Encounters, coffees and conflicts

The Feminist Internet Research Network, led by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), carried out a multiyear action-research project on community networks and feminist infrastructures in Brazil. They present the outcomes of the project in a new report as well as in zines.

More than reaching answers, the questions has helped us to expand a set of reflections from the encounter between different ways of living and of producing knowledge and techniques that escape to some extent to normative models in the field of digital technologies , such as white male predominance in this field and the processes of concentration of power on the internet by large corporations that use manipulative and non-transparent models of relations with these technologies. The aim of this article is to share part of the reflections that have emerged from our experience, with the expectation of contributing to research and initiatives for technological appropriation that also devote themselves to strengthening diversity in these two fields.

Submitted by jboy

Micro-War

For Antipode Online, Olivia Butler discusses how the Russian military is weaponizing gig work and gigifying warfare.

The utilisation of gig platforms in the invasion of Ukraine is part of a heady mix of digital interventions in modern warfare, including cyber security and the dissemination of fake news. The latter have, however, received considerably more attention particularly in regards to the role of social media in Russian propaganda. The use of platforms in the enactment of war raises questions regarding the dehumanisation of digital mediation and the role of corporate and individual responsibility.

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Delivery apps’ obsessions with star ratings is ruining lives

In a dispatch from Seoul for Rest of World, Max Kim discusses the power of star ratings in South Korea’s booming food delivery industry.

In South Korea, where mainstream e-commerce revenue recently overtook offline retail, star ratings have quickly assumed huge authority, business owners and experts say. … [M]erchants say that a single subpar review is enough to depress business for days. The dire phrase “star rating terrorism” has entered everyday use. A flood of legislation has been proposed to curb the influence of platforms, including review systems.

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Social Media Influencers and the New Political Economy in South Asia and Africa

Joyojeet Pal and Omolade Adunbi of the University of Michigan are organizing a symposium on social media influencers in South Asia and Africa on April 7-8, 2022.

Social media influencer activity on platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and LinkedIn are now pivotal to social influence in societies around the world, as the ecology of the public sphere gets increasingly crafted, amplified, or negated by what happens online. This is as true, or more so in the Global South, where social media has often served as the gateway for entry into the online realm for millions of technology users with little or no prior experience. The resulting world is one in which the boundaries between the physical and the virtual has fundamentally reshaped power equations between the citizens and the state, their culture, and their communities.

This symposium at the University of Michigan is focused on social media influencers, and brings a host of leaders, artistes, journalists, activists, commentators, and scholars from two of the fastest growing Internet-using regions of the world to discuss how they interact online, what drives their activities and success, and how being public figures online impacts their lives and work.

Online participation in the symposium is possible after registration.

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Digital colonialism

For the Transnational Institute and ROAR Magazine, Michael Kwet outlines the latest stage of the U.S. empire: digital colonialism.

We live in a world where digital colonialism now risks becoming as significant and far-reaching a threat to the Global South as classic colonialism was in previous centuries. Sharp increases in inequality, the rise of state-corporate surveillance, and sophisticated police and military technologies are just a few of the consequences of this new world order. The phenomenon may sound new to some, but over the course of the past decades, it has become entrenched in the global status quo. Without a considerably strong counter-power movement, the situation will get much worse.

Submitted by jboy (via)

The internet is a force multiplier for Ukraine

In his Platformer newsletter, Casey Newton shares notes on the role of platforms in wartime — and asks whether they may have a role to play in preserving democracy in Ukraine.

Over the past decade, the biggest tech companies came to feel less like traditional corporations and more like quasi-states: borderless empires whose decisions increasingly had geopolitical consequences, to the growing frustration of the nation states in which they operate. … [I]t has been striking, watching the horrific invasion of Ukraine that Vladimir Putin’s Russia began on Thursday, the degree to which social networks have been used in efforts to preserve democracy.

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From Data Criminalization to Prison Abolition

A new report from Community Justice Exchange.

“From Data Criminalization to Prison Abolition” is a report, glossary of data systems, and tools for organizers that describe migrant surveillance practices and articulate prison-industrial-complex abolitionist perspectives on data and criminalization. Data has long been used by the criminal legal system to justify the need for and legitimacy of the criminal legal system. As corporations and governments become increasingly enamored with prediction tools and biometric capture, we see data criminalization strategies used for immigrant and traveler stalking creep further into currently non-criminalized spaces, expanding the pools of whom are subject to surveillance and control.

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The Staggering Ecological Impacts of Computation and the Cloud

Drawing on extensive fieldwork in server farms, Steven Gonzalez Monserrate explores multiple entry points into the materiality of “the Cloud” and its environmental impacts.

To get at the matter of the Cloud we must unravel the coils of coaxial cables, fiber optic tubes, cellular towers, air conditioners, power distribution units, transformers, water pipes, computer servers, and more. We must attend to its material flows of electricity, water, air, heat, metals, minerals, and rare earth elements that undergird our digital lives. In this way, the Cloud is not only material, but is also an ecological force. As it continues to expand, its environmental impact increases, even as the engineers, technicians, and executives behind its infrastructures strive to balance profitability with sustainability. Nowhere is this dilemma more visible than in the walls of the infrastructures where the content of the Cloud lives: the factory-libraries where data is stored and computational power is pooled to keep our cloud applications afloat.

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Chips with everything

In Le Monde diplomatique, Evgeny Morozov analyzes the contradictory geopolitics of chip manufacturing.

Today’s crisis isn’t exceptional. This time, however, it has come amidst wider anxiety about globalisation, the decline of western industrial activity, and politicisation of advanced technology such as AI, now a strategic domain in the US/China standoff. This explains how a boring technical issue, which ten years ago would have had little impact outside the directly affected industries, has become a massive headache for governments.

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Four ways that gig work is changing life in Nigeria

Abubakar Idris reports in Rest of World:

As a tech reporter, I’ve had a front-row seat to the explosion of digital services in Nigeria. I’ve seen gig work companies expand rapidly over the last decade, to take advantage of the country’s population — the largest on the continent. But it’s not just about the big numbers: it’s in the stories of individual people who’ve had their lives changed that I’ve seen how transformative this shift has been.

Submitted by jboy