To Choose is To Renounce. How is cultural diversity taken into account in ICT design and implementation?

[:fr]Basile Zimmermann, Amalia Sabiescu, Yan Zhang

On July 30th, 2020, the Confucius Institute at the University of Geneva co-organised a thematic workshop at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum, titled “To Choose is To Renounce. How is cultural diversity taken into account in ICT design and implementation?”. The Institute has had a research agenda centered on the study of mundane technological tools in China for several years. This meeting aimed to explore possibilities to further develop existing activities with new collaborations and new directions.

Lead by Basile Zimmermann (University of Geneva), Amalia Sabiescu (Loughborough University London), and Yan Zhang (East China University of Science and Technology), a multidisciplinary team of researchers and designers was brought together to discuss the role of culture and cultural diversity in the design, development and implementation of ICT.  Participants included researchers with specialties ranging from social study of technology to communication and computer science, from universities in People’s Republic of China, United Kingdom and Switzerland.

As is customary for the Blog Scientifique, we provide here a short summary of the presentations and the discussions that followed.

Amalia Sabiescu (Loughborough University London) and Sara Vannini (University of Sheffield)  started by challenging assumptions about how the broad notions of diversity and design relate to each other. Amalia used examples from her community-based research work, and analysed them through the prism of a classification framework developed by Heike Winschiers-Theophilus, Tariq Zaman and Colin Stanely (2019). She exemplified the intercultural mode of engagement through her participatory design work with Roma communities, which aimed to provide a digital platform for cultural expression. This study showed that the first step in the attempt to represent themselves as a community was to challenge labels and stereotypes imposed by outsiders with counter-narratives (Sabiescu, 2015). Amalia then argued that to reach out to the ideal transcultural mode of engagement defined by Winschiers-Theophilus et al., a long term engagement in research and design with a community is necessary, together with critical approaches in making sense of the world and extending this awareness to others (Sabiescu et al., 2014; van Zyl and Sabiescu 2020).

Sara then focused on the topic of ICTs and migration, and especially how ICTs can be studied as mostly white, Western, patriarchal models, embedded in broader information and communication ecosystems. She exemplified her argument with a study of the uses, perceptions, and experiences of ICTs within communities of undocumented migrants in the US. On the one hand, ICTs empower, and foster social change. For example, by enabling migrants to access the information they need, or as platforms to advocate for their own narratives of migration. On the other hand, the digitization of information exposes migrants to risks connected to data privacy and information security, which can result in being detained and deported. As their lives are at stake, their experiences affect their trust in ICTs and their choice of information sources. (Carney et al., 2017; Vannini, Gomez, Newell, 2019)

Sara also shared her experience of participatory photography, which consists in asking community members to take pictures which are brought into the research conversation. Through this engaged and reflective exercise, they come to act as co-researchers. Such research methodology rebalances the power relationship between researchers and community members, and also helps the researcher to better understand the communities she works with, and deal with scientific cultural bias. (See Gomez and Vannini, 2015)

Yan Zhang (East China University of Science and Technology) presented a case study based on her fieldwork in Shanghai Bao Shan area. She showed how, in the context of the rapid urbanisation of China and an impressive amount of floating population, Shanghai and other Chinese cities have faced the emergence of multi-faceted populations. In particular, cultural differences between communities of urban and rural origins lead to specific challenges for the local authorities. New governmental practice takes place, and Yan’s research explores how this innovative use of information technology by the local government promotes social inclusion.

She Qu Tong is a public platform for residents of the Bao Shan area designed in 2017 for the WeChat platform which is widely used in China. It offers a variety of services such as online news, a bulletin board, sections for each neighbourhood, and most importantly an assembly hall where inhabitants can comment or report on community affairs. Through a presentation of three green urban space cases studies (respectively the renovation of a garden, the plant design of another, and the reconversion of a wasteland), Yan Zhang’s study reveals how She Qu Tong not only provides a new channel for participation of community members, but also deepens their level of participation. Repeatedly, reports to the « assembly hall » of the destruction of green space lead to consultations and new agreements where diverse cultural groups mix together –through the She Qu Tong. The significance of the innovative use of ICTs in these cases lies not only in its ability to put forward new channels of participation, the « assembly hall » creates a basis where diverse cultural groups can dialogue and find a common ground.

Ozan Sahin (University of Geneva) and other research associates of the Confucius Institute presented the activities in Geneva. Ozan discussed how the Institute tries to bring together Chinese studies and Science and Technology Studies. He then briefly presented his work on migrations and cultural diversity in China, based on the Imitation Game, a research method developed by sociologists H. Collins and Robert Evans at Cardiff University. In a nutshell, this method consists of asking volunteers to play a game where they are asked to pretend to be a member of a specific social group (for instance, to be from Beijing, or another Chinese province). Then, each person is invited to play three roles at a time: Judge (who are required to ask questions), Pretender (who are required to pretend to be someone else), and finally Non-Pretender (who are asked to answer naturally). Judges then compare the answers from the other players (who are unknown to her or him) and try to identify which answers come from which person. The method provides quantitative data (i.e. the success rate), and qualitative data (i.e. the questions and answers) related to intercultural communications between Chinese migrants and local inhabitants, which is helpful for a better understanding of the main obstacles to a better integration of migrant populations in Chinese cities (Sahin, 2014; 2017)

Finally, Dana Mahr (University of Geneva) presented succinctly her research on how scientific knowledge gets re-formed by cultural values, and how Western knowledge seems to be currently shifting towards epistemic diversity. Marylaure Bloch (University of Geneva) shared her project on the Chinese social credit system and how a “normal” citizen can or cannot be acknowledged by current trials by the government of China to develop digital tools at the national level. Jorge Carillio (University of Geneva) discussed his approach to comparative musicology and the potential of putting side by side Monteverdi and Kunqu operas to improve ways of performing opera in Europe and in China.

Following these fruitful exchanges and discussion, the participants and the workshop organizers agreed to turn the WSIS Forum workshop into a quarterly meeting for scholars interested in ICTs and cultural diversity. Currently, the plan is for the Confucius Institute at the University of Geneva to host this activity (online or on site). If you are interested in participating, please contact one of the authors of this summary directly.

Cette contribution a été relue par Sara Vannini

Basile Zimmermann, Amalia Sabiescu, Yan Zhang « To Choose is To Renounce. How is cultural diversity taken into account in ICT design and implementation? ». In Blog Scientifique de l’Institut Confucius, Université de Genève. Lien permanent: https://ic.unige.ch/?p=1258, consulté le 05/25/2024.

References:

Carney, M. A., Mitchell, K., Gomez, R., Vannini, S. (2017) Sanctuary Planet: A Global Sanctuary Movement for the Time of Trump. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space.

Gómez, R. & Vannini, S. (2015): Fotohistorias: Participatory Photography and the Experience of Migration. Seattle, WA. CreateSpace Independent Publishing. ISBN: 978-1517464660.

Sabiescu, A. (2015) Narratives and Counter-narratives in the Representation of The Other. The Case of the Romani Ethnic Minority. In N. J. Bidwell & H. Winschiers-Teophilus (Eds.) At the Intersection of Indigenous and Traditional Knowledge and Technology Design. Santa Rosa(CA): Informing Science Press, 67-87.

Sabiescu, A.G., David, S., van Zyl, I., & Cantoni, L. (2014) Emerging Spaces in Community-based Participatory Design. Reflections from Two Case Studies. 13th Participatory Design Conference, Windhoek, Namibia, 6-10 Oct. 2014. ACM.

Sahin, Ozan. (2017) « From technocracy to citizen science: The nature of expertise and the place of experts in our societies ». In Blog Scientifique de l’Institut Confucius, Université de Genève. Lien permanent: https://ic.unige.ch/?p=1131

Sahin, Ozan. (2014) « Technologies de l’information et expertise interactionnelle: rencontres et travaux avec QIU Zeqi et Harry Collins ». In Blog Scientifique de l’Institut Confucius, Université de Genève. Lien permanent: https://ic.unige.ch/?p=448

Vannini, S., Gomez, R., Newell, B. C. (2019). Mind the Five: Guidelines for Data Privacy and Security in Humanitarian Work with Irregular Migrants and Vulnerable Populations. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST). https://doi.org/10.1002/asi.24317

van Zyl, I. & Sabiescu, A. (2020) Toward intersubjective ethics in community-based research, Community Development Journal, Taylor and Francis, DOI: 10.1080/15575330.2020.1777178

Winschiers-Theophilus, H., Zaman, T. & Stanley, C. A classification of cultural engagements in community technology design: introducing a transcultural approach. AI & Society 34, 419–435 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00146-017-0739-y

 [:en]Basile Zimmermann, Amalia Sabiescu, Yan Zhang

On July 30th, 2020, the Confucius Institute at the University of Geneva co-organised a thematic workshop at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum, titled “To Choose is To Renounce. How is cultural diversity taken into account in ICT design and implementation?”. The Institute has had a research agenda centered on the study of mundane technological tools in China for several years. This meeting aimed to explore possibilities to further develop existing activities with new collaborations and new directions.

Lead by Basile Zimmermann (University of Geneva), Amalia Sabiescu (Loughborough University London), and Yan Zhang (East China University of Science and Technology), a multidisciplinary team of researchers and designers was brought together to discuss the role of culture and cultural diversity in the design, development and implementation of ICT.  Participants included researchers with specialties ranging from social study of technology to communication and computer science, from universities in People’s Republic of China, United Kingdom and Switzerland.

As is customary for the Blog Scientifique, we provide here a short summary of the presentations and the discussions that followed.

Amalia Sabiescu (Loughborough University London) and Sara Vannini (University of Sheffield)  started by challenging assumptions about how the broad notions of diversity and design relate to each other. Amalia used examples from her community-based research work, and analysed them through the prism of a classification framework developed by Heike Winschiers-Theophilus, Tariq Zaman and Colin Stanely (2019). She exemplified the intercultural mode of engagement through her participatory design work with Roma communities, which aimed to provide a digital platform for cultural expression. This study showed that the first step in the attempt to represent themselves as a community was to challenge labels and stereotypes imposed by outsiders with counter-narratives (Sabiescu, 2015). Amalia then argued that to reach out to the ideal transcultural mode of engagement defined by Winschiers-Theophilus et al., a long term engagement in research and design with a community is necessary, together with critical approaches in making sense of the world and extending this awareness to others (Sabiescu et al., 2014; van Zyl and Sabiescu 2020).

Sara then focused on the topic of ICTs and migration, and especially how ICTs can be studied as mostly white, Western, patriarchal models, embedded in broader information and communication ecosystems. She exemplified her argument with a study of the uses, perceptions, and experiences of ICTs within communities of undocumented migrants in the US. On the one hand, ICTs empower, and foster social change. For example, by enabling migrants to access the information they need, or as platforms to advocate for their own narratives of migration. On the other hand, the digitization of information exposes migrants to risks connected to data privacy and information security, which can result in being detained and deported. As their lives are at stake, their experiences affect their trust in ICTs and their choice of information sources. (Carney et al., 2017; Vannini, Gomez, Newell, 2019)

Sara also shared her experience of participatory photography, which consists in asking community members to take pictures which are brought into the research conversation. Through this engaged and reflective exercise, they come to act as co-researchers. Such research methodology rebalances the power relationship between researchers and community members, and also helps the researcher to better understand the communities she works with, and deal with scientific cultural bias. (See Gomez and Vannini, 2015)

Yan Zhang (East China University of Science and Technology) presented a case study based on her fieldwork in Shanghai Bao Shan area. She showed how, in the context of the rapid urbanisation of China and an impressive amount of floating population, Shanghai and other Chinese cities have faced the emergence of multi-faceted populations. In particular, cultural differences between communities of urban and rural origins lead to specific challenges for the local authorities. New governmental practice takes place, and Yan’s research explores how this innovative use of information technology by the local government promotes social inclusion.

She Qu Tong is a public platform for residents of the Bao Shan area designed in 2017 for the WeChat platform which is widely used in China. It offers a variety of services such as online news, a bulletin board, sections for each neighbourhood, and most importantly an assembly hall where inhabitants can comment or report on community affairs. Through a presentation of three green urban space cases studies (respectively the renovation of a garden, the plant design of another, and the reconversion of a wasteland), Yan Zhang’s study reveals how She Qu Tong not only provides a new channel for participation of community members, but also deepens their level of participation. Repeatedly, reports to the « assembly hall » of the destruction of green space lead to consultations and new agreements where diverse cultural groups mix together –through the She Qu Tong. The significance of the innovative use of ICTs in these cases lies not only in its ability to put forward new channels of participation, the « assembly hall » creates a basis where diverse cultural groups can dialogue and find a common ground.

Ozan Sahin (University of Geneva) and other research associates of the Confucius Institute presented the activities in Geneva. Ozan discussed how the Institute tries to bring together Chinese studies and Science and Technology Studies. He then briefly presented his work on migrations and cultural diversity in China, based on the Imitation Game, a research method developed by sociologists H. Collins and Robert Evans at Cardiff University. In a nutshell, this method consists of asking volunteers to play a game where they are asked to pretend to be a member of a specific social group (for instance, to be from Beijing, or another Chinese province). Then, each person is invited to play three roles at a time: Judge (who are required to ask questions), Pretender (who are required to pretend to be someone else), and finally Non-Pretender (who are asked to answer naturally). Judges then compare the answers from the other players (who are unknown to her or him) and try to identify which answers come from which person. The method provides quantitative data (i.e. the success rate), and qualitative data (i.e. the questions and answers) related to intercultural communications between Chinese migrants and local inhabitants, which is helpful for a better understanding of the main obstacles to a better integration of migrant populations in Chinese cities (Sahin, 2014; 2017).

Finally, Dana Mahr (University of Geneva) presented succinctly her research on how scientific knowledge gets re-formed by cultural values, and how Western knowledge seems to be currently shifting towards epistemic diversity. Marylaure Bloch (University of Geneva) shared her project on the Chinese social credit system and how a “normal” citizen can or cannot be acknowledged by current trials by the government of China to develop digital tools at the national level. Jorge Carillio (University of Geneva) discussed his approach to comparative musicology and the potential of putting side by side Monteverdi and Kunqu operas to improve ways of performing opera in Europe and in China.

Following these fruitful exchanges and discussion, the participants and the workshop organizers agreed to turn the WSIS Forum workshop into a quarterly meeting for scholars interested in ICTs and cultural diversity. Currently, the plan is for the Confucius Institute at the University of Geneva to host this activity (online or on site). If you are interested in participating, please contact one of the authors of this summary directly.

Cette contribution a été relue par Sara Vannini

Basile Zimmermann, Amalia Sabiescu, Yan Zhang « To Choose is To Renounce. How is cultural diversity taken into account in ICT design and implementation? ». In Blog Scientifique de l’Institut Confucius, Université de Genève. Lien permanent: https://ic.unige.ch/?p=1258, consulté le 05/25/2024.

References:

Carney, M. A., Mitchell, K., Gomez, R., Vannini, S. (2017) Sanctuary Planet: A Global Sanctuary Movement for the Time of Trump. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space.

Gómez, R. & Vannini, S. (2015): Fotohistorias: Participatory Photography and the Experience of Migration. Seattle, WA. CreateSpace Independent Publishing. ISBN: 978-1517464660.

Sabiescu, A. (2015) Narratives and Counter-narratives in the Representation of The Other. The Case of the Romani Ethnic Minority. In N. J. Bidwell & H. Winschiers-Teophilus (Eds.) At the Intersection of Indigenous and Traditional Knowledge and Technology Design. Santa Rosa(CA): Informing Science Press, 67-87.

Sabiescu, A.G., David, S., van Zyl, I., & Cantoni, L. (2014) Emerging Spaces in Community-based Participatory Design. Reflections from Two Case Studies. 13th Participatory Design Conference, Windhoek, Namibia, 6-10 Oct. 2014. ACM.

Sahin, Ozan. (2017) « From technocracy to citizen science: The nature of expertise and the place of experts in our societies ». In Blog Scientifique de l’Institut Confucius, Université de Genève. Lien permanent: https://ic.unige.ch/?p=1131

Sahin, Ozan. (2014) « Technologies de l’information et expertise interactionnelle: rencontres et travaux avec QIU Zeqi et Harry Collins ». In Blog Scientifique de l’Institut Confucius, Université de Genève. Lien permanent: https://ic.unige.ch/?p=448

Vannini, S., Gomez, R., Newell, B. C. (2019). Mind the Five: Guidelines for Data Privacy and Security in Humanitarian Work with Irregular Migrants and Vulnerable Populations. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST). https://doi.org/10.1002/asi.24317

van Zyl, I. & Sabiescu, A. (2020) Toward intersubjective ethics in community-based research, Community Development Journal, Taylor and Francis, DOI: 10.1080/15575330.2020.1777178

Winschiers-Theophilus, H., Zaman, T. & Stanley, C. A classification of cultural engagements in community technology design: introducing a transcultural approach. AI & Society 34, 419–435 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00146-017-0739-y

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