REFLECTION: Who is in Charge of The Future of The Internet?

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

I’m currently reading a paper entitled “Bottom of the Data Pyramid: Big Data and the Global South” (2016) by non-white / Indian female, Payal Arora, Associate Professor, Department of Media & Communication Faculty of History, Culture and Communication at Erasmus University Rotterdam. The paper is available (in PDF format) here.

On her blog, The 3L Mantra to live by! A mashup of Labor, Leisure & Learning, Arora describes herself as follows:

Payal Arora - About Me.jpg

Suffice to say, I was not too impressed with this rather auto-Orientalising self-description, nor with the following TED presentation she delivered:

Interested and discerning Counter-Racist / decolonial viewers are invited to consider:

  1. how she frames the relation between the non-white / non-Western ‘periphery’ and the white / Western ‘core’ of the modern/colonial world system of global White Supremacy (Racism) in terms of ‘the poor’ and ‘the rich’, i.e. in race-less / de-raced / un-raced economistic terms.
  2. how she assimilates peripheral / Oriental behaviours to (tacitly universalised) core / Occidental behaviours by first talking about the history of ‘leisure’ in a (19th Century) European / Western class-based context, and then projecting categories (leisure and labour) from the core to the periphery on the post-colonial (sic) basis that “they are like us”. Who is this us that this non-white female is associating herself (and other non-white people) with / assimilating herself (and other non-white) to?

While it might appear that such a move is intended to overcome a legacy of colonial ‘othering’ which sees ‘them’ as essentially different to ‘us’, it is important to appreciate that this is being attempted by appealing to Eurocentric / West-centric norms. In short, her project is one of (neo)liberal inclusion within (covertly racialised yet overtly race-less) capitalist logics.

I would suggest that Arora’s discourse is postcolonial rather than decolonial, being economistically-framed in terms of inclusive capitalism. She completely fails to understand the intrinsically racialised nature of capitalist logics of accumulation, something that the late black Marxist scholar Cedric Robinson discussed in detail, as have critical race and decolonial scholars more recently.

Ultimately, while Arora’s critique of Big Data / datafication is useful, it is limited, and as to the question ‘Who is in Charge of The Future of The Internet?’, does that question really need to be asked?


COMMENT: Africa, Caught in The (Inter)Net

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

The following figure shows the network of undersea cables that surrounds the continent of Africa:

Sub-Saharan Undersea Cables

For information on who owns these cables, check out “African Undersea Cables” on the Many Possibilities blog run by Steve Song, a white Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) researcher.

There is also the question of who controls production, distribution and access to the information trafficing along these cables. (On this point, I should like to refer interested readers to the important book, Who Controls the Internet? Illusions of a Borderless World (2008) by Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu.)

In the essay “Access is not the only problem: Using and controlling the Internet” which appears in the collection Technology and In/Equality: Questioning the Information Society edited by Sally Wyatt, Flis Henwood, Nod Miller and Peter Senker (London: Routledge, 2000, pp.21-45), Wyatt and Thomas maintain that

Telecommunications costs are … a source of inequality between nations because of the way in which individual networks connect to the rest of the Internet. The main Internet exchange points are in the USA, and every major Internet service provider, wherever it is in the world, needs to connect to at least one of these points [emphasis added]. (p.32)