5(1) 2019: Inequalities and Divides in Digital Cultures

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Now showing 1 - 11 of 11
  • Article
    Accounting for Visual Bias in Tangible Data Design
    Resch, Gabby (2019)
    Data engagement has become an important facet of engaged citizenship. While this is celebrated by those who advocate for expanding participatory channels in civic experience, others have rightfully expressed concern about the complicated dimensions of balancing access with data literacy. If engaged citizenship increasingly requires the ability to interpret civic data through city dashboards and open data portals, then there is a concomitant requirement for diverse populations to develop critical perspectives on data representation (what is commonly referred to as data visualisation, information graphics, etc.). Effective data representations are used to ground conversations, communicate policy ideas and substantiate arguments about important civic issues, but they are also frequently used to deceive and mislead. Expanding statistical, graphical, digital and media literacy is a necessary component of fostering a critical data culture, but who are the beneficiaries of expanded models of literacy and modes of civic engagement? Which communities are invalidated in the design of civic data interfaces? In this article, I summarise the results of a design study undertaken to inform the development of accessible data representation techniques. In this study, I conducted fourteen 2-h participatory design-inspired interview sessions with blind and visually impaired citizens. These sessions, in which I iteratively developed new physical data objects and assessed their interpretability, leveraged a public transit dataset made available by the City of Toronto through its open data portal. While ostensibly “open,” this dataset was initially published in a format that was exclusively visual, excluding blind and visually impaired citizens from engaging with it. What I discovered through the study was that the process of translating 2D, screen-based civic dashboards and data visualisations into tangible objects has the capacity to reintroduce visual biases in ways that data designers may not generally be aware of.
  • Article
    Big Data Biopolitics: Computing Racialised Assemblages in Terrorist Watchlist Matching
    Kafer, Gary (2019)
    This article considers the medial logics of American terrorist watchlist screening in order to study the ways in which digital inequities result from specific computational parameters. Central in its analysis is Secure Flight, an automated prescreening program run by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that identifies lowand high-risk airline passengers through name-matching algorithms. Considering Secure Flight through the framework of biopolitics, this article examines how passenger information is aggregated, assessed and scored in order to construct racialised assemblages of passengers that reify discourses of American exceptionalism. Racialisation here is neither a consequence of big data nor a motivating force behind the production of risk-assessment programs. Both positions would maintain that discrimination is simply an effect of an information management system that considers privacy as its ultimate goal, which is easily mitigated with more accurate algorithms. Not simply emerging as an effect of discriminatory practices at airport security, racialisation formats the specific techniques embedded in terrorist watchlist matching, in particular the strategies used to transliterate names across different script systems. I argue thus that the biopolitical production of racialised assemblages forms the ground zero of Secure Flight’s computational parameters, as well as its claims to accuracy. This article concludes by proposing a move away from the call to solve digital inequities with more precise algorithms in order to carefully interrogate the forms of power complicit in the production and use of big data analytics.
  • Article
    Global Data Justice: Linnet Taylor in Conversation with Annika Richterich and Pablo Abend
    Taylor, Linnet; Richterich, Annika; Abend, Pablo (2019)
    In this email interview, Linnet Taylor tells about how she came to focus on her current research and gives insights into her ongoing academic work, particularly her global data justice framework.
  • Article
    Introduction: Inequalities and Divides in Digital Cultures
    Richterich, Annika; Abend, Pablo (2019)
  • Article
    Mapping Wikipedia’s Geolinguistic Contours
    Dittus, Martin; Graham, Mark (2019)
    Wikipedia is one of the predominant ways in which internet users obtain knowledge about the world. It is also one of the most important mirrors, or augmentations, of the world: it contains representations of all manner of places. However, Wikipedia’s knowledge of the world is characterised by a linguistic inequality. Although it is written in a growing number of languages, some languages are overrepresented and contribute significantly more to Wikipedia’s body of knowledge than others. This deeply affects how the world is represented on Wikipedia, and by whom: it has been shown that for many countries in the Global South, there are more articles written in English than in their respective native languages. As a result, a significant number of people are being excluded from the collective process of knowledge production, solely on the basis of their native language. Who writes these representations of local places, and for which audiences? We present early findings from the first study of Wikipedia’s geolinguistic contours. We investigate to what extent local languages are involved in the process of creating local representations. In a large-scale quantitative analysis across the almost 300 language versions of Wikipedia, we identify regions of the world where local languages such as Armenian, Catalan or Malay are dominant sources of representation for local places, and we contrast these findings with instances where representations are significantly shaped by foreign languages. Where do, and do not, we see significant amounts of local content available in local languages? Where are the most detailed local representations largely written in foreign languages, intended for foreign audiences? And what factors can explain this?
  • Article
    Refusing Shame and Inertia: A Mobile Heterotopia in a Migrant Camp
    Dixon, Natalie (2019)
    In this paper, mobile communication is examined in the context of forced migration from an affective perspective using the case study of an informal migrant camp that was established in 2015 at Budapest’s Keleti train station. Drawing on concepts of migration, affect and media, I examine various news reports and social media commentary about the camp as well as the makeshift Wi-Fi network that was established there in relation to Hungarian populist politics. I posit the station as a site of contestation between migrants, the Hungarian government and non-governmental actors that speaks to the politicisation of communication technology. The conclusion points to how mobile communication provides a way for forced migrants to create a heterotopic space in extreme conditions as the migrant community is affectively moored by media practices that enable feelings of familiarity and security. These practices not only constitute a kind of refuge for migrants but also offer a form of refusal, however small, towards the shaming and inertia they experience.
  • Article
    Slow Side of the Divide? Older ICT Non- and Seldom-Users Discussing Social Acceleration and Social Change
    Kania-Lundholm, Magdalena (2019)
    Older ICT non-users are often considered vulnerable and potentially socially and digitally excluded group. More recently age-based digital divides have been questioned by scholars aiming to provide a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between old age and technology non-use. Following this path, this article takes the experiences of being an older non- and/or seldom-ICT user and their potential exclusion as point of departure to talk about ideas and understandings of digital technologies and social change. The goal is to empirically explore and understand how the ideas and experiences of ICT nonusage are shared, and negotiated, among older non- and seldom-ICT users. The lived experience of different waves of mediatisation is a specific position in the life course allowing older people to reflect back upon changes prompted by technological development. The empirical data consist of six focus group interviews conducted in Sweden in 2017 with 30 older (65+) non- and seldom-users of ICT between the ages of 68 and 88 years. The results of the analysis show that by describing the ideas and experiences of non- and/or seldom-ICT use, the informants offer a broader reflection on social change and an ambivalent picture of social acceleration. They agree namely that digitalisation is an inevitable process but argue simultaneously that several practices connected to it are not necessarily making our lives easier. Participants experience the socio-technological development in the past 30 years as a very fast one, while adjustment to it deems to occur in a rather slow and weary way. It could be suggested that the nexus of old age on the one hand and non/seldom-ICT usage on the other, as well as their position in life, offer a perspective that can challenge the idea that technological development, ICT access and use are synonymous with efficiency, convenience and inclusion.
  • Article
    Technology and In/equality, Questioning the Information Society: (Almost) 20 Years Later
    Henwood, Flis; Wyatt, Sally (2019)
    At the beginning of the 21st century, we co-edited a book called Technology and In/equality, Questioning the information Society. In that book, we focused on access and control of media technology, education and skills with a particular focus on gender and global economic development. The editors and contributors were all committed to approaching teaching and research about digital technologies and society from an interdisciplinary perspective. In this article, we reflect on how the debates about digital inequalities have developed over the past 20 years, and on our current understanding of “technology” and “in/equality,” the key terms in the title of the book. In this article, we examine what has stayed the same and what has changed, through the lens of gender. We argue that while digital technologies have clearly changed, inequalities have persisted. Contrary to popular belief, access is still an issue for the global south, as well as for marginalised communities throughout the world. We also show how gender inequalities and hierarchies are reproduced in digital spaces, demonstrating that even where women have equal access, possibilities for discrimination and oppression remain. We conclude by arguing that there remain important tasks for scholars of technology and new media, namely to monitor the material and symbolic significance of new technological developments as they emerge and to examine the ways in which they may reflect and re-produce social inequalities.
  • Article
    The Political Economy of Cultural Memory in the Videogames Industry
    Lundedal Hammar, Emil (2019)
    Following the materialist approaches to contemporary digital memory-making, this article explores how unequal access to memory production in videogames is determined along economic and cultural lines. Based on semi-structured qualitative interviews with different European, Asian and North American historical game developers, I make the case for how materialist and cultural aspects of videogame development reinforce existing mnemonic hegemony and in turn how this mnemonic hegemony determines access to the production of memory-making potentials that players of videogames activate and negotiate. My interview findings illustrate how individual workers do not necessarily intend to reproduce received systems of power and hegemony, and instead how certain cultural and material relations tacitly motivate and/or marginalise workers in the videogame industries to reproduce hegemonic power relations in cultural memory across race, class and gender. Finally, I develop the argument that access to cultural production networks such as the games industry constitutes important factors that need to be taken seriously in research on cultural memory and game studies. Thus, my article investigates global power relationships, political economy, colonial legacies and cultural hegemony within the videogame industry, and how these are instantiated in individual instances of game developers.
  • Article
    TouchOn/TouchOff: Mobile Media Art and Digital Wayfaring: Creative Practice Ethnography into Regional Working Mothers’ Commuting Practices
    Lanson, Klare (2019)
    This article reflects upon a mobile art ethnography that sought to understand and rethink some of the tensions around regional/rural experiences of the digital. Using creative practice-based methods, it provides new insights into this regional/urban divide through the motif of working mother commuter as digital wayfarer, a term used to define on/offline digital entanglement through the lived experience of quotidian wayfaring. It contributes to debates around mobile communication and mobile media studies by connecting conceptual analysis of mobilities and its relationship to regional commuting with a creative approach to movement, play and a sense of place. Much of the academic research on mobile media and internet studies stems from an urban focus rather than engaging in the unevenness of the online as is much of the experience in the rural region of North Central Victoria, Australia. Being a working mother commuter for almost a decade, the researcher also took an autobiographical approach to aspects of this project through the lens of digital wayfaring. The artefact used ethnographic case study methods and is a creative non/fiction sound and moving imagery work made using the mobile phone, within the context of the regional Vline train. Utilising sonified global positioning system (GPS) data as part of the soundscape, it addressed problems in the production of this train activity (i. e. work, creativity, play, rest and playbour) regarding social and material participation of the commute infrastructure and overlaid internet connections. It showed how multisensorial art-making highlights the commute to be a journey to and from – and of – work, within the ecology of the Vline train, and therefore provides new ways of perceiving this copresent, mediated and entangled digital experience.
  • Article
    Unpacking El Paquete: The Poetics and Politics of Cuba’s Offline Data-Sharing Network
    Köhn, Steffen (2019)
    With online access heavily restricted, Cuba has one of the lowest internet penetration rates in the world. Yet, Cuban citizens have found a way to distribute all kinds of web content in the form of El Paquete Semanal, a one terabyte collection of data that is compiled by a network of people with various forms of privileged internet access and then circulated nationwide on USB sticks and external hard drives via an elaborate network of deliverymen. In this article, I show how El Paquete has come to constitute a nested media ecosystem that facilitates the publication of independent local media content, hosts several digital marketplaces, and offers an otherwise non-existing space for advertisement. Its enormous local relevance and scope sets it in competition with the Cuban state that reacts ambiguously: it largely tolerates the Paquete as long as compilers continue to self-censor overtly political content. While state officials have repeatedly criticised the “banality” of its material, the government recently felt obliged to distribute its own alternative weekly data compilation called Mochila (backpack) via its youth computer clubs and official cybercafés. I therefore seek to understand El Paquete as an arena in which the relationships between citizenry and the state are currently being re-negotiated.