Neither global village nor homogenizing commodification:
Diverse cultural, ethnic, gender and economic environments
  • Culture isn't 'culture' anymore
    It seems easier to say what culture is not, rather than to define what culture is.  For example, ‘culture’ is not simply ethnicity or national identity. It seems clear that cultures, rather than remaining singular, unchanging “lumps” each hermetically sealed off from one another, instead involve dynamic and naturally interacting elements that constantly foster new hybridizations or fragmentations. Is ‘culture’ still a useful ‘research unit’ and/or explanatory concept? Do our efforts to utilize some notion of ‘culture’ inevitably lead to essentialistic notions that are at best overly simple (a la Hofstede) and, at worst, misleading and false? Hence, ‘culture’ is becoming increasingly complex, issuing in the need to examine culture vis-à-vis the spectrum of media technologies - especially as youth culture increasingly focuses on “media of mobility” (SMS, mobile phones, etc.) 
    We continue our focus on culture by inviting submissions that conjoin theoretical exploration of concepts of culture as currently understood and methodologically applied in a variety of disciplines, including cultural anthropology, ethnography, communication studies, philosophy, etc., vis-à-vis examples in praxis of how CMC and ICTs sustain and/or problematize these concepts.
  • The Internet isn't the 'Internet' anymore
    Just as our theories of culture need critiquing and “complexification” so do our theories of the Internet. As the Internet has fragmented into multiple and continuously fragmenting internets, so ICTs now blend into a spectrum of media technologies (e.g., SMS, web-enabled mobile phones, etc.). And as with ‘culture’, ‘communication’ is becoming increasingly complex with the mobile technologies.
    We invite critical examination of prevailing concepts of gender, equality and liberation, and their intersections with mobile technologies.
  • Gender, culture, empowerment and CMC
    The liberal feminist project of achieving social and political equality among women and men remains unfulfilled - dramatically so in the domains of ICT. At the same time, of course, this project is criticized as reflecting only the culturally-relative values of Western white feminists, not necessarily the values, goals, and ambitions of all women everywhere. Also criticized (e.g. Wacjman) is the claim that ICTs have the ability to empower women in all cultures. This perspective reflects the primarily Western white male software developers and technology policy makers. As well, Simon (ref) observed that women’s ambiguity regarding new technologies is not necessarily a “contradiction” but a way of coping with the stresses and challenges of adapting to technological change.
    This observation is consistent with a larger theme of much of CATaC research that shows in various ways that rather than presuming “users” as “cultural dopes” (Pargman ref) – persons using CMC technologies are better understood as “savvy users” with considerable awareness of the cultural and gender-related dimensions of these technologies and the possible consequences of their use.
    Just as our concepts of ‘culture’ and ‘communication’ require critique and ‘complexification’ – so we invite critical examination of prevailing concepts of gender, concepts of equality and liberation, and their intersections with CMC and ICTs.
  • CMC and cultural diversity
    “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to blown off my feet by any.” – Gandhi. CATaC research has demonstrated in a great variety of ways and cultural contexts that CMC technologies embed and foster specific cultural values and communicative preferences – raising the danger of “steamrolling” diverse cultures (so Steve Jones) through “computer-mediated colonization.” By contrast, more recent CATaC conferences have highlighted “culturally-aware” CMC design (e.g. McIlroy, Hongladarom).
    Our general question: can ICTs function in a Gandhian fashion, facilitating “open windows” to all the cultures of the world, without making any one dominant and exclusive? What additional theoretical and practical considerations might help realize the Gandhian dream?
  • Internet research ethics
    A number of ethical issues were raised at the last CATaC conference, including questions of research ethics, e.g. When do we use direct quotes from informants? How are we to protect the rights of children and other vulnerable groups? While some progress has been made in establishing international and interdisciplinary Guidelines for Internet Research, this work remains ongoing.
  • Ethics and justice: From copyright to the ethics of development
    "Utopia would be groups determining their own uses." (Beardon) A number of theories and documents, from classical Western liberalism (Kant, Habermas) through to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), support basic notions of individual autonomy and rights to cultural identity. How are these rights to be established and protected, especially in using ICTs for the sake of development? Some established legal conventions, such as copyright, can help, for example, indigenous groups protect their cultural identity by protecting cultural artifacts (Radoll).
    What theoretical and practical approaches to development involving ICTs foster the utopia of individual and group self-determination?

  • Free software/Open-Source software: Cultural attitudes and the politics, ethics, political economy of Free/Libre/Open-Source Software (FLOSS).
    FLOSS is a way of organizing production, of making things jointly, in parallel distributed settings of cooperative behavior, by an increasing number of individuals and groups whose communities and labor are facilitated particularly (but not confined to) the Internet. Exclusive property rights and the division of labor - crucial to the established economic order - are not the main incentives. Rather, the notion of property in FLOSS development concerns the right to distribute and not exclusion, a change that can have profound influences on inter-personal relations and institutions within contemporary "knowledge society". While it will soon be possible to effectively privatize all intellectual products, the advocates of FLOSS are strongly moving in the opposite direction, sketching a social order that is not built on exclusionary principles, price signals and the power of rich countries and corporations.
    How can free/open source make a difference (or not) when it comes to issues such as "cultural inclusion" (localisation, appropriation, customisation) and "gender inclusion"? Do the particular ways of production and sharing in free/open access/source form a better fit with some "cultures attitudes" and not with others?

  • Cultural diversity and e-learning - Localization or internationalization?
    More and more learning is being delivered using technology. In many universities it has become mandatory to incorporate flexible learning strategies such as online coursework material, streamed audio and/or video lectures, and communication tools. Most elearning for multiple cultures adopt a "localize" strategy of translating content and customizing examples. Is this sufficient? What more can we do to address the needs of diverse cultures?