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Gender and geography in a “global” debate

April 20th, 2005 by

Tonight, we discussed jurisdiction. The most intriguing question was raised right at the start of the classtime, is the internet truly as “global” as we like to think? The first caveat to the “global” tag is certainly found among barriers to access in many parts of the world. Secondly, how “global” is the internet experience for users in Saudia Arabia or China when we consider government censorship and filtration?

Tying this to the Download Debate I watched this afternoon, let me quote
from the blog of Siva Vaidhyanathan, an NYU Prof and speaker at the Cornell discussion

[Recently,] Yale had a wonderful conference on “global flows of information” yet almost every speaker was from North America (excluding Mexico and Central America, of course). There were a handful of Europeans and Israelis. […]

A year ago a great journalist did a big piece for a national magazine about the public-interest copyright movement. When he interviewed me […] He mentioned the same list of speakers […] Again, all men. […]

I told him about the great work of Rosemarie Coombe, Pam Samuelson, Jessica Litman, Julie Cohen, and of course Ann Bartow. […] Coming up fast: Sonia Katyal, Susan Crawford, Beth Simone Noveck, and Rebecca Tushnet. Among activists, Jenny Toomey, Wendy Selzer, and Carrie McLaren have contributed much. And the list beyond the borders of the United States is long and growing as well.

It is easy to pin “global” on to the internet because architecturally it has the potential to become “global” … but we are not there yet. Unless policy and code decisions are made that allow for equity in participation across the lines of gender, class, and geography, the internet will remain stunted in its democratizing potential.

Gender imbalance in academia is a problem that extends beyond the limits of those interested in digital media debate, in fact, as recent data suggests, it extends to the job market at large. I hope that over the next year, a community that is working to sustain democratic, participatory, enabling technology on a global scale can ensure that those same values persist through its own institutions.

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