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[eccr] Incommunicado 05: Call for Contributions to Publications and Open Sessions

Sat Apr 16 13:31:09 GMT 2005

Incommunicado 05:
Call for Contributions to Publications and Open Sessions

Date: June 15 (Public Event), June 16-17 (Working Conference)

Location: De Balie, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Organization: Institute of Network Cultures (INC), Waag Society, Sarai.

Concept: Geert Lovink & Soenke Zehle

See <> for information on program, 
participants, and registration or contact the INC at 
<(info /at/>.

A Note on this Call

This is a call for contributions for TWO publications, a pre-conference 
reader with short texts (ca. 2,000 words) to be published in June 2005 
and a post-conference publication with longer texts (up to ca. 5,000 
words) to be presented in cooperation with HIVOS at the WSIS PrepCom3 in 
September 2005.

Deliberately broad, the call intends to encourage contributions that 
critically engage the overarching conference theme of accountability and 
representation in an emerging global info-politics. For detailed 
descriptions of specific issue areas, see below. On all topics listed, 
we welcome case studies and original research as well as analysis and 

Please email complete submissions to <(info /at/> 
(pre-conference essays by May 30 2005, post-conference essays by July 
15). We also encourage participants interested in presenting case 
studies etc. in one of the open sessions to contact the INC to register 
specifically for such a session (see online conference program for details).

Incommunicado 05: From Info-Development to Info-Politics

Incommunicado 05 is a two-day working conference that will attempt to 
offer a critical survey of the current state of 'info-development', most 
recently known by its catchy acronym 'ICT4D'. Not too long ago, most 
computer networks and ICT expertise were located in the North, and 
info-development seemed to be a rather technical matter of knowledge and 
technology transfer from North to South. While still popular, the 
assumption of a 'digital divide' that follows this familiar cartography 
of development has turned out to be too simple. Instead, a more complex 
map of actors, networked in a global info-politics, is emerging.

Different actors continue to promote different - and competing - visions 
of 'info-development'. States with emerging info-economies like Brazil, 
China, and India form south-south alliances that challenge our sense of 
what 'development' is all about. New grassroot efforts are calling into 
question the entire regime of intellectual property rights (IPR) and 
access restrictions on which commercial info-development is based. 
Commons- or open-source-oriented organizations across the world are more 
likely to receive support from southern than from northern states, and 
these coalitions are already challenging northern states on their 
self-serving commitment to IPR and their dominance of key info-political 

Actors no longer follow the simple schema of state, market, or civil 
society, but engage in cross-sectoral alliances. Following the crisis of 
older top-down approaches to development, corporations and aid donors 
are increasingly bypassing states and international agencies to work 
directly with smaller non-governmental actors. While national and 
international development agencies now have to defend their activity 
against their neoliberal critics, info-NGOs participating in 
public-private partnerships and info-capitalist ventures suddenly find 
themselves in the midst of a heated controversy over their new role as 
junior partner of states and corporations.

Long considered a marginal policy field dominated by technology experts, 
info-development is embroiled in a full-fledged info-politics, 
negotiated in terms of corporate accountability, state transformation, 
and the role of an international civil society in the creation of a new 
world information order.

NGOs in Info-Development

We have become used to thinking of NGOs as 'natural' development actors. 
But their presence is itself indicative of a fundamental transformation 
of an originally state-centered development regime, and their growing 
influence raises difficult issues regarding their relationship to state 
and corporate actors, but also regarding their self-perception as 
representatives of civic and grassroots interests. Following a survey of 
some of the major info-development NGOs and networks, this workshop will 
address questions related to the politics of representation pursued by 
these actors: why should they sit at a table with governments and 
international agencies, and who is marginalized by such a 
(multistakeholder) dynamic of 'inclusion' dominated by NGOs?

After WSIS: Exploring Multistakeholderism

For some, the 2003-5 UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) 
is just another moment in an ongoing series of inter-governmental 
jamborees, glamorizing disciplinary visions of global ICT governance to 
distract from other info-political struggles. For others, WSIS revives 
'tricontinentalist' hopes for a New International Information and 
Communication Order whose emphasis on 'civil society actors' may even 
signal the transformation of a system of inter-governmental 
organizations. Either way, WSIS continues to encourage the articulation 
of agendas, positions, and stakes in a new politics of communication and 
information. Following the effort to actively involve civil society 
actors in WSIS activities, the idea of an emergent 'multistakeholderism' 
is already considered one of the key WSIS outcomes, yet many are sobered 
by what appears to be the consensualist minimalism of incorporating 
critical positions in ever more encompassing final statements and action 

Info-Corporations at the United Nations

The controversial agreement between Microsoft and the UNDP, issued at a 
time when open source software is emerging as serious non-proprietary 
alternative within ICT4D, is just one in a series of public-private 
partnerships (PPP) between corporations and the UN. As the UN reaches 
out to Cisco, HP, or Microsoft, many argue that these cooperations are 
simply an expansion of the PPP approach to international organizations, 
and should be assessed on their respective terms. Others suggest, 
however, that these developments are indicative of a much more 
fundamental transformation of the UN and its member organizations, and 
point to the sobering outcome of the almost-no-strings-attached Global 
Compact, widely criticized as multilateral collusion in corporate 
'bluewashing', the Cardoso Panel on UN-Civil Society Relations and its 
controversial definition of civil society, or the ongoing controversy 
over a new set of international standards for corporate accountability.

WIPO and the Friends of Development

As the international info-economy has come to revolve around 
intellectual property rights, the World Intellectual Property 
Organization (WIPO) has asserted its status as a key player in matters 
of info-development. Overseeing the implementation of international IPR 
regulations, the little-known agency has been calling for an expansion 
of the dominant IPR regime and generally supports euro-american 
strategies of bypassing multilateral negotiations through an aggressive 
'TRIPS-Plus' bilateralism. But recently, the agency has been targeted by 
a global campaign, lead by a group of southern states, to challenge its 
limited agenda.

Aid & Info-Development after 9-11

What is the status of aid in the promotion of ICT4D, and how have ICT4D 
actors responded to the politicization and securitization of aid, 
including the sale of security and surveillance technologies in the name 
of info-development? To what extent does info-development overlap with 
new info-infrastructures in the field of humanitarian aid (ICT4Peace)? 
Are global trade justice campaigns a response to classic development 

ICT4D and the Critique of Development

The critique of development and its institutional arrangements - of its 
conceptual apparatus as well as the economic and social policies 
implemented in its name - has always been both a theoretical project and 
the agenda of a multitude of 'subaltern' social movements. Yet much work 
in ICT4D shows little awareness of or interest in the history of such 
development critique.

Instead, techno-determinist perspectives have become hegemonic, and even 
many activists believe that ICT will lead to progress and eventually 
contribute to poverty reduction. Have development scepticism and the 
multiplicity of alternative visions it created simply been forgotten? Or 
have they been actively muted to disconnect current struggles in the 
area of communication and information from this history, adding 
legitimacy to new strategies of 'pre-emptive' development that are based 
on an ever-closer alliance between the politics of aid, development, and 

Are analyses based on the assumption that the internet and its promise 
of connectivity are 'inherently good' already transcending existing 
power analyses of global media and communication structures? How can we 
reflect on the booming ICT-for-Development industry beyond best practice 

New Axes of Info-Capitalism

We are witnessing a shift from in the techno-cultural development of the 
web from an essentially post-industrialist euro-american affair to a 
more complexly mapped post-third-worldist network, where new south-south 
alliances are already upsetting our commonsensical definitions of 
info-development as an exclusively north-south affair. One example of 
this is the surprising extent to which a 'multilateral' version of 
internet governance has been able to muster support, another is the 
software and ipr reform (WIPO Development Agenda). info-development, 
that is, has ceased to be a matter of technology transfer and has become 
a major terrain for the renegotiation of some of the faultlines of 
geopolitical conflict - with a new set of actors. But does this really 
affect the established dependencies on 'northern' donors, and if so, 
what are some of the new alliances that are emerging?


Pushed by a growing transnational coalition of NGOs and a few allies 
inside the multilateral system, open source software has moved from 
margin to center in ICT4D visions of peer-to-peer networks and open 
knowledge initiatives. But while OSS and its apparent promise of an 
alternative non-proprietary concept of collaborative creation continues 
to have much counter-cultural cachet, its idiom can easily be used to 
support the 'liberalization' of telco markets and cuts in educational 
subsidies. What is the current status of OSS as idiom and 
infrastructural alternative within ICT4D?

Accountability and the Critique of Representation

The decade-long controversy inside the 'NGO community' on issues of 
accountabilty is also affecting actors in ICT4D. The singularity of 
network environments and the particular brand of info-politics it has 
facilitated suggest, however, that 'accountability' cannot simply be 
transferred into the context of the post-representative politics of 
network(ed) cultures. So beyond embracing stakeholder consultation and 
participation, what is ICT4D's original contribution to one of the core 
concepts in the renewal of development as a project?

The New Info-Politics of Rights

After the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the bilateral order, 
the discourse of human rights has become an important 'placeholder' for 
agendas of social change and transformation that are no longer 
articulated in 'third worldist' or 'tricontinentalist' terms. In the 
field of communication and information, major NGOs and their network 
'campaigns' have also decided to approach WSIS-related issues by calling 
for 'new rights', paralleling other trends toward a juridification of 
info-politics more generally.

Nuts and Bolts of Internet Governance

One of the few areas where WSIS is likely to produce concrete results is 
internet governance (IG). The IG controversy revolves around the limits 
of the current regime of root server control (ICANN/US) and possible 
alternatives, but it is also significant because it signals the 
repoliticization of a key domain of a technocratic internet culture that 
long considered itself to be above the fray of ordinary info-politics.

Media & Migration

Some of the organizations active in the WSIS process lost their 
accreditation because participants used their visa to say goodby to 
Africa. Widely reported, the anecdote suggests that media and migration 
form a nexus that is nevertheless rarely explored in the context of ICT4D.
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