a research list on civil society, ICT and post-development
Below you will find listinfo about the ‘incommunicado’ list, an electronic mailinglist that focuses on the spread and reappropriation of ICT across the ‘Global South’.
For more information please visit www.incommunicado.info
We would like to invite you to join ‘incommunicado’, a new electronic mailinglist that focuses on the spread and reappropriation of ICT across the ‘Global South’.
In the politics of communication and information, many have come to call for ‘rights’ rather than ‘freedoms’. Questions regarding access and accountability might indeed require the use of the idiom of (human) rights, but we also wonder what it means when a politics of rights comes to serve as the ultimate horizon of any politics whatsoever. Which is why the idea of being (held) incommunicado – to be in a liminal state vis-a-vis multiple regimes of information as well as (human) rights – serves as our point of departure.
To explore multiple vectors of what is often referred to as "ICT and Development" or the "Digital Divide", it will not suffice to rehearse the customary (conceptual and organizational) idioms of ‘knowledge-based development,’ ‘stakeholder dialogue’, or ‘civil society organization’ that, for better or worse, have become central to both academic and (grassroots) political analyses, itself a consequence of the involvement of inter- and non-governmental organizations that generate and reproduce their own conceptual vocabularies.
To do so requires more than the creation of a few media-theoretical neologisms. While we came up with this project in the context of the 2003 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and hope to provide a forum for post-WSIS analysis, we would like to broaden our focus to include a number of topics that strike us as indispensable to any seriously ‘postcolonial’ approach to the ICT nexus:
NON-STATES: Statist modes of (conflict) analysis to the contrary, non-state actors are key players in any arena of transnational politics, and questions of ICT, too, are linked to the multiplication and conflictual interaction of nonstates. Aware of the ‘official’ geopolitics of information pursued by states and inter-state organizations, we also want to observe the agendas and (structural) transformation of relevant ‘nonstates’, including corporations, foundations, think tanks, NGOs, and other ‘grassroots’ or ‘movement’ actors.
EMPIRE: What is striking about some of the most influential work in contemporary political philosophy is its odd disconnect with the culture, intruments, and practice of media activism. Appropriating whatever seems useful to us in such conceptual work, we want to re-connect and create across multiple (disciplinary) divides.
INFRASTRUCTURES: From Open Source Software (OSS) to the ecopolitical impact of ICT, we want the rich materiality of ICT to come into view, both to disturb cyberlibertarian techno-spiritualisms and to connect to multiple issues of conflict, labor, and migration that rarely show up in standard discussions of ICT.
Neither a news list nor an exclusive forum for esoteric reflection, we encourage the presentism of post-a-lots, attentiveness to the historical dimensions of contemporary controversies, and occasional conceptual interventions. We envision neither a free-for-all without any sense of direction, nor a ‘virtual public sphere’ with rigid rules of engagement, but are hoping to make (and leave) room for encounters within a (somewhat) focused multiplicity. Current projects in the areas that interest us have some weak spots that need critical attention, and this is one of the places/spaces where this could be done – in common.
RESEARCH: a note on the idea of a research list. What we do not mean is that some list members are ‘researchers’ and get to post whatever they deem to be of general interest, and some are not. That would be a sure way to create list orthodoxies right from the start and discourage anyone not used to a high-traffic list. Instead, we think of every list member as a researcher – just as ict-and-development raises many more issues than those ususally taken up by a technocratic expertism, research is by no means the prerogative of some media-theoretical elite – and hope that some of whatever crosses his or her desk/inbox/mind will find its way onto the list – and thus into the list archive. We also want to bring the list archive back from its generally passive role as mere record of past exchanges, and incorporate it much more actively. Short intro comments on how any one contribution relates to the general list agenda are welcome but not necessary if that is more or less obvious: we do not discourage the fwding of current articles published elsewhere, quite the contrary – a lot of relevant material is available on the web only temporarily, and we would like to archive some of it for future reference. Which means that we will have to develop a better search engine for the list archive than the one provided by the standard mailman software, as well as a few open-edit research tools on the site itself, which will go live in a few months. Needless to say, this is a work-in-progress, but we are curious about the possibility of expanding the functionality of this list beyond the usual and hope that the criteria for its usefulness will be articulated – and changed – by list members to end up with the kind of research tool they, too, have been looking for but that does not yet exist.
‘incommunicado’ does not start from scratch. It is first of all the follow-up to the Solaris list, founded late 2001 by Geert Lovink and Michael Gurstein. At some stage Solaris ran into server trouble and from the beginning has been plagued by spam problems. Also the quest for a critique of ‘ICT & Development’ seemed to be too narrow, too premature. With ‘incommunicado’ we hope to continue and extend the Solaris debates. The same can be said of the now defunct generation_online list that discussed Michael Hardt and Toni Negri’s _Empire_ .
‘incommunicado’ is co-founded by Geert Lovink (email@example.com), media theorist and internet critic, based in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Soenke Zehle (firstname.lastname@example.org), a media researcher based in Saarbruecken, Germany.
‘incommunicado’ is a polylingual space: submissions in english, french, german, and spanish are welcome.
To see the collection of prior postings to the list, visit the incom-l Archives.
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