AoIR2016: Cultures

I opened the panel by discussing some of the ways in which solidarity is being built online around the Kurdish struggle for autonomy. You can find my slides here:


I found it interesting that one of the questions I got was basically, “but which methodological box does your presentation fit within?” (and, perhaps, the unspoken “and does it fit in that box properly?”) It was quite striking, particularly given Kumar’s later discussion of the ways in which knowledge is constructed as (il)legitimate. Methodological rigour, particularly as constructed through very set processes with their own canon, can be useful, but I think one of the strengths of Internet research for me is the experimentation with more eclectic methods, and the openness to critical perspectives on different methodological traditions. (Some thoughts that I’m sure I’ll end up working through in more depth elsewhere, although I did touch on them in my book.)

Digital Dublin: the Water Protests and Social Media in Ireland
Christian Ritter,  Kadir Has University, Turkey

Ritter discussed the use of Facebook and Twitter in resisting water privatisation in Ireland, drawing on critical discourse analysis. There are three different levels to attend to in discourse analysis: discursive practices, textual analysis, and social practices. There were a number of different narratives that emerged out of the campaign, including attempts to resist the government’s claims that

gangaWikipedia and the postcolonial politics of naming: The case of an Indian river
Sangeet Kumar,  Denison University, United States of America

English-language Wikipedia acts as a default: many other Wikipedia versions translate articles from the English. This presentation explores questions around the construction of power and knowledge, focusing on the debate around the naming of the Ganga river in the English-language Wikipedia, which is called the ‘Ganges’ on the site.

There are four broad themes in this discussion:

  • What counts as proof, or as a ‘reliable source’?
  • How are different versions of English prioritised?
  • Colonial history.
  • Whether or not voting on controversial issues is the best method for resolving disputes.

Conflicting rules and sub-rules can make it difficult to come to a final discussion, leading to the necessity of a vote. In the discussion around the Ganga, there were conflicts around whether Google Scholar or news reports are better sources for the most widely-used terms. There are also debates around the rule that non-English sources can’t be used for the English-language Wikipedia: this is especially important given that the English-language Wikipedia shapes other Wikipedias.

This also leads into discussions of whether drawing on the local variety of English (spoken in India in this case) should be prioritised: some contributors argued this was ‘balkanization’ of English, while others saw localisation as supporting a more inclusive and open Wikipedia. Naming is a political issue, particularly given the history of colonialism.

Discussion afterwards was lively, bringing up some great questions about how we research networks in their full complexity, how we manage the construction of knowledge in a more participatory way, the extent to which activism on social media influences policy, and the role of agency.

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