ICT policy resources

Martha provided these resources on Information and Communication Technologies for her course on Social Inequality, Technology, and Public Policy.

  • United Nations Development Program: UNDP is the UN’s global development network, an organization advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life.
  • UNDP Human Development Reports: The 2007-08 report focuses on Human development and Climate Change. Although the last world report on ICT and human development was published in 2001, the UNDP has published a number of regional and national reports on the issue in the last couple of years. Check them out searching by “themes” through their search engine.
  • World Summit on Information Technology: The UN General Assembly Resolution 56/183 (21 December 2001) endorsed the holding of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in two phases. The first phase took place in Geneva from 10 to 12 December 2003 and the second phase took place in Tunis, from 16 to 18 November 2005. This website archives original documents of both rounds and follow-up meetings.
  • Center for Social Media: The Center for Social Media showcases and analyzes strategies to use media as creative tools for public knowledge and action. It focuses on social documentaries for civil society and democracy, and on the public media environment that supports them. The Center is part of the School of Communication at American University.
  • Development as Freedom (an ebook): “Development as Freedom” is a popular summary of economist Amartya Sen’s work on development. In it he explores the relationship between freedom and development, the ways in which freedom is both a basic constituent of development in itself and an enabling key to other aspects.

  • Telecommunication Policy Research Center: TPRC is an annual conference on communications, information, and Internet policy that brings a diverse, international group of researchers from academia, industry, government, and nonprofit organizations together with policy makers. It serves two primary goals: (1) dissemination of current research relevant to current communications policy issues around the world; and (2) promotion of new research on emerging issues.
  • The Communication Initiative: The CI network is an online space for sharing the experiences of, and building bridges between, the people and organizations engaged in or supporting communication as a fundamental strategy for economic and social development and change.
  • Free Press: Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications.
  • SSRC Media Research Hub: The Media Research Hub is part of the SSRC’s Necessary Knowledge for a Democratic Public Sphere program, which works to ensure that debates about media and communications technologies are shaped by high-quality research and a rich understanding of the public interest.
  • Readings: Yochai Benkler’s book, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom.

    2008 European Year of Intercultural Dialogue

    EUROPA – Education and Training on Multiculturalism, offers a report of a Group of Intellectuals for Intercultural Dialogue.

    In a Europe which will always be multilingual, learning languages opens doors. For individuals, it can open the door to a better career, to the chance to live, study or work abroad, even to more enjoyable holidays. For companies, multilingual staff can open the door to European and global markets.
    But there is more than this. The language a person speaks is part of their identity and their culture. So learning languages means understanding other people and their way of thinking. It means opposing racism, xenophobia and intolerance.
    The Commission’s Eurobarometer survey in November-December 2005 showed that in some European countries, nearly everyone speaks at least two languages. This proves that everybody can be multilingual. Language learning is not just for an élite.

    Language learning obviously trumps the other option. (Is there another option?!) Must everyone become “cosmopolitan”?

    initiatives in line with the objectives of the Lifelong Learning Programme including activities to make language learning more attractive to learners through the mass media and/or marketing, publicity and information campaigns, as well as conferences, studies and statistical indicators in the field of language learning and linguistic diversity (‘Accompanying Measures’)

    2001 was the European Year of Languages, which was/is to be sustained by the 2003 Action Plan to fulfill European Parliament Resolution B5-0770, 0811, 0812, 0814 and 0815/2001 (final text) “on regional and lesser-used European languages.” The entire resolution omits (?), avoids (?) the use of “interpretation,” but does not hesitate to promote “translation software:”

    F. whereas languages must be used in order to stay alive; this includes their use in new technologies and the development of new technologies such as translation software,

    Note: the resolution references six previous resolutions.
    Motion (10 December 2001): http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=MOTION&reference=B5-2001-0770&language=EN
    Motion (11 December 2001): http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=MOTION&reference=B5-2001-0811&language=EN
    Motion (11 December 2001): http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=MOTION&reference=B5-2001-0812&language=EN
    Motion (11 December 2001): http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=MOTION&reference=B5-2001-0814&language=EN
    Motion (11 December 2001): http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=MOTION&reference=B5-2001-0815&language=EN
    Official languages of the EU – twenty-three as of today.
    A resolution for ending retour of Finnish.
    AIIC’s webzine.

    weird twist of synchrony

    I’m receiving quite an education about Farc while learning more about myself as a participant in discourses. Two of Alf and Ana’s friends have commented on my susceptibility to rhetoric. I need to be firm in my response although I very much hope we can continue to dialogue, even if dialogue with Farc is an impossibility.
    First, Juan and Javier, No! It is not that I believe in the words as a reflection of Farc’s actual intentions. I do know better than that. My initial info came from the wikipedia links posted at Thorny Days, not from any of Farc’s own self-representations (which is not to assume the wikipedia entry wasn’t originally made by a Farc member, however I do choose to exercise some trust that some compilation of minds with different political perspectives have checked out and contributed to the wikipedia entry). My view is more complicated, and my words are carefully chosen. I knew some of my thoughts were risky, but this is just it, yes? We live in risky times; how will we confront our own fears? How can we possibly manage our own pain?
    Yesterday I began to read a book for my own dissertation research proposal: Stories in the Time of Cholera. The professor in a course I took last fall on “Language as Action and Performance” mentioned this anthropologically-based discourse analysis as a powerful demonstration of the power of language to shape horrific realities. The authors trace the institutional use of cultural reasoning to create and justify medical profiling,

    “document[ing] the mechanisms through which denigrating images are generated through specific institutional practices and in response to concrete organizational crises, presented for public consumption, used in creating widely shared perceptions of people and events, and made the center of public policy” (2003: xvi).

    I had not realized, before beginning to read, that the cholera epidemic was in Venezuela, and not too long ago (early 1990s). I was struck immediately by the rhetoric blaming Colombia (which is weird, since the Orinoco Delta is on the opposite national border, near Guyana). The deft analysis of the authors in showing how everyone’s talk about the Warao and other indígenas contributed to 500 deaths is absolutely compelling and scarily discouraging – how can such deliberately de-personalized forces ever be countered? Through the framework of medical profiling, the authors show how the words and stories of politicians, journalists, and even health care professionals create a racialized tiering of sanitary citizens and unsanitary subjects, thus pre-creating the rationale for the co-constructed inevitability of failure to prevent the cholera epidemic.

    What we are part of, HereAndNow – me as an absolute newcomer, and “you” (specifically any who have suffered because of Farc, and particularly those who know Alf and Ana) – is “The Talk” that will determine the parameters of possibility for the future. Now, I needed to know the depth of the pain and passion of which Juan wrote. The words were effective: I had nightmares of rape last night. I am absolutely grateful for the education and the respectful tone, despite the obvious upset triggered by my words. We all need to be able to say “the hard words,” we cannot afford to run what Briggs and Briggs-Mantini describe as “the risks of leaving hard words out of the story” (xviii). So I hope none of you will stop confronting me on my misconceptions, ignorances, and even sheer idiocies. I cannot meet my own ethical standards if you do not insist on trying to shape them. Please do not let me off the hook.
    At the same time, I believe how we characterize the real human beings who do make up the membership of Farc matters. I do not on any level agree with or condone their actions. But, let me just jump off on one of the starker facts: the forced conscription of eleven-year-old boys. Horrific, inhumane, unjust, yes. We can apply every epithet to that behavior and be correct. But what about those eleven-year-old-boys who have now grown into the young men composing some percentage of Farc’s “armed forces”? They had to survive, didn’t they?
    How long and how persistently will we insist on punishing them for the fate they have had to live? Understand me, I am not excusing their actions. And – I refuse to put myself on some higher moral plane simply because I’ve never had to face the choice of killing someone or dying myself. Perhaps as an adult, now, I might, maybe, be able to take the ultimate stand and risk surrendering my own life rather than take another’s. As a child? Who among us can honestly make that claim? I am sure there are some, I do not intend to diminish anyone with that bedrock altruistic clarity. In reality, though, I think those individuals are truly rare.
    No, I’m not suggesting any kind of blanket amnesty. I am saying that we must invent ways of talking that maintain some acknowledgment of humanity on the other side. Evil, as Hannah Arendt has tragically explained, is banal. And, perhaps we are not all susceptible, and/or can even break out of it despite socialization. If there is this chance, is it not the best and most effective way to insert an intervention that might actually cause the larger dynamics to shift? Meanwhile, we – injured and afraid – must not forget the common core of human instincts from which any abuse of power emanates. I do not say we excuse; I do not even say we go so far as to forgive. I do say we must understand, and from this understanding forge a better way.

    Trouble (with interpreters) in Transylvania

    from Trouble in Transylvania
    by Barbara Wilson
    1993, pp. 52-55

    “Senor Martinez fell into my Spanish as passionately as into a beloved’s arms. Not that he’d previously been parsimonious (according to Jack) with his ungrammatical English, but his Spanish was a force of nature that now gushed out of his mouth like water from a blocked pipe.

    ‘And you’re the one who will be my translator?’ he said to me in Spanish. ‘Then please tell Senora Eva that her eyes are as blue as the Mediterranean.’
    ‘Senior Martinez says he’s dying to try some paprika chicken,’ I said. ‘But I suggested the stuffed carp.’
    Eva handed him her menu. ‘Please.’
    ‘I speak of love, not food.’ He pushed it away and fixed her with a tender look.
    ‘I can’t persuade him,’ I said. ‘It’s gotta be the chicken.’
    The Gypsy musicians had appeared . . . ‘Tell Senor Martinez this is a real Gypsy tune, not for tourists.’
    ‘I translated and Senor Martinez sighed eloquently, his hand at his heart. ‘The Spanish and the Hungarians are very much alike. We have the wildness and also the sadness, what we call duende. We have both ben conquored peoples, we have the souls of Gypsies and the heads for business. That is why I think I can sell our beautiful bathroom fixtures here. I believe they will be understood. And now you have democracy. Hungary, I salute you!’ He raised his glass. ‘Down with fascism!’
    ‘What’s he saying?’ asked Eva.
    ‘He says he wishes the paprika chicken would hurry up. He’s starving!’
    But Senor Martinez was a single-minded man when it came to the similarities between Hungary and Spain, and the possibility of a spectacular union, plumbing and otherwise, between them.
    ‘While the Gypsies made wild music over our shoulders, Senor Martinez outlined a theory of history. ‘Both Christian Spain and Christian Hungary fought agasint the infidel Arabs,’ he said. ‘We stopped the Mohammedans from overrunning Europe.’
    ‘But surely you must admit, Senor Martinez,’ I corrected him, ‘that the Moors in Spain created a brilliant civilization of poetry, philosophy, gardens. Not only did they have the first lighted, paved streets in Europe, they had the first sewage system in the world. Plumbing. Senor, they had plumbing.’
    ‘The Reconquista was Spain’s finest moment,’ he disagreed.
    ‘What’s he saying?’ Eva demanded.
    ‘He thinks the Turks have gotten a bad rap,’ I said. ‘He says, Really, what’s so bad about a culture that drinks coffee and sits around in bathtubs all day?’
    ‘The Turkish infidels?’ said Eva, shocked.
    ‘What does Eva say?’ he asked.
    ‘She says she wishes these Gypsy musicians would take a hike. They’re starting to remind her of a Luftwaffe raid, except there are no bomb shelters.’
    Senor Martinez stared at me a moment and then spoke in laborious English, with a pleading glance at Eva, ‘I am think Senora Reilly is have fun with me.’
    ‘Oh no, Senor Martinez, you’re wrong about that. Believe me, I’m not having much fun at all.’
    Eva whispered, ‘Cassandra, don’t tease the poor man s much. He’s paying for our meal.’
    ‘Cassandra, you are being just the slightest bit rude, dear.’ Jack smiled wickedly. ‘See? There’s my mother speaking.’

    “the rift of difference”

    …the difference, according to Heidegger, is pain.

    “Diviners,” writes Dennis Tedlock, “Stay close to ‘the rift of difference,’ as Heidegger calls it, even a small difference. They leave us between two points, or at both of them, and sometimes three.” (1983:254)

    Ode to a United States of Europe?

    An ambivalent anthem and a quasi-clone?
    Zizek’s critique of ‘Ode to Joy’ as the European Union’s choice of anthem is on the mark.
    The exchange in the comments between dmclaney and elver about the signing of the Lisbon Treaty, United States of Europe finally created, are a mirror (with a different cultural text) to some of the media critiques produced by students this month. In particular, Evan Grabelsky’s “The News Media: The War on Journalism” and “com375″‘s “The Non-Reality of Reality TV.” Most of the news coverage I encountered involved Gordon Brown’s avoidance of the ceremony to sign incognito. (Reminds me of Governor Howard Dean signing Vermont’s Civil Union Bill in a private, closed door ceremony.)
    The question (as always) is what to do about our recognition of the problem? Bela presents an example of organized activism that is making a difference: “If the technology and the heart come together….” ElR6 follows the theme of cyberoptimism with ” Communication and Global Consciousness.”
    Probably there are ways to counteract the shallow coverage of mainstream media, but we can’t isolate only the media as the enemy. The cumulative effects of consumerist socialization are dulled awareness and self-absorbed insensitivity. Not to mention the desperate weaknesses of institutionalized education. A radical notion proposed by a friend the other night included not teaching history until the eighth grade. Why? “It’s in third grade you learn that blacks used to be slaves. What are you supposed to do with that information?”
    This is the central question. What are we ‘supposed to do’ with all the information we have?

    Hymes and Tedlock

    Dell Hymes writes (2003):

    “It might be a fair summary to say that Dennis is concerned most of all with the moment of performance, and I am much concerned with the competence that informs it. Dennis trusts most of all the speaking voice, I evidence of recurrent pattern.” p. 36

    Hymes places the above discrete distinction in opposition with a polemical distortion:

    “…the equation Tedlock : Hymes = pause : particle” (p. 37).

    Is it too much to read this as a quintessential instance of the dilemma of quantum mechanics? Do these two erudite scholars represent the indeterminate two-sided-ness of language as energy (“moment”, “pause”) or language as matter (“competence”, “particle”)?
    The other dynamic I’m observing in Hymes’ wonderful chapter, “Use All There Is To Use,” is a play between “dialectic” and “dialogue.” I am not sure if his narration follows an alternation pattern – it may. ­čÖé

    • discussing oral and written languages: “Here the dialectic between original and adaptation is acute” (p. 46).
    • re. the creativity of given storytellers in a particular historic circumstance: “The resources in such moments are not one’s voice and audience, but experience reflected upon, experience and stories acting upon each other” (p. 73).

    This puts me in mind of a conversation a few weeks ago in class, about how graduate students can learn the academic system enough to succeed in it (as in finish with a degree) without being coopted by it (i.e., maintain resistance to certain forms of hegemony).
    One cannot avoid co-optation. Whatever forms of resistance practiced are absorbed dialectically by the institution by a social version of Newton’s Third Law: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” The discrepancy that often prevents recognition of the equality of opposing force, is that there are not equal and opposite effects. The harder we resist, the harder the institution pushes back. Since it is way bigger than us, we usually get squashed.
    I say “usually”, because there is an art (that can be learned) of switching from the particle-based dialectics of “reaction” to the time/energy-sensitive dialogics of “effect.” Social change occurs when the reactions of equal and opposite forces are met with an alternative that breaks the dialectical pattern. Storytellers who adapt their narratives to fit the social circumstances operate in vertical, contiguous time; those who insist on the same narratives (or discourses, as the case may be) operate in metaphors, substituting one dialectic for the next (no dialogue).
    Dialogues can become patterned too (just like story narratives), enacting representations of larger discourses, repeating the social dialectic just as effectively as the repetition of unchanged stories. When one recognizes this is happening, it’s time to change up again. Institutions are not designed to adapt to such live fluctuations; hence the individuals who practice them are always and forever at risk.

    “the ordinary version of ‘the dialectic'” is a formation

    I will have to engage Briankle again. He was so intense about my stance in favor of “dialogue” against “dialectic” during my comps defense. At the time I had no one to back up my perception of the ways I had heard/read the term “dialectic” in use. Now I discover that none other than Raymond Williams articulates my point:

    the ordinary version of ‘the dialectic’, which can so easily be abstracted as features of a theoretically isolated (determining) situation or movement…” (Marxism and Literature, p. 88).

    It may well be that my learning of the concept of “dialectic” from exposure to its use in contemporary academic discourse within the discipline of communication has limited my own comprehension, with “meaning” gleaned from situations and contexts that may left gaps in any ideal or intended definition. I also may have misheard, misread, and misunderstood the nuances that gave me the overwhelming sense of cop-out: “dialectic” as a reference to things in relation always leading to a variant of the same ol’ outcomes, a way to acknowledge the-impossible-way-things-are-and-we-can-do-nothing-about-it. I recognized this attitude overtly in Williams’ description of “the ordinary version of ‘the dialectic,'” as a “retreat to an indifferent emphasis on the complexity of cultural activity” (119), the “(resigned) recognition of the inevitable and the necessary” (118) that Williams’ defines as “the true condition of hegemony…effective self-identification with the hegemonic forms” (emphasis in original, 118).
    While Briankle defended the originary and ideal sense of “dialectic,” I was critiquing a contemporary formation. “Formations,” says Williams, “…are most recognizable as conscious movements and tendencies (literary, artistic, philosophical or scientific) which can usually be readily discerned after their formative productions” (119), and “…formations; those effective movements and tendencies, in intellectual and artistic life, which have significant and sometimes decisive influence on the active development of a culture, and which have a variable and often oblique relation to formal institutions” (117).
    I assume he was aware of this distinction in our frames of reference and was pushing me to recognize and say it. Maybe he thought I was just somewhat off my rocker. It would surely not be the first time my angle was skewed!

    Loss: Daphne Berdahl 1964-2007

    U professor watched as Germany reunified

    When I read her book on Kella, Germany – “Where the World Ended” – a few years ago, I was inspired by Daphne Berdahl’s ethnography of borderlands. She had a tangible, physical boundary but focused on people’s orientations to the border as well as their adaptations when the border changed. Her notions apply to the work I hope to do at “the border” of languages, a borderland occupied (physically,materially) by simultaneous interpretation.
    I need to read the essays in this book now, Altering States: Ethnographies of Transition in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, which she co-edited.
    I’m stunned at her age – roughly mine. So much accomplished: not just the academic contributions, but goodwill in the world. A worthy life, albeit all too short.
    Learned via an H-Net List for the Society for the Anthropology of Europe.

    researching the edges

    I have always felt that the action most worth watching is not at the center of things but where edges meet.

    Anne Fadiman. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.
    1997. (Preface, p. viii.)
    The Review linked above does criticize Fadiman for overromanticizing some aspects of Hmong culture, history, and customs; what reviewer Mai Na M. Lee calls “the bigger issues.” In particular, she criticizes Fadiman’s conclusion that Hmong are “differently ethical.” The phrasing itself is curious, requiring some serious parsing. The way I read the phrase, Fadiman is asserting that ethics are as foundational and valued among the Hmong as within any people. The use of “differently” (instead of the starker label of “different”) – refers to the ethics being performed or based “in a different manner.” It seems to me this opens up comparision on the basis of more, rather then less, similarity. Dr. Lee did not read the phrase this way, interpreting its meaning as more distancing (differencing?) than joining.
    Dr. Lee has the benefit of context; I have not yet read that far. There is a Bakhtinian movement discernable here: the counterplay of centripetal and centrifugal forces in the utterances of Fadiman’s book and Dr. Lee’s review.