Accepted paper:

Knowledge Politics Across Digital Divides: Environmental Change, Indigeneity, and Technology Use in the Arctic


Jason Young (University of Washington)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation argues that digital divides subtly reproduce knowledge hierarchies that have important implications for development and colonialism. This argument is grounded in an examination of how Arctic indigenous peoples engage in digital knowledge politics.

Paper long abstract:

Scholarly excitement around ICTD project has long been tempered by the recognition that digital divides prevent the effects of technologies from being equal for all people or across all places. The material infrastructure and educational requirements of these technologies often intersect with pre-existing political and socio-economic histories to reproduce inequality. The unit of analysis for most of this work has been the individual or community, asking how digital divides shape who has access to technological empowerment. I argue that this lens should be expanded to include an analysis of the broader implications that digital divides have for the visibility and legitimation of knowledge systems. Digital divides subtly shape what types of knowledge individuals can express once they have access to digital spaces, and therefore reproduce knowledge hierarchies. These hierarchies, in turn, can drive development processes. I ground this argument in a case study of how Inuit, an indigenous people of the Arctic, have engaged with digital technologies in Canada. Inuit increasingly have access to the Internet, and have used that access to push for increased representations of their views within discussions of environmental management. This talk examines both the material inequalities and digital practices that prevent Inuit from fully expressing indigenous knowledge online, as well as the digital tactics they've employed to overcome knowledge hierarchies. This description is then connected to current efforts to build a broader research agenda around digital divides and knowledge politics. This research has important implications for understanding digital divides, knowledge politics, and digital colonialism.

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Digital inequalities and development (Paper)