Urquhart, C. and Underhill-Sem, Y. (2009), "Special issue on “ICTs and social inclusion", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 7 No. 2/3. https://doi.org/10.1108/jices.2009.36407baa.001Download as .RIS
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Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Special issue on “ICTs and social inclusion
Article Type: Guest editorial From: Journal of Information, Communication & Ethics in Society, Volume 7, Issue 2/3
This special issue came about due to the coming together of different perspectives on how information and communication technologies (ICTs) contribute or otherwise to processes of social inclusion. The Technology and Social Inclusion Group at The University of Auckland has members from disciplines as diverse as information systems, geography, media studies, management, development studies and sociology. What brought us together was an interest in highlighting the values of social inclusion in our scholarship, and an interest in how people in many different communities engaged with ICTs. A special issue of the Journal of Information, Communication & Ethics in Society, as an international, refereed journal that aims to provide interdisciplinary perspectives, provided a perfect forum for our exploration of ICTs and the values of social inclusion from a range of theoretical and practical viewpoints.
We had 28 submissions from a wide range of countries and disciplines, clearly indicating that we not alone in being passionate about the topic. As well as full papers, we asked for shorter “cutting edge” submissions of work that was still at a conceptual stage. We also attracted a range of submissions that constituted very good examples of socially inclusive ICT projects all over the world. So we introduced a new category of short article, case studies, that could act as window on these projects in different places. The editorial process was informed by our values of social inclusion so we took into account different geographical regions as well as different social groups which culminated very easily in this selection of papers. We also discussed the papers as a group. The papers selected for this issue, we feel, demonstrate how the values of social inclusion within the broad area of scholarship on ICTs can be theorised and described in multiple ways. The papers range from how the intersection of gender, race and class identity shape the experiences of Black female IT workers in the USA; to access to, and use of, telecentres in India, Thailand and Jordan; to the extent to which New Zealand’s Cyberspace accommodates Maori; to the conceptual disjuncture between local aims of social inclusion and the transnational experiences of youth with refugee backgrounds; to the extent to which embedded values in visual representation of avatars in on-line games are socially inclusive.
The term “social inclusion” has been suggested as a more critical and less binary way of understanding digital divides (Warschauer, 2003). Social inclusion is defined as participation in the determination of both individual and collective life chances (Stewart, 2000) indicating there is more to social inclusion than equal access to resources. Rather, we support the argument that a critical analysis of the processes of social inclusion is more productive for scholars committed to social justice. It allows for a more inclusive understanding of how, for instance, even wealthy individuals may be excluded because of discrimination based on gender, race, sexual preference or disability, or political persecution (Warschauer, 2003). It also opens up the possibilities for more creative projects being undertaken through the strategic employment of ICTs, in, for instance, the use of digital video technology in Kenya (Radloff and Primo, 2002), and the suitcase radio in the Pacific (Bhagwan Rolls, 2008). As articles in this edition show, there is evidence of social exclusion in developed countries and social inclusion in poorer communities in developing countries. It is increasingly important to locate ICTs within particular social conditions because as with all technologies, they are an integral aspect of socio-political, economic and cultural development (Hafkin and Huyer, 2006). All of the papers in the special issue present social inclusion as a multi faceted process, encompassing dimensions of identity, location, policy and technology.
The first paper in the issue, by Kvasny, Trauth and Morgan, discusses the intersectionality of gender, race and class in IT education. It cuts to the heart of social inclusion – how a persons identity, which may have multiple intersections of gender, race and class, impacts on the oppression they may experience. The paper draws on feminist theories of intersectionality and uses feminist standpoint theory and the theory of individual differences from information systems, and interprets Black womens’ experience of IT education in many ways. In doing so, they achieve a much more nuanced understanding of the social exclusion of black women in the IT field.
The second paper in the issue, by Tambulasi, critiques the idea that ICTs have worked as a mechanism for social inclusion in developing countries. The paper considers how relative location has a large impact on social inclusion. This conceptual paper explores the many dimensions of social inclusion in developing countries, and considers the role of poverty, gender, education, location and institutions. It makes the case that ICTs in developing countries reify existing patterns of social exclusion in those countries, and that policy makers need to take account of socially excluded groups. The third paper, and our first case study in the issue, by Naivinit, examines how livelihoods are improved by access to a community telecentre in Thailand. Critically, it also finds that the experience of the telecentre is gendered and these findings are useful for gender sensitive ICT projects. The fourth paper, also a case study, by Rangaswamy, explores the informal aspects of cyber cafes and posits that understanding non formal business aspects is crucial to a broader understanding of social inclusion.
The fifth paper, by Al-Jaghoub and Westrup, takes a policy perspective on social inclusion. Al-Jaghoub and Westrup use Ruth Levitas’ critique of social inclusion to analyse a knowledge station project in Jordan, and also provide an interesting discussion of the relationship between the so-called digital divide, and social inclusion. They conclude that the knowledge stations project has elements of all three discourses identified by Levitas, namely a redistributive discourse, a social integrationist discourse, and a moral underclass discourse. They also posit that the changing role of nation states in the South calls for an extension of Levitas’ views of social inclusion, anchored as they are in the experience of UK.
The next three papers in the issue return to identity as a dimension of social inclusion, starting with Wilding’s paper on using ICTs to promote social inclusion for refugee youth. She concludes that many refugees have transnational identities, for whom “local” social inclusion may have some negative consequences. The seventh and eighth papers focus on a particular type of identity, that of indigenous peoples in Australia and New Zealand. The sixth paper, by Rekhari, is a conceptual paper that examines the use of new media by indigenous people in Australia. By drawing on current examples of new media use, it poses the question of whether hegomonic practices of media represent a double bind within existing media practices. The seventh paper, by Muhamad-Brandner, is another short conceptual paper that examines the use of the indigenous Maori language in New Zealand in Internet domain names, and what this might tell us about biculturalism in New Zealand.
The final paper, by Pace, Houssian and McArthur, reminds us that ICTs themselves embed certain values of social exclusion and social inclusion. They give us a fascinating insight into how restricted choice in the design of avatars in massively multiplayer online role playing games such as World of Warcraft, can embed and perpetuate racial and gender stereotypes.
We hope readers will enjoy what we feel is a high quality selection of papers that give multi disciplinary perspectives on social inclusion and ICTs. We were impressed by the variety of dimensions of social inclusion that all the submissions presented, and compiling this issue led us to the conclusion that processes of social inclusion and ICTs are indeed multi faceted, and that it is a future avenue for continuing research. ICTs play a fundamental role in globalisation, but also carry certain values with them. Local adaptation and the awareness of local contexts, are fundamentally important when considering how ICTs can foster social inclusion.
The Associate Editors for the special issue are listed below, sincere thanks for their outstanding editorial work. The authors also are very grateful for the independent reviewers, whose inputs allowed us to fulfill our aim of providing constructive commentary to authors: Antonio Diaz, Department of Management and International Business; Lesley Gardner, Department of Information Systems and Operations Management; Luke Goode, Department of Media Studies; Steve Matthewman, Department of Sociology; Karin Olesen, Auckland University of Technology; Rachel Wolfgramm, Department of Management and International Business.
Cathy Urquhart, Yvonne Underhill-SemGuest Editors
Bhagwan Rolls, S. (2008), Empowering Communities, Informing Policy: The Potential of Community Radio, fem’LINKpacific, Suva
Hafkin, N. and Huyer, S. (Eds) (2006), Cyberella or Cinderella? Empowering Women in the Knowledge Society, Kumarian, New Hampton, NH
Radloff, J. and Primo, N. (2002), “Net gains for women in Africa”, Development, Vol. 45 No. 4, pp. 41–8
Stewart, A. (2000), “Social inclusion: an introduction”, in Askonas, P. and Stewart, A. (Eds), Social Inclusion: Possibilities and Tensions, Macmillan, Houndmills, pp. 1–16
Warschauer, M. (2003), Technology and Social Inclusion: Rethinking the Digital Divide, The MIT, Cambridge, MA