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

Pranesh Prakash pranesh at cis-india.org
Mon Feb 7 07:14:37 PST 2011


Dear Mike, Mary, and all:
Just to be a bit more clear: I am not saying that there is a clear 
divide between technology and politics, that technology is apolitical, 
etc.  Technological choices are deeply political.  I believe that by 
thinking of technologies in terms of "liberation" and "repression" one 
is not as much making errors about the effects (or perhaps even nature) 
of technology as ignoring the messy realities of politics itself.

Regards,
Pranesh

On Monday 07 February 2011 07:37 PM, Mike Oren wrote:
> Pranesh,
>
> You make an excellent point. Technology, itself, is nothing. That said, designers and engineers can imbue certain traits into technology that can make it more oppressive (Facebook allowing for public monitoring that may lead to increased self-censorship). However, the end users may take an oppressive technology and use it for liberation (Marx envisioned this happening with manufacturing technology--although it never happened).
>
> Mike
>
> On Feb 7, 2011, at 2:34 AM, Pranesh Prakash<pranesh at cis-india.org>  wrote:
>
>> 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?
>>
>> Regards,
>> Pranesh
>>
>> 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?"<http://www.meta-activism.org/2011/02/what-makes-a-liberation-or-repression-technology/>
>>>
>>> Thanks,
>>> Mary
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
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>>
>> --
>> Pranesh Prakash
>> Programme Manager
>> Centre for Internet and Society
>> W: http://cis-india.org | T: +91 80 40926283
>>
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>> liberationtech mailing list
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>>
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>>
>> Please don't forget to follow us on http://twitter.com/#!/Liberationtech

-- 
Pranesh Prakash
Programme Manager
Centre for Internet and Society
W: http://cis-india.org | T: +91 80 40926283

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