Four Factors Needed To Make Technology A 'Liberation' Technology

from the understanding-activism dept

There's been something of a silly debate going on for a while now, about whether or not various technologies and social media tools "help" or "hurt" democratic or populist uprisings. Of course, technology is just a tool, and it can be used for good reasons, bad reasons and perfectly neutral reasons. Technology itself is not the impetus behind any of this stuff... but as a tool, it can be used to accelerate, enhance or emphasize certain aspects of what's going on. So while the general debate is silly, it is important to understand the factors that make technology useful in these scenarios. Mathew Ingram points us to an interesting attempt by Mary Joyce to break down what factors really need to be present to make a technology useful for "liberation" as opposed to "repression." You can read all of the details at the link above, but the headline version is:
  1. It must transmit political information
  2. It must be accessible to a large segment of the population
  3. It must allow for effective utilization
  4. It must allow for protection of privacy
The article also argues that "repression technologies" requires the reverse. I'm not sure I completely believe that. For example, something that is available to a large segment of the population can certainly be used for repression as well. Still, it is an interesting framework for thinking about how these technology tools are used (or not) in various political conflicts.

Filed Under: liberation, repression, technology

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  1. identicon
    Lasse, 7 Feb 2011 @ 10:51pm

    To thwart a technology's use for liberation, you need only reverse one of the four. Any one, probably.
    If it doesn't transmit political information, it's just theater for masses.
    If it's not widely available, it won't engage enough people to reach a critical mass.
    Effectiveness I'm not sure about, if people are repressed enough, they'll probably put up with some inconvenience.
    If there is no privacy, it's just a way to expose opposition so that they are easier to remove.

    Against a repressive and powerful opponent, this is a security problem. You need availability, authenticity and secrecy to get your message out without being impersonated, intercepted or stopped. At least long enough to get the masses engaged.

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