Journal Name: Information, Communication & Society: Volume 6, Number 2, 2003
Online ISSN: 1468-4462, Print ISSN: 1369-118X
Communicating Global Activism
Strengths and vulnerabilities of networked politics (pp143-168)
By W. Lance Bennett (University of Washington, USA)
Many observers doubt the capacity of digital media to change the political game. The rise of a transnational activism that is aimed beyond states and directly at corporations, trade and development regimes offers a fruitful area for understanding how communication practices can help create a new politics. The Internet is implicated in the new global activism far beyond merely reducing the costs of communication, or transcending the geographical and temporal barriers associated with other communication media. Various uses of the Internet and digital media facilitate the loosely structured networks, the weak identity ties, and the patterns of issue and demonstration organizing that define a new global protest politics. Analysis of various cases shows how digital network configurations can facilitate: permanent campaigns; the growth of broad networks despite relatively weak social identity and ideology ties; transformation of individual member organizations and whole networks; and the capacity to communicate messages from desktops to television screens. The same qualities that make these communication-based politics durable also make them vulnerable to problems of control, decision-making and collective identity.
Keywords: digital media and politics, social movements, Internet and political organization, communication and political identity
Virtual Landscapes of MemoryM (pp169-186)
By Maja Mikula (University of Technology, Sydney)
This paper will focus on two World Wide Web projects: the virtual nation of Cyber- Yugoslavia (www.juga.com) and the homepage of former Yugoslav president Tito (www.titoville.com). Both projects problematize our understanding of nationhood and political leadership through skilful manipulation of the structural characteristics of the medium. The virtual, performative and transitory nature of both the nation and the state will be exemplifed by Cyber-Yugoslavia - a virtual nation- building endeavour conjured up by Belgrade expatriate playwright Zoran Bacic. The changing character of political leadership will be discussed against the backdrop of Tito's homepage, which archives numerous image and sound files documenting the life of the former Yugoslav president. The two projects share at least three common elements: their genre is parody; their subject matter is repressed collective memory; and they reflect the anxieties of the postmodern condition in their treatment of its most emblematic medium, the Internet.
The repressed collective memory encapsulated in these projects is that of South-Slav unity, as an alternative to the now dominant particularist ethno-nationalisms of the Yugoslav successor states. The idea of unity of the South Slavs, which gained popularity in the nineteenth century under the Habsburg yoke, was institutionally sanctioned in two twentieth-century Yugoslav states: the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1918-41), called the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes from 1918 to 1929, and the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia (1945- 91), called People's Federative Republic of Yugoslavia from 1945 to 1963. The first was made possible by the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of World War One. Its nation-building rhetoric, underpinning the politics of centralization and Serbian hegemony, rested on a view of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes as 'three tribes' of the same nation. The second Yugoslavia, which grew out of the national liberation movement in World War Two, was founded on federalist principles and a nation-building rhetoric of 'brotherhood and unity', i.e. national equality for all the member nations. During the period of existence of both Yugoslav states, a tendency against political unification and in favour of the formation of independent national states co-existed with the dominant nation- building narratives. Tito's model in particular, which may be interpreted as a compromise between the two opposing tendencies, left a deep cultural legacy of ethnic tolerance and was internalized by segments of the post-World War Two generations in former Yugoslavia as an important part of their national identity.
Linda Hutcheon has explained the popularity of parody in periods of ideological instability as an impulse for challenging the established norms. I would like to suggest that the technological advances and the introduction of the new mass media also encouraged the proliferation of parody as one of the modes of positive self- reference with a universal appeal akin to Bakhtinian 'carnival laughter'. The Internet in particular seems to foster the more positive, universalizing aspects of what Hutcheon calls 'parodic ethos'.
Keywords: national identity, political leadership, cyberspace, former Yugoslavia
Building Community, Empowerment and Self-sufficiency
Early results from the Camfield Estates-MIT Creating Community Connections Project (pp187 - 210)
By Randal Pinkett (Building Community Technology Partners, Plainfield, NJ, USA), Richard O'Bryant (MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning, USA)
Started in January 2000, the Camfield Estates-MIT Creating Community Connections Project, a partnership between the Camfield Tenants Association (CTA) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has the goal of establishing Camfield Estates as a model for other housing developments as to how individuals, families, and a community can make use of information and communications technology to support their interests and needs. To achieve this goal, CTA and MIT have formed a unique partnership and an infrastructure that combines the three primary models for community technology - a community network where state-of-the-art desktop computers, software, and high-speed Internet connectivity have been offered to every family, a community technology center (CTC) located on the premises in the community center, and community content delivered through a community-based web system, the Creating Community Connections (C3) System - along with an agenda to build community, empowerment, and self-sufficiency amongst the residents. This paper is a case study of the Camfield Estates-MIT project to date, including the history and background of the project, the approaches taken to build community, empowerment and self-sufficiency, the methodology that has been employed, and early results from the initiative.
Keywords: community technology, community development, community building, community network, community technology center (CTC), community content, empowerment, self- sufficiency, digital divide, low-income, moderate-income, case study
Mobile Organizing Using Information Technology (MOBIT) (pp211 - 228)
By Kim Viborg Andersen (Department of Informatics, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark), Ann Fogelgren-Pedersen (Department of Informatics, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark), Upkar Varshney (CIS Department, Georgia State University, USA)
Both at the corporate level and in the government sector, we are currently witnessing a transformation towards mobile organizing using information technology (MOBIT). The mobile technology wave is challenging the fundamentals on organizational thinking on four accounts: (1) organizational platforms that support productive and efficient collaboration and enable self-development, experimentation and innovative behaviour; (2) balancing the need for managerial control and action with privacy rights for the individual workers related to digital transactions and storage; (3) strategies for having workers and external users (i.e. customers, citizens) at home, in a satellite office, or at the headquarters/front office; and (4) knowledge creation, replication, adaptation, and utilization in organizations glued with IT.
Keywords: mobile organizations, virtual organizations, middleware, IT-strategies, managerial roles
Digitally Mediated (Dis)embodiment
Plessner's concept of excentric positionality explained for cyborgs (pp247-266)
By Jos de Mul (Erasmus University, Rotterdam)
This article aims to demonstrate that the philosophical anthropology of the German philosopher Helmuth Plessner (1892-1985) enables us to gain a better understanding of the experiential presuppositions and implications of information and communication technologies, such as telepresence and virtual reality, than we can obtain through interpretations that start from a dualistic, Cartesian ontology. With the help of Plessner's concept of 'excentric positionality', developed in Stages of the Organic and Man (1928), Hans Moravec's Utopian claims about the possibility of disembodied existence in cyberspace are criticized and an alternative, more adequate interpretation is presented. It is argued that the corporal 'poly-excentric positionality' that is inherent in the human experience of telepresence and virtual reality, radicalizes the existential 'homelessness' which characterizes human life.
Keywords: Plessner, Moravec, philosophical anthropology, telepresence, virtual reality, excentric positionality, poly-excentric positionality, ontology, dualism, Cartesianism
(This journal is available online: http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/1369118x.html)
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