Phoenicia, the Internet and the shared cultural memories
Hadi Saba Ayon
Digital technology radically reshapes the traditional methods of producing information and essential components of the digital environment. Producing calculable traces of interaction reconstructs social practices and questions sociocultural norms and legal frameworks. We speak of digital culture (Doueihi, 2011), made up of communication and information exchange modes that displace, redefine and reshape knowledge into new forms, formats and methods of acquisition and transmission. What modalities does it establish for belonging to a group, organizing it and participating in its activities? Why do we talk about memory in a complex architectural space that makes us believe in an “integral memory” automatically resulting from any action that produces traces, saved, accumulated and calculated? Can digital writing be included in the long history of writing? For Emmanuel Souchier, the “cartographic” practice dedicated to the Internet is part of the long history of writing (2008, 2013). As a result, the Web is like the “text” of the Sumerians, a universe of “traces” that we must arrange, organize, and show, a text to read and interpret, a world to discover. Thus, the history of writing and the organization and sharing of human activity teaches us the conditions of expression of humans in interaction with their environment and the power relations they establish with this occasion. We find the history of ancient Phoenicia, located along the Mediterranean coast, fascinating to compare with the history and evolution of the Internet from a political and social point of view. We cannot speak of Phoenicia as a centralized political entity but as a set of city-states that speak and write the same language (Krings, 1994), similar to what Internet users gather today. Centred around the royal palace before moving into the territory of a mercantile class and aristocratic commerce, Phoenician society, rooted in business and maritime flux, showed three classes: the free people, the semi-free people, and the enslaved people. A sociopolitical division that echoes in today’s digital society. Suppose the invention of computers cannot be dissociated from the US army’s strategy that resulted in the advent of the Internet. In that case, the network is a decentralized environment which does not recognize a single authority and model and has none. The history of the creation of the Internet and its development shows founding groups (military, academics, researchers, hippies and computer enthusiasts) and later users with abilities that vary from expertise to ignorance of their rights and the loss of freedoms. Moreover, the digital environment has developed and evolved thanks to decentralization.
The commemorative book Bandung-Belgrade-Havana in Global History and Perspective: The deployment of Bandung Constellation towards a global future was launched during the BBH 2022 International Conference in Surabaya (Indonesia) and is edited by Darwis Khudori (Le Havre Normandy University) in collaboration with Diah Ariani Arimbi (Airlangga University) and Isaac Bazié (Université du Québec à Montréal).
To quote this chapter: Saba Ayon H. (2022). From the city-State to the computing society: Phoenicia, the Internet and the shared cultural memories, in Darwis Khudori, Diah Ariani Arimbi and Isaac Bazié (Ed.), Bandung-Belgrade-Havana in Global History and Perspective: The deployment of Bandung Constellation towards a global future. Airlangga University Press, Surabaya, p. 310-326.
“How do we go beyond an inclusive digital city?” is the title of a round table session presented at the Bandung-Belgrade-Havana International Conference in Bandung (Indonesia) on November 09, 2022. It is a group work on digital culture and the city developed by scholars from different institutions and fields from France, Brazil, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. The work presented multicultural aspects of city thought in its digital forms and inclusive models and conditions.
Digital has taken over the city, thanks to its network of infrastructures, dematerialized services (e-administration, e-commerce), and of course, uses that strongly redraw the way of living today. How does the digital culture modify the structure of the city, its space, and its living forms? How to inhabit the physical and digital environments of the city? The city does not have one definition or model. However, it has one common characteristic: gathering people in a specific place with a central authority. In his essay Two linguistic models of the city (Deux modèles linguistiques de la cité), Emile Beneviste (1974) exploits an opposition between the Roman and Greek versions of the city. In Latin, the word “civis” indicates a relationship of reciprocity and interdependence between two individuals or groups. Its correct translation is not “citizen” but “fellow citizen”. In Greek, the word “polis” defines citizens and citizenship. “Polis” specifies the rules of membership, the rights of participation in the city’s activity, and what results from it: the responsibility and privileges linked to citizenship. The differentiation between the two words, the two models, draws limits between full participation in the city and a confident presence. What about the citizens and their participation in the digital city? How to include those who do not belong to the city, transformed continuously by digital technology and reshaped in its space, architecture and role? Milad Doueihi wrote about a “new virtual urbanism” (2011) that has become our refuge and the space for our activities. It has its architecture, aesthetics, values, literature and agents. According to him, it constitutes hybrid urbanism inhabited by traces, documents, and fragments but also animated by the voice and the body, by a different temporality, or a new culture. According to Philippe Vidal (2018), digital technology creates territorial differentiation (between spaces) and social differentiation within the same space, for example, within the same city. The city’s digitalization increases the possibilities for making society more inclusive, but the “smart city” generates many obstacles and risks of exclusion for diverse individuals and populations.
The round table, divided into two sessions, questioned how digital technology’s social and cultural uses redefine everyday life’s diverse practices. It brought two topics from Indonesia: the first addresses the need for social participation in sustainable, inclusive cities. It discusses three main interrelated: city and differences, sustainable city, and inclusive city. It talked about how digital technology creates connectivity and transforms services and culture.
The second topic questioned how can business become inclusive in the digital era and highlighted inclusive services design at the heart of a government’s mission that can help tackle complex issues and build trust with customers/citizens more effectively. It talked about inclusiveness, connecting the city with business. In addition, when an innovation mindset is six times higher in the “most-equal” cultures – workplace environments, it helps everyone attain higher positions – compared to the “least-equal”.
Another topic from the Philippines presented Manila as a smart city and discussed the digital social participation of its inhabitants. It talked about the city of Manila on Facebook, showing how users/inhabitants engage with the city and its information. It gave an example using data from October 25 to 31, 2022, showing that Tourism, Culture and Arts are the highest engagements, followed by Disaster and Risk Services. It pointed out that good governance in a digital space is also brought to the fore. It concluded with a C.I.T.Y proposal to achieve the full potential of a highly engaged digital city based on developing Consistency, Inclusivity, Training and Yield.
From Brazil, three presentations evoked the city’s artistic, commercial and educational aspects. The first deals with structuring the Brazilian handicraft management system and comprises diagnosis and strategic planning. One of the several aspects raised in this work is the need to increase the insertion and use of digital technology in the feasibility of formalizing and training artisans and marketing via e-commerce of the artefacts they produce.
The second discusses a unified virtual space for art and crafts exhibitions. It suggests a mobile application where artisans and artists can promote their work and get in touch with customers.
Moreover, as the city in the Amazon region can take the form of villages inhabited by indigenous communities, the third topic seeks to evaluate the process of indigenous Education, considering the use of technological devices. It discusses implementing an indigenous virtual library model that will assist elementary and high school students based on crafts productions of the Munduruku of Bragança indigenous group. Furthermore, a final presentation from Thailand brought to the debate a special touch: Discussing the city from the point of view of colours and talking about the Thai colour scheme that connotes Thai identity in packaging design for brand communication.
The Bandung-Belgrade-Havana International Conference is a part of the Bandung Spirit Conference Series, community-based conferences organised around the Bandung Spirit Ideals. It is conceived as a shared space based on a common concern on global issues among international scholars, activists of social movements, academic institutions and public services inspired by the Bandung Spirit. It is a collective work to formulate recommendations to be submitted to world political leaders. In addition to sharing academic works, speakers and participants are supposed to participate in elaborating the recommendations.
1) School of Communication, Atma Jaya Catholic University of Indonesia.
2) School of Communication, Atma Jaya Catholic University of Indonesia.
3) Institute of Arts and Science, Far Eastern University, the Philippines.
4) Department of Communication Arts, University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, Thailand.
5) Monvadee Siripremruedee
6) Faculty of Communication, University of Brasilia, Brazil.
7) Department of Design, University of Brasilia, Brazil.
8) Department of Design, University of Brasilia, Brazil.
9) UMR 6266 CNRS IDÉES, Le Havre Normandy University, France.
Presentations from Indonesia, the Philippines, Brazil and Thailand on the digital and inclusive city at the BBH 2022 International Conference in Bandung-Indonesia.
In the plenary session of the BBH 2022 International Conference in Bandung: “NEFOS IS BACK!” (BRICS, NAM AND OTHER EMERGING FORCES IN A GLOBAL RESTRUCTURING”.
With Beatriz Bissio (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro), Marina Shilina (the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics in Moscow), Azzah Kania Budianto and Sayf Muhammad Alaydrus (Universitas Airlangga in Surabaya and Secretariat of BBH International Conference), Rowena Capulong Reyes (FEU-Manila), Dorien Kartikawangi and Nia Sarinastiti (Atma Jaya-Jakarta) Rania Nuralfath (Universitas Padjadjaran in Bandung and Secretariat of BBH International Conference).
Good afternoon fellows and participants, and welcome to my second course on disability. I am very glad to see you in my virtual class to discuss and exchange our experiences.
Today we talk about disability and its information and communication questions: How can we understand disability situation using information and communication theories? How to deal with it in the Covid-19 pandemic context? How to define social participation for disabled people in a networked era?
In this course, we conceive disability as a variation of human development (Fougeyrollas et al., 1998, 2010, 2018); in another words, it is a difference in the level of achievement of life habits or the exercise of human rights. We approach it from a communication angle, that of constructivism, to understand the individual-environment relationship; and that of symbolic interactionism, to apprehend the individual-society relationship analyzing the social interaction and defining its context.
We talk about disability as a situation of dysfunction in the communication, defined by Gregory Bateson and Jurgen Ruesch (1951) as processes by which subjects influence each other. We approach digital culture and changes that it brought and that affect our whole society and our way of thinking and acting.
We talk about disability in exceptional times: Covid-19 pandemic. It drives us to question policies and forms of interaction concerning disabled people.
Our human society was seduced by the promises of technology of a better future, and we were taken aback by the digital. Historian Milad Doueihi described this fascination as “a new civilizing process”, borrowing the term from the German sociologist Norbert Elias. The latter defined “Civilizing Process” as a correspondence between the historical process of seizing power by a centralized state on the one hand, and the self-control exercised by individuals over their spontaneous violence, their instincts and their affects- on the other.
Has SARS- CoV-2 triggered a process of “uncivilization”? Do the thousands of deaths around the world; the hundreds of testimonies of families and organizations on abandoned disabled and vulnerable loved ones and the heartbreaking stories of triage of patients recreate a “humiliation processes” (Smith, 2001) against the most vulnerable, in particular those with disabilities?
Overwhelmed by their physical or functional differences throughout their life, disabled persons find themselves in the digital environment, in times of a pandemic, on equal terms with Internet users. The body is at the heart of social interaction: we live, and we build ourselves through our body. However, at present, this social (physical) interaction – is severely limited – because of Covid-19. Bodies become suspicious in public and even private spaces. They are inspected, evaluated, often sidelined, abandoned, sometimes even ousted. Sars-Cov-2, like AIDS, disrupts the relationship with others, dims the practices that build trust, and reinforces the constraints towards the contaminating agent.
The body of the disabled person, already a source of social stigma, suddenly becomes equal to other bodies. What matters (alarms) is the presence of another, at a distance far enough to be perceived as reassuring (less than 1 meter). Thus, all bodies become equal in their vulnerability to fear, sickness, and death.
During the current crisis, the digital is providing our community with leeway, thus enabling us to function. Whether it is to inform, communicate, telecommute, study, shop, or manage administrative work: more than ever, the digital proves to be an environment for social processes.
In the era where digital technology affects personal and environmental factors and everyone’s life habits, can we think the full social participation of disabled people in relation to the access? To the usage? What can we do with and in digital so that our presence is not limited to one or more identities exploited by trackers (governments, companies, individuals, and others)?
“The importance of accessibility to the physical, social, economic and cultural environment, to health and education and to information and communication, in enabling persons with disabilities to fully enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
The access is therefore an essential condition for the exercise of human rights.
We are facing a socio-technical ecosystem where the user is the center and the brain. It is therefore essential, for the disabled person as well as for any other person, to create methods and find ways to develop social links, self-esteem, control of one’s life and time, quality of life, and to build online communities. How to think digital traces in an approach that no longer refers to an identity but to an ability to manage communication?
How to operate actively in the knowledge society? How to bring out a new “living together”?
Despite the progress made in recent years, people with disabilities still face obstacles in accessing healthcare, education, employment, recreational activities or participation in political life, and also present a risk of increased poverty and social exclusion.
It includes considerations for actors: to reduce the potential exposure to Covid-19; to put a plan in place to ensure continuation of the care and support the person needs; to prepare household for the instance the person should contract Covid-19; and to ensure that all members of the household and caregivers enact the basic protection measures.
The WHO calls also governments for actions, to ensure public health information and communication is accessible; to undertake targeted measures for people with disability and their support networks; to undertake targeted measures for disability service providers in the community; to increase attention given to this population living in potentially high-risk settings of developing the disease; and to ensure that emergency measures include the needs of disabled persons.
It urges to ensure that Covid-19 health care is Accessible, Affordable and Inclusive; to deliver telehealth ; to develop and implement service continuity plans; to communicate frequently with disabled people and their support networks; to reduce potential exposure to Covid-19 during provision of disability services in the community; and to provide sufficient support for disabled people who have complex needs.
And finally, it calls for actions in institutions to reduce potential exposure to Covid-19; to prepare for Covid-19 infections in institutions; to provide sufficient support for residents with disability and to guarantee the rights for residents during the Covid-19 outbreak.
On the side of civil society, organizations defending the rights of disabled people criticized governments for not acting in favor of people with disability. For example, the League of Rights and Freedoms in Quebec in Canada, underlines in a text entitled “Defend the right to participation, crisis or not” published in a special issue of its review “Rights and Handicap” (2021), that the crisis produced by the Covid -19 was marked by a deficit of democratic mechanisms for participation and consultation of the population (in Quebec). She recalled the importance of citizen participation – especially during a pandemic – stressing the idea that action and democracy are not mutually exclusive, but complementary.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, called in March of this year (2021), to remove the remaining barriers for disabled people by defining flagship initiatives focused on three main themes: their rights; their independent life and autonomy and; finally, equal opportunities and non-discrimination. “We all have the right to a life without barriers. And it is our duty, as a society, to ensure the full participation of all on the basis of equality with others”, she said.
Finally, we remember that effective participation must have a significant impact on decisions, especially with regard to the most marginalized and vulnerable populations. The right to participation presupposes taking part in the public decision-making process and, consequently, having the assurance of being considered in the design, planning and implementation of policies or services that must guarantee respect for its rights.
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