Digital technology, transparency, and everyday forms of political engagement

Digital technology, transparency, and everyday forms of political engagement. CFP for 2014 AAA.

Do digital media enable us to see more clearly or accurately than other forms of media? What forms of knowledge, meaning, and/or matter do they make more transparent, and for whom? In which cases do they increase trust and intimacy and in which do they obscure the dynamics of social relationships? What do digital media obscure and how?

These are some of the questions we hope to ponder in this panel on digital technology, transparency, and everyday forms of political engagement. In the global South, in particular, government administrations and civic and community organizations have formed to promote the idea that “going digital” will lead to greater political clarity – i.e., transparency – and eliminate both graft and mundane human error. Capitalizing on the post-Cold War global euphoria for greater openness, and governance built on sharing “information,” digital technology and “transparency” have become indelibly linked, as the former is expected to bring about the latter, itself described as both a desired end of and means to achieve “good governance.”

In this panel we hope to consider the “thingness” or materiality of digital technology in concert with its dialectical opposite: the “seen through.” What are the social, cultural, and technical operations and arguments through which digital technology, on purpose or by oversight, enables us to see…or not? What are the effects of this (non)seeing? Possible topics for discussion include: – the production and circulation of new visual media and the creation of new digital publics – citizen engagement with open data projects – the social production, circulation, and use of crowdsourcing software (esp open source) – the construction, management, and operation of data holding structures – the labor of laying fibre optic cables or transporting lithium, etc.

We call on panelists to consider how the representational and the material, the transparent and the opaque, the seen and the unseen are entangled in historically specific moments and culturally specific locales. At the same time, we urge panelists to consider how particular digital transparency claims and/or projects resonate with those formed in other times and places, and collectively contribute to broad transnational political visions, projects, and movements. We thus welcome proposals from all geographical areas. If you are interested in being on our panel please send an abstract of 250 words or less with your name and institutional affiliation by April 5 to poggiali@stanford.edu and dmahoney1@usf.edu.

Thanks, Dillon Mahoney, University of South Florida, and Lisa Poggiali, Stanford University

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4 responses to “Digital technology, transparency, and everyday forms of political engagement

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  4. It would probably have been great to have someone from the emergent wearable technology/ubiquitous computing community on the panel (as people who can see and interact with both the digital-material and “seen through”, but I dont believe the AAA has reverse its policy (or made one at last I checked) about us.

    We should catch up after the conf, Dillon.

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