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[liberationtech] What Makes a Liberation (or Repression) Technology?

Pranesh Prakash pranesh at
Mon Feb 7 00:34:20 PST 2011

Dear Mary,
I find this essentialization of technologies into liberation and 
repression technologies deeply disturbing.

What of transportation technology like the railways?  In India they have 
been used to plunder natural resources from a community to their 
detriment, often leading to under-development of the most resource-rich 
parts of the country, in a narrative mixed in with the repressive 
treatment of tribal peoples.  At the same time, they have given 
oppressed people the ability to transgress caste and economic hardship 
through migration (both temporary and permanent).

For instance: Facebook, which you characterise somewhere as a liberation 
technology, could be viewed to be a repression technology precisely 
because it a) lulls people to willingly put information into the public; 
b) allows surveillance at an unprecedented level.

Considerations such as transmission of political information, 
accessibility, ease of use (what is "effective utilization" but an 
extension of accessibility?), and privacy are insufficient to provide 
for essentialization of technology.

There is plenty written in terms of e-governance that points to 
precisely why such essentialization is mistaken.  Take a look at Solly 
Benjamin's work on the Bhoomi project in Karnataka in India (on 
digitization of land records), for instance.

Could you state *why* you wish to engage in this process of 
essentialization?  What are the benefits this offers?


On Saturday 05 February 2011 01:40 AM, Mary Joyce wrote:
> Hi All,
> I'm interested in feedback on a list of characteristics I've developed to
> define a "liberation technology"
> The short version:
>     1. It must transmit POLITICAL INFORMATION.
>     2. It must be ACCESSIBLE to a large segment of the POPULATION.
>     3. It must allow for EFFECTIVE UTILIZATION.
>     4. It must allow for protection of PRIVACY.
> ...and a repression technology has the reverse characteristics. Full post
> here: "What Makes a Liberation (or Repression)
> Technology?"<>
> Thanks,
> Mary
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Pranesh Prakash
Programme Manager
Centre for Internet and Society
W: | T: +91 80 40926283

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