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Home > Focus > Glocalism. Beyond Democracy: Innovation As Politics, review of the journal.

Glocalism. Beyond Democracy: Innovation As Politics, review of the journal.

by Jonathan Hankins [1], 14 March 2018

The latest edition of the journal Glocalism [2] has just been released, the Bassetti Foundation having participated in the production through its involvement in the editorial process. The issue is titled Beyond Democracy: Innovation As Politics, an argument that as readers will know very much reflects the Foundation's standpoint.

As the editorial [3] points out, at the centre of the articles in this issue of "Glocalism" is a new interpretation of "the inclusion of an increasing number of individuals into new circles of public discussion, new forms of mobilization and information (that) seem to profoundly alter the behaviour of citizens in the face of politics, the attitude of institutional political actors towards the electorate and, not least of all, the way in which popular movements act".

The arguments present cover a range of issues from across the globe, demonstrating the world's interconnected and interdependent nature. In this article we review the contents, offering an overview of each article and essay taken from a Foundation perspective.

In Internet Revolutions, Democratic Globalization and Elections Outcome in the Twenty-First Century: Echoes from Nigeria, Abdullahi Muhammad Maigari, Peter Nungshak Wika and Umar Dantani examine the social contexts of the development and innovation of the science of global communication technology, arguing that Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, blogs and LinkedIn etc. serve as the mediums through which civil rights and democratic activism are expressed, questioning how this has influenced the outcomes of elections across developed and developing societies.

The article [4]offers a wide selection of examples of internet use during political campaign, both those that were deemed effective and advantageous to the promotion of democracy, and those less effective and open to abuse, and of several countries closing the internet down during election periods because of the issues its use raised regarding their inability to control information presented.

The issue of external influence over elections predominantly in developed industrialized countries is addressed, and the reader can learn a great deal about the use of technology within various African election systems.

In Seeing Like a Tesla: How Can We Anticipate Self-Driving Worlds?, well known responsible innovation expert Jack Stilgoe argues that good governance for self-driving cars means democratising experimentation and creating genuine collaboration between companies and local governments.

In this very entertaining article [5] Stilgoe narrates his discovery and trial of a Tesla, and subsequent investigation into the self/driving capacities the car offers. He introduces a host of issues, including moral issues surrounding the car's obligation to protect the driver (possibly at the expense of other road users), the effect of mass use of such systems and related pressure to build more suitable street infrastructure (raising the question of whether we are morally obliged to become readable"), while urging us to look from the city's perspective rather than that of the car.

He argues that there has been a shift in rhetoric from that of problematizing the robot (car) technology to one of problematizing the outside world, an argument that very much resonates with the Bassetti Foundation approach and brings to the fore the problem of politics within the innovation system. He raises the issue of exclusion and suggests that there might be a price to pay for such technology, also for those that do not possess it, through exclusion and change made necessary in the name of improving safety.

Stilgoe argues that governance is already a problem, with states and governments effectively allowing companies to trial self drive vehicles on public roads, thus negating the responsibility that the institutions hold and passing it on to the vehicle or technology manufacturers, a line that also raises issues that have often been raised from the Foundation perspective on the relationship between innovation, society and governance.

In Interfaces in Social Innovation: an Action Research Story on a Tribal Women's Collective, Asha Banu Soletti, Sowmya Balasubramanian and Sunil D. Santha examine the nature of social interfaces that have emerged in the context of social innovations with vulnerable and marginalised tribal communities along the Tansa Reservoir in Maharashtra, India.

The paper [6] provides insights into a series of interesting questions including investigating the diverse values and beliefs, interests, knowledge and power relationships within different actors involved in promoting livelihood-based women's collectives in India, and how these dimensions affect and shape the capabilities of the collective studies, how those involved react and relate to external partners, and how frictions and stresses were managed and overcome in this particular case study.

The paper offers a lot of food for thought and can be seen from an RI perspective in terms not only of its viewpoint on political relationship building, but also in terms of the way the authors describe their intervention and relationships with the group. Arguments surrounding local knowledge and different framings of situations come to the fore, arguments that have been addressed in RI literature in terms of how its ideas can be applied or brought into different geographical and working cultures.

Further reference to external framing in terms of the construction of meaning also shares RI interests, with the authors questioning meaning ascribed by externals and those within the project as divergent, and in some cases critical and negative. This argument touches upon ideas of grass roots or bottom up RI as described in recent academic literature, showing many similarities.

The issue continues with Reporting Together: Transactional Sociability, Digital Communities and Alternate Embodiments on the Road through the Use of Waze by Regner Ramos.

Waze is a freely downloadable app that drivers can use to share information about traffic problems and other factors that may influence its other members' journeys.

The paper [7] aims to critically address how through its interface Waze: a) contests notions of "community" among a group of drivers on the road; b) creates transactional collaborations between Wazers; and c) sets up a digital space where users perform and move in relation to each other. It argues that studying Waze's properties enables a space-based theorization of embodiment, and that through Waze's avatars, users construct a sense of embodied selfawareness and a social understanding of their immediate context by being able to visually position themselves within an expansive network of others.

In order to do this the author asks three questions:
a) How do Waze users experience spatial connectivity to other Wazers through the interface's properties? b) How does Waze contest notions of "community" among a group of drivers on the road? c) In what way do Waze's avatars sustain a spatial theorization of embodiment?

The research was conducted using interview techniques, with the methodology reported in the article. The author goes on to report the interviews with short extracts followed by an analysis, addressing many things from whether the Waze "group of users" should be described as a community, even though they use this terms within the app, to raising the issue of the ethical implications involved in what is reported and why.

Looking to fill a gap in scholarship regarding the spatial and social implications of GPS app technologies, the author concludes that Waze users operate with a transactional sense of sociability and perform through and by the presence of other bodies on the interface, thus behaving similarly to members of a community, arguing that the conceptt of community could be expanded to include such groups that may not meet or share geographical space but share a sense of community in some form.

The final research article in this issue is Do Digital Social Networks Foster Civilian Participation among Millennials? Kitchenware Revolution and 15M Democratic Regeneration Cases by Igor Calzada.

In order to answer the question in its title, this paper [8] explores two widely studied paradigmatic events of democratic regeneration: the "Kitchenware Revolution" in Iceland after the financial collapse on 6 October 2008, and the "15M Movement" in Spain after 15 May 2011. The author asks to what extent digital social networks foster millennials' civilian participation, when, paradoxically, they seem to be the population target who contests the status quo but who is not actually being represented democratically in the formal political system, concluding that digital social networks could initially foster civilian participation, but they should be seen as a new artefact that in itself, necessarily leads to a better political representation of millennials.

The author goes on to argue against the widespread assumption regarding the correlation between socioeconomic and educational status and Internet usage factors of millennials when it comes to civilian participation, particularly in extreme political mobilisation events such as the Kitchenware Revolution and 15M.

In his introduction, Calzada discusses the concept of education for citizenship and democratic regeneration, before going on to address the research question itself. The question is broken into sub questions such as the importance of the younger members of the population and whether the use of ICT's actually helps or hinders participation. Many case studies and examples are offered and discussed, before the author offers his hypothesis, elaborating on the division between the two participatory patterns of millennials: the mainstream pattern of daily offline and online civilian participation of millennials and the critically based and democraticregeneration-driven pattern characterised by civilian mobilisations and protests, associated with 15M and the Kitchenware Revolution.

The article offers a lot of argument and debate within the answering of the research question, and interesting concluding remarks including that little could be concluded in terms of participation with regard to millennials and/or digital natives, the role of education for citizenship, the role of social networks in mobilization, and the limits of this form of mobilization and political involvement.

This is an obvious field of debate within the RI debate not only from a political participation perspective but also the broader public involvement in innovation perspective, and one that we follow and promote within the Foundation as regular readers will know.

The issue also includes two essays.

In The Art of Memory: "Social Bookmarking Hamburg", Noga Stiassny and Xin Tong describe how in November 2016, "a unique and intruding art project took place in the city of Hamburg, Germany, a result of collaboration between German artists and a Chinese artist, who all seek to commemorate the Chinese victims who lived in the city pre- World War II but had to suffer the injustices of the Nazi regime. The project lasted three days and was presented in various locations throughout the city, while including many artistic mediums alongside scholarly work. By referring to the main events of that weekend, the paper traces after a "forgotten" past that many people refuse to look at, not to say to take responsibility for, while in contrast, the art continues to extract it from the depths of oblivion and forced amnesia - to the dismay of many".

This essay [9] offers a great deal of food for thought through its historical reconstruction of the presence of the Chinese communities in Germany and they way they were viewed and treated during their presence in the cities and subsequent persecution alongside their modern representation. Of particular interest is the artistic use of potatoes and how the use of these materials was perceived by the local population.

The issue concludes with Searching for a Room of One's Own: Rethinking the Iranian Diaspora in "Persepolis", "Shahs of Sunset" and "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night" by Emily Edwards.

In this the final essay [10] of the issue, the author describes how "for diasporic communities created through violence or forcible resettlement, home transcends physical boundaries and becomes a blend of past experience and future imagination. Iranians displaced after the 1979 Revolution have imagined home through various cultural mediums, such as, television, film, and literature. Three cultural texts produced by Iranian women, (Persepolis, Shahs of Sunset, and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night), in particular, offer illuminating glimpses into the diaspora experience".

Edwards proposes a close textual reading of these works across methodological boundaries to show that "despite their portrayal of varied diaspora life experiences, the diaspora paradigm reduces these experiences to a figurative return to the homeland". She argues that "the diaspora paradigm, by offering a highly romanticized and homogenizing understanding of home and foreign land, flattens the diversity of identity and experience.

Furthermore, the diaspora paradigm denies the role of intersection of class and gender on the lived experiences of the actual diaspora population. Through an alternative reading of these texts, the author challenges the prevalent paradigm through which Iranian diaspora identity is understood, focusing on autobiographical textual trends as a method of story-telling and self-formation, comparing this narrative structure to the theory of identity as 'infinitely postponed' in exile".

Edwards specifically highlights "crucial interactions of local and global forces that shape diaspora experiences otherwise elided in the existing scholarship, complicating romantic understandings of both home and abroad" through the analysis of three different types of text, a comic, a reality TV show and a film, with extracts to illustrate. The article is beautifully written and draws the reader in and along into its flow.

In the concluding paragraphs the author challenges the diaspora paradigm due (among other things) to its its disengagement with questions of self-definition and privilege, arguing as throughout the essay that "the diaspora experience is often mediated through elitist conceptions of home and identity, a foundational flaw for a paradigm that seeks to challenge the oppressive and perceived homogeneous form and function of nation states, or for that matter religious states, to give voice to those in the margins" while arguing that home can be where one has a room of one's own, where one has a voice

Once again Glocalism offers high quality content in an open access publication. All at the Foundation would like to congratulate all of those involved on the publication of this issue and hope that our readers can find the time to investigate both this and previous issues further.

All content is open access, so fill your boots.


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Links in this document:

  1. 1] /schedabiografica/Jonathan Hankins
  2. 2] http://www.glocalismjournal.net/
  3. 3] http://www.glocalismjournal.net/issues/beyond-democracy-innovation-as-politics/editorial/editorial.kl
  4. 4] http://www.glocalismjournal.net/issues/beyond-democracy-innovation-as-politics/articles/internet-revolutions--democratic-globalization-and-elections-outcome-in-the-twenty-first-century-echoes-from-nigeria.kl
  5. 5] http://www.glocalismjournal.net/issues/beyond-democracy-innovation-as-politics/articles/seeing-like-a-tesla-how-can-we-anticipate-self-driving-worlds.kl
  6. 6] http://www.glocalismjournal.net/issues/beyond-democracy-innovation-as-politics/articles/interfaces-in-social-innovation-an-action-research-story-on-a-tribal-women-s-collective.kl
  7. 7] http://www.glocalismjournal.net/issues/beyond-democracy-innovation-as-politics/articles/reporting-together-transactional-sociability--digital-communities-and-alternate-embodiments-on-the-road-through-the-use-of-waze.kl
  8. 8] http://www.glocalismjournal.net/issues/beyond-democracy-innovation-as-politics/articles/do-digital-social-networks-foster-civilian-partecipation-among-millenials-kitchenware-revolution-and-15m-democratic-regeneration-cases.kl
  9. 9] http://www.glocalismjournal.net/issues/beyond-democracy-innovation-as-politics/other-essays/the-art-of-memory-social-bookmarking-hamburg.kl
  10. 10] http://www.glocalismjournal.net/issues/beyond-democracy-innovation-as-politics/other-essays/searching-for-a-room-of-one-s-own-rethinking-the-iranian-diaspora-in-persepolis--shahs-of-sunset-and-a-girl-walks-home-alone-at-night.kl
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Glocalism. Beyond Democracy: Innovation As Politics, review of the journal.
Articles by:  Jonathan Hankins
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