"Information Geographies" and the Internet for Development

In this excellent presentation, OII research fellow Mark Graham discusses the importance of understanding who produces and reproduces the information that populates digital communications networks. Through an exploration of "information geographies", Graham concludes that "rather than democratising platforms of knowledge sharing, the Internet seems to be enabling a digital division of labour in which the visibility, voice and power of the North is reinforced rather than diminished."

Unlike Us: Adjacent Communities and the Adjacent Possible

Last week I attended Unlike Us, a conference exploring alternatives to social media monopolies. Held in Amsterdam and hosted by the Institute of Network Cultures, it brought together communities of academics, artists, designers, educators, and activists, who share an interest in developing alternative code and cultures around social media. The event proved identity affirming for me, as it brought together the disparate elements of my work practice, around subject matter I’m really interested in. I witnessed some excellent debates about the politics of centralization and decentralization; the politics of assuming different identities in social media networks; and, the problems with defining relationships in code.

Unsurprisingly, Facebook received a lot of attention. Anne Helmond’s and Carolin Gerlitz’s ‘Reworking the Fabric of the web: The Like Economy’ was a stand out presentation, as was Harry Halpin’s ‘Hidden History of the Like Button’. PhD researcher Frederick Borgesius also gave a fascinating talk about behavioral targeting and how advertisers are buying audiences through data profiles.

It wasn’t a huge surprise that Unlike Us appealed to me. I have always really enjoyed events that bring together different groups that are adjacent in proximity but have few opportunities to cross-pollinate. I like these opportunities as they give me a glimpse of what Stuart Kaufmann calls the adjacent possible: “a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.”

The adjacent possibilities that emerged from the gathering of these adjacent communities, involved new thinking, new software platforms, new ways of organising and new modes of coalition building. The different approaches people were taking to advance critical thinking and practices around social media alternatives – from software protocol development to digital literacy education to network theory – revealed a need in my mind to be involved in more initiatives that facilitate collaboration between adjacent communities.

Fieldwork Update

IMG_3192 Last week I sat in on CuriousWorks' strategic planning meeting, and what an exciting three days it was. The crew did all sorts of workshopping around current states of play, while looking towards what sort of operation they would like to be in the future. Elias and I held a session on using a logical framework matrix for project planning and evaluation, and I presented some of my research findings which included a proposal to create some resources the company could use. Thankfully they all seemed to like my plan, which I will expand on at a later stage.

National Cultural Policy Submission

I recently put together a submission responding to the Australian federal government's National Cultural Policy discussion paper. Below are a few pars from the submission ... the full document can be downloaded here >>- - - Culture-making is a crucial aspect of Australia’s social fabric. As outlined in the discussion paper, cultural activities support broader education goals, contribute to social cohesion and are fundamental to our success as a national economy (National Cultural Policy: discussion paper 2011, 23). It is timely to be considering strategies to support culture-making in Australia, as the current ‘networked moment’ is reconfiguring our cultural practices. The development of an Australian National Cultural Policy framework will therefore provide a contemporary foundation stone for culture-making over the coming decade.

My submission will argue that ‘cultural democracy’ should be a major consideration in the National Cultural Policy framework. The premise for this lies in Australia’s rich history of creating opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds to participate in arts and cultural activities. The historical context I will draw on to support my case is Australia’s community arts sector. I will outline several considerations for nurturing ‘cultural democracy’ in the current cultural moment – the ‘networked moment’ led by computer and mobile device networks. These strategies have evolved from my PhD research into the issues surrounding sustainable culture-making in the networked moment.

My overarching strategy for achieving sustainable cultural democracy in the networked moment involves developing literacies and competencies around participation in digital networks. My hypothesis lies in the notion that developing network literacies in turn develops network agency – having the capacity to be a critical network participant. - - -