- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: NYU Press (February 28, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1479862967
- ISBN-13: 978-1479862962
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Whose Global Village?: Rethinking How Technology Shapes Our World Hardcover – February 28, 2017
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“In the age of video streaming and the internet, indigenous peoples can fight for their rights as we see with the Dakota Pipeline and across the world today. Whose Global Village? points the way forward to a digital world that recognizes the dignity and voices of indigenous peoples.”-Winona La Duke,Executive Director of Honor the Earth
“The 2016 election showed us what happens when technologies like Facebook, that are supposed to connect us, actually leave us in bubbles and oblivious to the world that doesn’t agree with us. Whose Global Village? shows that another technology is possible, and in fact exists, through examples across the world that are all about furthering cultural voices and conversations.”-The Yes Men
“Upstart successes like The Young Turks are becoming less common, partially as a result of the increasing corporatization and monopolization of social media. Whose Global Village? offers an alternate path, out of the self-selected echo chambers that marginalize non-western and indigenous voices, and into a future where new technology operates in greater harmony with grassroots concerns and culturally diverse populations across the world.”-Cenk Uygur,Founder of The Young Turks
“Whose Global Village? invites us to question some of the sacred narratives that have grown up around digital and networked technologies in the west—first among them, the idea that digital technologies follow some universal path of development. This book is a powerful corrective to various forms of cyberutopianism, even as it reimagines core concepts—from agency and voice to participation and appropriation.”-Henry Jenkins,co-author of By Any Media Necessary: The New Youth Activism
“In this bold book, Srinivasan tackles the myth of digital universality head on, insisting that technologies should be designed by and serve diverse communities rather than corporate elites. Based on years of fieldwork, Whose Global Village? reads like a manifesto and is bound to stir up debate. A must read for media scholars, technology designers, and community organizations alike.”-Lisa Parks,Professor of Comparative Media Studies, MIT
About the Author
Ramesh Srinivasan isthe Director of the Digital Cultures Lab and Associate Professor of Information Studies and Design and Media Arts at UCLA. His work has been featured by Al Jazeera, The Washington Post, The Young Turks, National Public Radio, and The Huffington Post.
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Top Customer Reviews
I am one of those folks who read the sources first and then track them through the book. This is a carefully crafted and thoroughly nuanced work with excellent research and rigorous scholarship. I found historical perspective on the development of the internet a tad scant.
This book is well worth your time and money.
Srinivasan cites numerous examples where people use tech in ways other than intended. A child’s crank laptop becomes the sole light source in a family shack without electricity. A mobile phone becomes a flashlight to hunt crocodiles. Poor Indians call each other and hang up so the recipient will know to call back. Whatever the circumstances, people will find a way, a use and a workaround in their circumstances. But so has it always been. In an emergency, everything can become a hammer.
A somewhat better point he makes is that Facebook did not organize and run the Arab Spring, that almost no one there had internet service, and the arrogance of the Facebooks and Twitters is worrying. Word among “the last billion” does spread like wildfire, but the oldfashioned way.
He quickly shifts to describe various tech-assisted projects he has participated in around the world, and what he learned about himself and his own approach. The book is mostly about him, and the pitfalls for ethnographers. Like so many ethnography books, it fixates on the process of discovery the ethnographer underwent.
Srinivasan has developed a sort of flexible approach to cultural data he calls fluid ontology. There is a great deal of space devoted to it, and it is the only new idea Srinivasan posits. It seems to be a genuine and valuable innovation to preserve the uniqueness of a society. Basically, it rethinks databases to reflect the society’s own rankings, connections and valuations. One dramatic graphic shows how the Zuni see their society compared to how a museum populates a database, with a truly small area of overlap. But the connection to the book title is tenuous.
The concluding pages revert to the now ancient argument over the internet squeezing square pegs into rounds holes in one size fits all universal solutions from the Googles, Facebooks and Apples of the world. Despite their efforts, it is splintering. The internet has not created a global village.
I think what Srinivasan means to say is just as the thoughtless elimination of thousands of species cripples biodiversity worldwide, so the internet can cripple cultural diversity worldwide. We need to manage both, and not by using the trickle-down from big business. But keeping ethnographers from unintentionally adding bias is not what the concept of global village is about.
Ramesh Srinivasan is Director of the Digital Cultures Lab and Associate Professor of Information Studies and Design and Media at UCLA, and he has an exceptionally balanced outlook on the impact of technology on society, and vice versa. His research includes the use of technology in the Arab Spring, the development of technologies that represented the specific community needs of native American tribes, and many other topics. His argument is based on his experience, and a review of historical and popular sources.
Underlying the book is Heidegger’s idea that a technology reveals underlying ontological beliefs for how the world should be ordered. Artefacts such as the Atari 2600 or the BASIC programming language are not neutral, but represent a social and cultural view of the world. A database reflects social and cultural practice. The ontologies and networks that shape digital communication, force everyone to speak the same language. If you look at histories of digital technology, you know its frame is predominantly AngloSaxon, male, white, etc.
In the real world, every community articulates their experiences differently. The digital world does not allow for such diversity, but can and should do so in the future.
“On the whole,” Srinivasan writes, “globalization has reinforced inequality through the way new technologies have been deployed.” New technologies increasingly shape our world, but are rarely designed to reflect the perspectives of people at the fringes of the digital world. As a consequence, when we evangelize language such as “cloud”, “open”, or “Internet freedom”, we propagate one worldview at the expense of another. Ramesh: “The belief systems, values, and perspectives of source communities are threatened in the digital world, where terms such as openness or participation are evangelised without scrutiny.”
Fortunately, Srinivasan offers alternatives from his own practice, which include a project similar to the inspirational Video Volunteers, and a carefully designed online storytelling and knowledge sharing platform for the Zuni. Srinivasan’s work is typically based on close collaboration with the recipient communities of a technology, in which the community takes the lead in many of the important decisions. His approach is in line with contemporary best practice in social and cultural development work, which seems to mean engineers, technologists and advocates of digital media can learn a lot by taking a wider view on their work.
Whose global village? stimulated my thinking, and has reinforced my belief that in order to develop successful technology projects, you also need to invest in communities and your own social and cultural awareness. At times I would have loved the book to be more specific on how to achieve the visions it lays out, which I take as a call-to-action for my own work.
(A slightly different version of this review appeared before on themuseumofthefuture.com)