Critical Voices, Visions and Vectors for Internet Governance

The Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) published a collection of statements on visions for emancipatory and discrimination-free internet, in the run up to the 14th Internet Governance Forum. Edited by Katharina Mosene and Matthias C. Kettemann the publication also includes statements from Nana Kesewaa Dankwa and Claude Draude. These excerpts you can read below, but we also recommend checking out the whole publication, which is available on HIIG website and includes contributions by Center for Internet and Human Rights, UNESCO Chair in ICT4D, Digital Rights Foundation, Electronic Frontier Foundation and many scholars and activists.

Here are Nana Keswaa’s and Claude’s statements:

Offline or online. Mine!

Nana Kesewaa Dankwa

As an African and woman living in Germany, I am over-cautious of what I post on Twitter. I am not that bold, I must confess, and not ready to put my sanity and life on the line yet for my posts. I wish I could comment, be more involved, making politically constructive contributions. I want to comment about the riots in Chemnitz, about the murder that occurred right here in my town of the person who stood up for the rights of migrants. I want to be bold and loud. I am afraid. I cannot. Because I know how easy it is to find me. I do not only know how easy it is to find me but also how easy it is for you to walk away untraceable. So I do not! I follow the conversations and hold on to my freedom to express and be heard. And even as a researcher of Gender in Technological Innovation, I feel my options of expression outside the research field are limited. I wish to make my voice louder and clearer and perhaps speak up as one who belonged. Make my voice louder and perhaps assert the relevance of my research, especially now that the internet has moved beyond browser access and is available in your kettle and doorknob. Is it not time we acknowledged how diverse our skills, persons, and contexts are in designing things that can access the Internet in our spaces. With digital abuse and violence advancing as the new form of abuse and violence, we need to make this as clear and visible as possible as these devices empower abusers. I envision an Internet that is available in my cup but that this cup is mine which means it can only be used by me, when I want to and at my own will. I do not want others using it without my permission or hiding to use it when I am not looking. If it is indeed my cup, it should be mine whether offline or online.

Non-discrimination by design?!

Claude Draude

Images of the typical user still largely inform IT development. Mostly, deviations are only considered when designing for a “special” group, like the elderly or people with disabilities. To counter this, a systemic integration of marginalized perspectives throughout all stages of IT artefact and infrastructure development is needed. To countervail the discriminatory effects of digitalization the sociotechnical approach towards IT development must be strengthened. Taking seriously that IT systems are always embedded in specific sociocultural, economic and political contexts would mean to regard “non-technical” aspects as important as the “technical” ones – or rather to dissolve the separation altogether for a holistic course of action. Sadly, in most parts the sociotechnical approach is neither mirrored in computer science or engineering education nor in research departments or tech industries or infrastructure planning. The failure to educate on pressing social matters like inequality, power relations, in- and exclusion in their interconnection to technology is responsible for a number of problematic effects of digitalization. Examples range from artificial intelligence (predictive policing and people of color, transgender people and facial recognition), online communication (harassment, violation of privacy), smart homes (domestic violence through smart devices) to the transformation of work (job loss, demand for new qualifications), to name just a few. These examples show the importance of always considering marginalized perspectives – not “just” when designing for so-called “niche-groups”. Realizing that technology affects people differently depending on intersecting social markers is important for every sociotechnical system. Fortunately, there is a growing body of work from activists and scholars that strive for social justice. Intersectional feminist and gender research informs HCI (human-computer interaction), critical and post-colonial thought and experiences challenge computing; anti-oppressive design, design justice, participatory design and inclusive design formulate concrete design approaches. To be effective, however, this expertise needs to be more broadly recognized and supported. Structural integration in academia and research institutions, sufficient resources and funding, acknowledgement from policy makers and the building of infrastructures that support non-discriminatory efforts in IT design are urgently needed.

See full publication here:

( Header image copyrights: Universität Kassel / Peter Zipf )

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