and corporations in high- income countries make the standards for digital hardware and software, and in a globalized film industry, other countries have no choice other than to follow those rules. This situation has hurt many national industries’ sovereignty by constantly forcing them to adapt to rules and norms dictated by a few countries.

Iranian cinema was forced to transition to digital in the early 2010s mainly due to the economic sanctions imposed on the country as well as its desire to remain relevant in international cinema. However, the shortage of national budget, the inadaptibility of some digital equipment in Iran, and the lack of communication between manufacturers and Iranian practitioners have caused a multitude of difficulties for Iran. Using trade press, interviews, and legal documents, I will explore Iranian cinema’s digitalization and what Iran’s trajectory tells us about the effect of new technologies on global democracy.

Evan Lieberman & Andrew Miller, MIT, “What Triggers Quotidian Ethnic Hostility in Divided Societies?: Categorization and Online Expressions of Animus in Nigeria”

Ethnic and racial cleavages manifest themselves online in many forms: inflammatory Facebook posts, racist tweets, and acerbic comments on news sites are familiar in the digital age. These expressions of animus divide already divided societies and can be particularly consequential in fragile democracies. This study investigates, what can expressions of ethnic animus tell us about the drivers of conflict? And, what can be done to reduce the animus? We analyze more than 306,000 comments posted to stories on the largest news website in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous democracy. This approach allows us to operationalize leading theories to identify triggers of expressions of ethnic animus. To date, the absence of high-quality, individual-level data has made it difficult to adjudicate among micro-foundational motivations for such behaviors.

Consistent with the minimal group paradigm in social identity theory, we find that the use of ethnic labels in the description and framing of events and social processes in article headlines strongly predicts expressions of animus by commenters, irrespective of article content. The findings suggest that journalists and news editors may be—presumably without intending it, in most cases—exacerbating ethnic and racial tensions by categorizing such groups explicitly in headlines. The findings also raise the potential for the media to play a role in reducing social tensions. If they craft headlines in a way that minimizes the salience of ethnicity and race, it could be a step toward reducing the tensions that manifest themselves so often in digital forums.

 

2. Digital Technologies, Value, and Labor
Classroom 56-114

Moderator: Göran Bolin, Södertörn University

Jeremy Hunsinger, Wilfrid Laurier University, “All that is SOLID….: an analysis of the socio-political possibilities of Solid web technologies”

Web technologies are not new; even the new technologies are frequently remediations. If they are not remediation, then they are likely transformations and/or remixes of remediations. There is a dialectic between technological hope and technological progress. For a long time, the web was thought to be predominantly democratic, and then the rise of platforms recentralized and realized the web’s nature as bureaucratic constructs and its worst crowd mentalities of bullying, harassment, etc.

Solid is a new technological system built promoted by Tim Berners-Lee amongst others. It promises to transform the centralized web in which platforms and corporations have control of your data because you have to give it to them in order to use their systems. It does this by attaching all user data to the user through the use of unique identifiers and the encoding and use of the user’s data only with their permission. The transformation of this model is meant to be fundamental to the empowerment of users in the face of platform corporations. This idea of empowerment embodies the technological hope. This paper analyzes the technological hopes embodied in Solid and confronts them with the hopes of past technologies and the technological progress that they made. It attempts to show the assumptions of the hope are not realizable, much like democratic hopes were unrealizable on the internet in general. In showing these internal contradictions, I conclude with a path forward through the dialectic that may at least be a point of resistance, point of action

Janice Xu, Holy Family University, “Navigating Gender, Class, and Flexible Labor in China’s Companion-Hiring Apps”

Online companion-hiring businesses have become popular in China in recent years, with dozens of apps available in the market. Single people in urban areas could “rent” a temporary girlfriend, or less often, a boyfriend, during holidays to travel to their hometowns to impress their relatives at family gatherings. Digital startups make profits come from subscription fees and a cut from the dates-for-hire. As the hiring apps become a more regular tool of social networking and dating for those with risk-taking traits, such technology companies face challenges to gain consumer trust and avoid crackdowns from authorities over issues of financial scams and sex service. For instance, “Zuwome,” which positions itself as a part-time job broker and socializing site for “pretty women” and “skilled professionals,” has started to use features such as face recognition to build its brand identity as a leading player of the gig economy.

Through an examination of Chinese public discourses on these apps, including public relations materials, mainstream media reports, and government documents, this paper analyzes the gender and class dynamics of the activities in the context of China’s “beauty economy” and contested digital culture. The paper also discusses generational gaps and class formation in the age of materialism and consumerism, as online platforms promise to offer everybody a chance to harness the potential of the digital.

Song Sun, University of Science and Technology of China, “Paying for Knowledge Online in China:Is That an Effective Way to Improve Our Social Competitiveness?”

With the technology evolution of social media and electronic payment, a large number of communities consisting of middle class who are passionate about paying for knowledge-based content online have emerged in China. As a result of the acceleration of knowledge update and fierce competition caused by the rapid evolution of society, people are often prone to being anxious when facing mass media information, hoping to acquire information and skills quickly through knowledge payment and then improve social competitiveness. Nowadays it has become a business for different characters, which include content producers, platform operators and social media, to provide users with personalized knowledge services in many professional fields through collaboration in the forms of Q&A applications, podcasts, column subscriptions and online communities. While the industry is booming, it remains to be seen whether the quest for quick, efficient learning is actually working. Based on a survey of the overall development, we found that most of the knowledge refers to the experience and skills in the specialized field or the cross-border knowledge and methodology, which are relatively scarce in the traditional knowledge supply system. However, the content is usually condensed and easy to understand. For different online content, we studied the behavior of learners and the effectiveness of this kind of learning.

Göran Bolin, Södertörn University, “The reconfiguration of value in data capitalism”

Informational capitalism, as theorised by e.g. Castells, introduced information at the centre of the capitalist dynamics of value generation. As information today has increasingly taken the form of data, there is a profound need to understand the possible changes in this dynamic, and to theorize the reconfiguration of value and the power structures at the heart of data capitalism.

Data capitalism, manifested in the economic dynamics of its business models, arguably rests on three underlying sub-dynamics: an epistemological dynamic focused on increasingly sophisticated means of knowledge directed towards the social, in turn closely related to a technological dynamic tied to digitisation that is the basis on which knowledge is constructed and which facilitates economic transaction, both of which directed towards the social. This means that they are confronted with a social dynamic among those who ultimately generate data.

These dynamics are based in specific value orders, each centred on a specific value form (economic, social, technological, epistemological, etc.). But what happens to the basic values of the social world (eg. belonging), when it is colonised by intelligence- collecting technologies within the frameworks of business dynamics? This paper will discuss the interrelation between these dynamics and propose an analytical approach to empirically study data capitalism.

 

3. Media Power, Ethics, and Truthmaking
Classroom 56-154

Moderator: Sun-ha Hong, Simon Fraser University
June Deery, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, “Political Simulation: Media Portrayals of Media in Politics”

I propose to focus on the relationship between journalists and politicians in post-Thatcher and post-Reagan film and television. While many narratives pit the authentic and modest journalist against egotistic and corrupt politicians, it is not always this Manichean. What we are signs of an increasing crisis in journalism and its public reputation but nevertheless a clear acknowledgement that (for better or worse) never has the media played so significant a role in the political sphere. Politicians are often satirized for playing to the camera and producing sham policies only in order to manage their media representation, to the extent that texts prompt questions such as: has politics imploded, reached simulation point, and become simply a form of media production?
This paper will briefly re-cap the history of the media’s role in politics since Teddy Roosevelt and categorize recent political narratives found in British and US media. I will indicate how fiction contributes to our understanding of media-politics and examine how gender, class, and race/ ethnicity are presented in both political and journalistic cultures.
Primary TV texts: Yes Minister/ Prime Minister, West Wing, House of Cards (UK and US), The Thick of it, Veep, Alpha House and A Very British Coup. Primary film texts: All The President’s Men, Tanner ’88, The Candidate, Wag the Dog, Bulworth, Primary Colors, Good Night and Good Luck, In the Loop, and The Post.

Sun-ha Hong, Simon Fraser University, “Smart machines, political disinformers, and emerging cultures of personal truthmaking”

This paper argues that both widely celebrated applications of new media (the rise of smart machines) and widely condemned ones (the rise of political disinformation) are part of a wider turn towards ‘personal truthmaking’: a valorisation of individual experience and judgment, often in militant opposition to bureacratic process and institutional expertise. In this telling, fake news emerges not only from populism and partisanship, but the decentralised architecture of the Internet and its unintended facilitation of cynical and individualistic truthmaking over the past decade.
The presentation will offer two contemporary cases. First, self-tracking technologies emblematise the ongoing enthusiasm for data-driven knowledge as more objective and empirical – the promise of ‘machines that know you better than you know yourself’. Second, I turn to Alex Jones and the Youtuber ‘The Golden One’ as examples of political disinformers. Here conspiracy is served as a dose of reason and reality, draped in a personal and thoroughly anti-institutional style. Their audience is subsequently monetised through dubious health products: fake news for fake pills.
Across both cases, personal truthmaking romanticises a transgressive, charismatic and individualistic kind of authenticity as the path to reason and truth. Yet the exhortation to know for yourself, whether through the latest smart gadget or by ‘redpilling’ against the lies of the deep state, becomes leveraged to establish a new generation of mediators both human and nonhuman. What is at stake is not only the spread of ‘alternative facts’, but changing social and technological thresholds of what counts as truth and trust online.

Damián Pedemonte, University, Argentina & National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET), “The death of a National Fiscal: A post media case running in platforms”

How relation between politics and media differ from one government to other, from a media-centric to a digital centric scenarios, is shown through the coverage of shocking media case in Argentina. Fiscal Alberto Nisman death in 2015, hours before he should appear in the Congress to make a complaint against the Government, was a political crisis for President Cristina Kirchner (2008-2015). She would been denounced for concealment in terrorist attack on AMIA, Jewish mutual, in 1994. Social Media were main actors in this case: a journalist personal twit announced Fiscal death, and President refer to the event only in Facebook. In a “platform capitalism” (Srnicek, 2016) and “hybrid media system” (Chadwick, 2013), Nisman story became a “post-media” case different from previous shocking media cases (Fernández Pedemonte, 2010, 2015). Now media don’t monopolize information any more: others actors fight to impose their agendas and frames. In the platforms run data and rumors, facts and fake news. And fiction activate public opinion (Mulligan 2012, 2013). ¿Commit Nisman suicide or was murder? Each interpretation inserted in wider series: an attempt of media to discredit government, or another “tale” of populist government. Two years later, new President, Mauricio Macri, keep Nisman in agenda. For instance, during 2017 midterm campaign, his Government counterattack negative information with news about Nisman. The different political use of social media for both Governments in Nisman case is an echo not only of the fast transformation of media context but also of confrontation of political communication strategies (Fernández Pedemonte, 2018).

Eric Opu, University of East Anglia United Kingdom, “Online Political Activism, Media Literacy and Public Manipulation: The Challenges of Balancing Public Order and Free Speech in the Age of Fake News. Insights from Cameroon”

Freedom of expression remains a much-touted hallmark of democratic societies and a human right. Today, more voices are being heard due in large part to the internet which has immensely democratized the production, dissemination and consumption of media content.

While free speech remains a principle which must be upheld, and the positive contributions of online activism in forging democratic processes be recognized (e.g the Arab Spring), the democratization of communication which the internet has engendered has also occasioned the dissemination of sometimes false or manipulated content aimed at promoting certain narratives, especially in periods of political crisis. The negative role Radio Mille Collines played in the Rwandan genocide is a stark reminder of the power manipulated media content can have, especially in places like Africa where media literacy levels remain low.

Against this backdrop, in light of government shut-down of the internet in English-speaking Cameroon in the context of the on-going Anglophone secessionist crisis, my paper examines the role of online activism in the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon. What discourses does the state employ to justify its restrictive interventions in online spaces? How can internet governance uphold free speech while preventing the potentially dangerous consequences for public order of fake news, in countries with low media literacy such as Cameroon? What sorts of legal, social or technological challenges does the state face in this process?
I examine these questions and the implications these have for internet governance and political participation in Cameroon.

 

4. Journalism, News, and Civic Participation
Classroom 66-144

Moderator: Michael Epstein, Walking Cinema
Eleni Staiou, University of Athens, “Civic responsibility trends through digital solidarity: the case of Greece during the economic and social crisis”

During the economic crisis in Greece, a self-organized civil society started to flourish as a remedy to the deterioration of the living standards of the population and the insufficiency of the state authorities to meet basic social needs.

Through numerous and diversified civic solidarity initatives demonstrated across the country, citizens underlined the problems faced by the state, and in many cases did not hesitate to take action and provide immediate solutions, bypassing political discourses and discriminations, for the benefit of their fellow citizens and the society in general.

An ally in this effort was proven to be the internet and the social media, through which citizens’ initiatives were launched, either to find volunteers and donors, or to find citizens in need of help.
This paper presents the self-organized social solidarity initiatives (SoSS) that emerged in Greece of the crisis as a response to the problems that arose and could not be covered by the state. The main objective is to discuss how these initiatives have taken advantage of the online tools (website, email, facebook, twitter, youtube) in their quest, what difficulties they encountered when using online media, and if these tools ultimately helped them to achieve more quickly and easily their goals. Finally, using this experience and these data, ten basic principles are suggested regarding the use of digital tools from civic initiatives that lack resources (money or human) in order to organize a professional communication policy.

Michael Epstein, Walking Cinema & Laura Herman, Adobe, Inc, “Location-Based Journalism and Civic Participation”

This paper will examine the civic impact of location-based journalism. An emerging media form, location-based journalism uses the GPS, networking, and multimedia capabilities of mobile devices to deliver news stories that interact with audience surroundings. Media outlets such as the USA Today, KQED, and the BBC have produced location-based journalism applications to expand their crime, culture, and human interest stories. This paper exams the reported impact of several location-based journalism projects and then dives deeply into audience studies for the WALKING CINEMA: MUSEUM OF THE HIDDEN CITY. The project is a first-of-its-kind mobile audio and augmented reality app that explores the housing crisis in San Francisco. The project builds on research started at MIT in mobile storytelling (“Moving Story” panel at MiT 5) and work author Michael Epstein has done with Detour, PBS, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The paper will build on Eric Klopfer’s concept of “ubiquitous games” to promote engagement and learning (J. Perry and E. Klopfer, 2011.) Our data is based on the audience study model focusing on awareness, empathy, and action as set forth in the MIT Center for Civic Media’s AR project with the San Diego Zoo (Ho, P. H., Miller, G. A., Wang M. Y., Haleftiras, N., Zuckerman, E. 2017.) The paper will highlight audience perceptions of how location-based storytelling vs. online media influences their desire to take action on a current issue.


Aman Abhishek, University of Wisconsin-Madison, “Locating Open Source Culture at the Heart of Public Journalism: the case of Wikinews, WikiLeaks & Indymedia”

In this paper I argue that digitally enabled peer production cannot substitute the function of the traditional mass media. By analyzing Wikinews, WikiTribune, and Wikipedia, I develop a theoretical framework which delineates the structural incompatibility between peer production and journalistic process. This framework has the following features:

First, the institution of traditional mass media fulfills an important function of accreditation; it serves as a source of trustworthiness, stability, and accountability. Peer produced information fails to do that same.

Second, the central ingredient of wiki-platforms is the “neutral point of view” policy. Whereby competing claims of truths are presented side by side and the deliberation required to reach a consensus is not deemed worthy. In other words, the phenomenon of indexing and “he said she said” journalism is deeply embedded in these platforms, making their journalism toothless.

Third, peer production is suitable for projects that can be broken into smaller components which can be worked on independently and then assembled into a whole, which is not a quality that most journalistic reporting exhibits.

I then consider the case of WikiLeaks, and analyze the complete failure of “wiki” in Wiki- Leaks (users collectively analyzing and contextualizing documents, and peer producing investigative reports based on the leaks) using the framework developed. Even though WikiLeaks’ promise of peer production was significantly high because of the significance of primary documents available on it, what happened throughout its history was the traditional media reporting on the leaks instead of any peer production driven reporting.


Chris Wells, Boston University, Kjerstin Thorson, Michigan State University, & Emily Vraga, George Mason University, “Who gets the news now? Contingent information exposure, digital citizens and democracy”

The fragmentation of the public sphere is a major concern for observers of our phase of mediated democracy. To test propositions about citizens’ experiences of political information, we employed a method with two unique features: first, we used a rolling cross-sectional survey that collected responses from a representative sample of 100 American adults each day during the seven weeks preceding the 2016 election. Second, we measured respondents’ exposure to recent political information using a tool that displayed both textual and visual stimuli.

Our data allow us to explore how personal attributes, media experiences, and interpersonal and digital social network traits are associated with respondents’ awareness of information circulating either in liberal, or conservative media. Our results demonstrate that most citizens now sit at the confluence of multiple streams of political information, but that individuals’ personal media repertoires can vary widely—a phenomenon we have termed “curated flows.” In the aggregate, we find muted evidence for partisan “echo chambers.” However, information fragmentation is quite visible along lines of political interest. As is well known, the interested choose to consume flows rich in political content. Information sharing in social networking platforms does provide some awareness to the less interested, but the interested gain just as much from that domain, leaving a wide gap in political awareness. We conclude with a depiction of an online citizenry that is sharply divided between the less interested and unaware, and the highly interested, who are aware of discourses across the political spectrum but also highly polarized.

5. Media Infrastructures across Contexts
Classroom 66-168

Moderator: James Schwoch, Northwestern University
Michele Ferris-Dobles, University of Costa Rica & University of Illinois at Chicago, “Central American migration and the ‘borderless’ mobile phone”

Mobile phones have become ubiquitous tools for Central American migrants as they transit from their home countries to the U.S-Mexican border. There is a growing body of academic work that analyses the uses of mobile phones during the processes of migration ranging from interpersonal communication, instant messaging, networking, and location through the use of GPS applications. There is a dearth of research on what are the infrastructural arrangements that allows Central American migrants to have Internet coverage and to use the same mobile phone and plan across national borders. Using a media archeology approach and applying Durham Peters (2009) theory of infrastructuralism, this research asks which are the major media infrastructural transitions that allows migrants nowadays to use the same mobile phone and plan and to have Internet coverage throughout their journey. I demonstrate that the implementation of free trade agreements between Central America and the U.S in the 1990’s and 2000’s provoked the reorganization of telecommunication infrastructures from public utilities to profitable commodities run by private transitional corporations, which allows mobile phones to operate and have Internet coverage freely across national borders at the same time that people do not have the same freedom of mobility. I conclude that these infrastructural shifts have not only enabled mobile phones to change the traditional migratory patterns, but they have also created a profitable business for the transnational telecommunications corporations who promote a perception of a “borderless” world through communication while migrants themselves still run the risk of being detained and prosecuted.

James Schwoch, Northwestern University, “From the Telegraph to 5G:Wooden Utitility Poles, Woodpeckers, and Media Transition”

About 150 million wooden utility poles are in use in the USA. Poles are among the most common media/IT infrastructure objects seen in daily life. This paper explores trees, poles, woodpeckers, and current policy issues. A historical overview on chestnut trees before the chestnut blight, “problem trees” such as cottonwood, and efforts toward forest management are included herein. The paper discusses trees and poles from a woodpecker’s perspective, showing how pole routes interact with woodpecker activities such as surveillance by Pileated Woodpeckers. General circulation models indicate global warming will expand the northward range of Pileated Woodpeckers and their favorite trees and poles. Yet current trends in telecommunication and environmental policy augur an upheaval of the history of woodpecker—pole symbiosis. These include the drive for 5g Wi-Fi and installation of 5g networking equipment on extant wooden pole systems. The FCC push for “One Touch Make Ready” on utility poles risks undermining pole safety. Other new policies compromise the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Woodpeckers are protected by the 1918 Act, which prohibits destruction of protected birds without prior approval and waiver from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. New proposals for interpreting the 1918 Act now favor the ability to “remove” protected birds without a waiver if the birds interfere with economic development. Will One Touch Make Ready, 5g networks, and weakening the 1918 Act conjure a past world of 100+ years ago, when woodpeckers pecking on telegraph poles were routinely shot and killed?

 

Rory Solomon, New York University, “Meshing Well: A Model for Network Politics”

As ubiquitous as we take internet to be, there of course remain massive discrepancies in the quantity and quality of connectivity throughout the world. While countless corporate, governmental, and non-profit actors doggedly work toward the ever wider spread of the internet’s tendrils for a vastly divergent set of motivations, the terms of these commitments typically remain stuck in binary language of connected versus unconnected and the so-called “digital divide.” This paper traces an international community of technology activists working toward media transition not in terms of network presence or absence, but rather through careful attention to how networks are unfolded, through the development of a technology known as mesh networks: a class of communications infrastructure reticulated through direct, person-to- person links and routing protocols. Mesh networks appropriate wireless “last mile” technologies and repurpose them as community-centered backbones, embedding technopolitical values of localism and open source ideology. (Winner 1980, Coleman 2012, Kelty 2008) Mesh network activists engage in what I call a politics of connectivity, taking otherwise “wonkish” technical concerns and making them legible and meaningful to lay audiences. (Dunbar-Hester 2009)

Mapping results of ethnographic fieldwork at two sites–Guifi.net in Catalonia and NYC Mesh in New York–these cases initially present as politically divergent, with Guifi organized through strong policy commitments to a commons and NYC Mesh as an unstructured liberal association. I show however that mesh is an object that routes around such political blockages, offering a model of mediation for our transition to a more networked world.

Ayesha Omer, New York University, “The Digital New Silk Road: A Study of the Pak-China Fiber Optic Cable”

This paper follows an overland fiber optic cable from China’s Xinjiang region across the internationally disputed territories of Gilgit-Baltistan to the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, as part of China’s global New Silk Road project. It charts the formation of this global digital media infrastructure on the ground of the glaciers and mountains of the Himalayas and the situated social histories of political self-determination in Gilgit- Baltistan. It analyzes its significance within the disputed territories of Gilgit-Baltistan that have been kept at the communication margins of the Pakistani state under draconian censorship and surveillance practices. This paper takes up the ground, not as an a priori condition, but as a political substrate that mediates the conditions of possibility for technological infrastructure and political sovereignty in Gilgit-Baltistan. Combining ethnographic and archival research, this paper draws on media studies (Galloway and Thacker 2007, Chun 2006, Starosielski 2015, Parks and Starosielski 2015) infrastructure studies (Anand 2017, von Schnitzler 2017, Larkin 2008), and theories of governmentality (Mbembe 2003, Appadurai 2006, Chatterjee 2008) to support its arguments.

 

6. Digital Technologies, Welfare, and Human Rights
Classroom 66-160

Moderator: Mariel García-Montes, MIT
Mats Björkin, University of Gothenburg, “Computation and the Welfare State: The Development of Digital Public Service in Sweden 1950-1980”

The post-war welfare state combined humanism and strict procedures to organize public life in order to create equality, social stability, and economic progress. This paper addresses the changing organization of knowledge and skills in programming in the organization of public authorities, during the development of the Swedish welfare society from the 1950s to mid 1980s.

Computer science and psychological behaviorism opened up for new competences in both private and public organizations. Human resource specialists became ubiquitous in larger companies and government agencies. An increasing number of people working with computers had less and less knowledge of the consequences of the computer as the skills in software development increased. A separation gradually occurred between programming languages and the languages (discourses) with which computing systems were motivated. A (re)masculinization of programmers appeared, from a time when programmers had degrees in mathematics (with many female students) to degrees in numerical analysis or electronic engineering (with almost only male students).

The key questions are: How did different industry branches and public sectors adopt and/or develop computerization? How did social background (gender, education, age