April workshop Think pieces Interview We recommend
The second meeting of the CITIGEN research network will take place on 26-28 April 2011, in New Delhi (India). The review workshop will bring together all the research partners, as well as most of the think piece researchers and a few scholars from the global South in order to broaden and enrich the debate. The background note of the workshop is available here.
Two of the CITIGEN think piece researchers have already submitted their draft, promising fascinating avenues of reflection through their examination of different dimensions of the gender and citizenship nexus in the information society context.
Margarita Salas is working on the emerging information society context in the Central American region to address issues of participation and citizenship of marginalised women. She has interviewed the key stakeholders from the region, both from the women's movement and from the open culture/free software networks. So far, two relevant issues have emerged. On the one hand, there is a gap between discourses and practices in the information society: the country plans and reports extensively use the social inclusion language but this discourse is not backed by country-level initiatives. On the other hand, there is a lack of regional, or national, advocacy initiatives directly linked to the information society. Even though the feminist movement uses ICT tools for its advocacy work, it does not build a political analysis of the global implications of the information society.
Farida Shaheed is exploring the relationship between the virtual world of ICTs and the tangible world, with its grounded realities of everyday life where the struggles for and shifts in power take place. She explores two dimensions: the importance of ICT linkages with the news and broadcast media, and the individual vs. collectivised actions in social movements' work in the digital era. She stresses that even though ICTs may bring dynamics that will reconfigure gender spaces and frontiers, the Pakistani case shows that what enters the 'private' sphere of women can be deeply misogynist, and result in women making ‘choices’ that challenge prevalent feminist thought.
Furthermore, Heike Jensen has joined the network as a think piece researcher. She will be writing on the gendered experiences of censorship and surveillance with regard to sexuality, basing her argument on the theory that any nation state is principally invested in the reproduction of its citizenry in both ideological and material ways, which converge in issues of (hetero-) sexuality and biological reproduction. She thus juxtaposes elements of the Internet Governance debate (censorship and surveillance) with dimensions of the feminist and citizenship discourses (communication rights and privacy). Her paper will explore experiences of offline and online censorship and surveillance in order to recast questions of women's potential citizenship in the information society.
What would you like to report back since the programme started?
We focused our research in Guangdong (GD) province of China in the first half of our research. Apart from reviewing the historical context of the feminist movement in China, we have interviewed 8 NGO organisers from a semi-governmental organisation (GD All China Woman Federation), and members from a professional woman network, as well as four independent woman activists, about both their personal and organisational history, and their experiences in using ICT for advocacy. We will start analysing the differences in their advocacy discourse on the Deng Yujiao case.
As for the Hong Kong part, we have finished the organisational analysis of the Association for the Advancement of Feminisms and working on the history of feminist movement in Hong Kong. We have identified 12 interviewees for the project and will start conducting the interviews in early April. As for the case study, we have gathered all the basic information for further analysis.
Do the interviews undertaken so far confirm or not your initial hypotheses?
The individual woman activists and the small feminist network in China are overlapping in their social network. Whether they engage with an issue independently or work with the network depends on the nature of the issue. The semi-governmental organisation (GD All China Woman Federation), in response to the new rise of opinion leaders (many are political dissidents) on the Internet, attempts to engage with online public discourse and channel public opinion in order to achieve better "social management" put forward by the CCP. The research shows that, due to the authoritarian rule, individuals, professional network, semi-governmental organisation and the party-state interact and negotiate with one another in the formative process of "public opinion", rather than following the dynamic of "state versus civil society".
What are the challenges you are facing in implementing your research?
It has been quite difficult to approach the established semi-governmental organisation and we were about to give up the interview part. However, thanks to individual connections, we managed to hook up with the Sun Yat Sen University Media Anthropology Laboratory as researchers, and with the help of a friend's friend, we managed to have some interviews with the organisation. Such an arrangement cannot be possible if we go through the official channel; it shows how work is done informally in China.
We tried to limit our research in GD province. However, for individual women activists, their engagements are usually cross-regional or national. Because of our geographical assumption, we did not interview individuals beyond GD province. However, such an assumption is not valid among individual activists and has limited our choice of selecting interviewees. Now we approach the activists whose work places and residences are largely located in GD.
How do you foresee the impact of your study for your own understanding of the field, as well as for the people you are interviewing and their practice of online activism?
The research will contribute to the discussion about the state, civil society relation in China and the impact of online citizen movement on the authoritarian regime. The interview is a reflexive process for organisers and actors. It probably helps the professional woman network to re-strategise their relation with the semi-governmental organisation. We plan to have an exchange between Hong Kong and GD activists for the research initial finding and hopefully will help organisations and activists from the two areas to develop some collaborative project in developing online feminist discourses.
Bennett R. (2010), Going mobile – Technology and policy issues in the mobile Internet. Retrieved from http://www.itif.org/files/100302_GoingMobile.pdf, 4 April 2011.
Learners, practitioners and teachers . Handbook on monitoring, evaluating and managing knowledge for policy influence (2010). Retrieved from http://partnerplatform.org/file2.axd/4a73d45a-24b8-4058-a4f2-ffc1d7cd39ae/MandE%20and%20KM%20Handbook.pdf, 4 April 2011.
Wikipedia entry on information literacy. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_literacy, 4 April 2011.
Zuckerman E. (2010), 'Decentralizing the mobile phone: A second ICT4D revolution?', in Information Technology and International Development, 6 (SE), pp. 99-103.