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The center and the periphery: beyond Eurocentrism

Authors:
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XRDS • SUMME R 201 6 • VOL .22 • NO .4
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language, representation,
and African identity. Luiza
Prado and Pedro Oliviera
raise the problem of deco-
loniality in relation to de-
sign, reflecting on the ways
in which they have used
the idea of timelessness in
their own work to develop
localized and different un-
derstandings of time, the
past, and the future. While
journalist Rahul Bhatia
gives us an account from
India of a growing local
grassroots resistance to
the present government’s
plans to develop 100 smart
cities, exposing the com-
plex politics of technologi-
cal development and class.
And yet as we problema-
tize modern technological
paradigms, we cannot deny
we are living in a global-
ized world, where flows of
capital, technology, and
culture flow in multiple di-
rections—between East and
West. Where complex cul-
tural intermixing, remix-
ing, and transmixing create
identities and institutions
that are fragmented, hy-
brid, and constantly find-
ing themselves negotiating
between spaces, places,
practices, expectations, and
desires. This is something
both of us are intimately
acquainted with, as we are
both products of globaliza-
tion. We are subjects with
Technology travels.
It moves around
the world in proj-
ects of design and
development.”1 When dis-
cussing computing, cul-
ture, and postcoloniality, it
is precisely this statement
that forms the essence of
the current issue of XRDS.
The proliferation of tech-
nologies and, more im-
portantly, technological
paradigms interwoven with
global and state policy,
models of development,
and histories of colonial-
ism exert great influence to-
day. From the ways in which
societies and individuals
all over the world make
sense of the world and of
themselves, to how they
build and structure their
material environments
and social and cultural re-
alities, computing is deeply
intertwined. It is infused
with global and local poli-
tics and questions of power.
It was this question of
power and voice that com-
pelled us to frame how this
issue on “Culture of Com-
puting” takes on the idea of
“culture.” In our view, most
1 Irani et al. Postcolonial comput-
ing: a lens on design and devel-
opment. In Proceedings of the
SIGCHI Conference on Human
Factors in Computing Systems,
CHI ‘10 (Atlanta, April 10–15).
ACM, New York, 2010.
mainstream discourse in
fields that fall under the ru-
bric of what Herbert Simon
calls the “sciences of the
artificial”—computer sci-
ence, human computer in-
teraction, engineering, and
design—have historically
relegated discourses from
outside the Anglo-European
sphere to the margins. In
fact, as guest editors a ma-
jor concern for us is how
dominant narratives that
frame technolog y in terms
of development for the
global South—as opposed
to from, or of, or with the
global South—have been
indicators of progress and
things to value. How coloni-
ality from Anglo-European
civilization to the rest of
the world has shaped our
understanding of society,
nature, and the individual.
Many of the authors in
this issue are working in
this incredibly difficult
space to ask whether a Eu-
rocentric culture of com-
puting could be made more
aware of its politics. By
drawing from alternative
socio-cultural traditions,
what alternative cultures
of computing could be real-
ized? Taking postcolonial
computing as his point of
departure, Syed Mustafa
Ali proposes how we can go
further and think of deco-
lonial computing bringing
arguments and narratives
from the margins to en-
gage with the mainstream.
Nicola Bidwell raises vari-
ous issues around the par-
ticipation of Africans in the
global HCI com munity, and
the initiatives taken by Af-
riCHI to address issues of
The Center and The Periphery:
Beyond Eurocentrism
begin
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XRDS • SUMME R 201 6 • VOL .22 • NO .4
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complex histories of move-
ment and migration, of
trying to assimilate while
at the same time assert-
ing our difference. Hence,
this issue also takes on the
view that globalization has
changed cultures and given
rise to new identities, new
practices, and new systems.
An interview with the artist
Laleh Mehran examines
her identity as an Iranian-
American and the ways she
talks about hybridity and
liminal identity through
her media installations.
We also inter viewed Profes-
sor Jian Guan, who reveals
much about the ways in
which Chinese industries
have changed during the
last decade, and how mod-
ern technologies, like the
smartphone, are constant-
ly being modified and
used in ways completely
different from how they
would be used in the West.
Lastly, Rodrigo Gonzatto
and Fredrick van Amstel
talk about their project
of “Design Livre” and the
concept of “software for
freedom” in Brazil; they
are creating software plat-
forms codesigned by com-
munities of users.
In this issue you will find
representation of a variety
of views. Not only from cul-
tures around the world, but
from different disciplin-
ary cultures—computer
science, journalism, art,
and design. We have tried
to give you a slice of the
incredible heterogeneity
and plurality of critical
scholarship and practice
around the world. As we
consistently encounter
issues of difference, cul-
ture, race, ethnicity, class,
ideology, and gender
across a rapidly chang-
ing global landscape, we
hope this issue will spark
thoughtful and reflective
discussions and debates
about the role of comput-
ing in these fluid times.
Ahmed Ansari and
Raghavendra Kandala,
Issue Editors
Technological
paradigms
interwoven
with global and
state policy,
models of
development,
and histories
of colonialism
exert great
influence
today.
In 2014, the Indian government sent
the largest number of requests (more
than 10,000) to remove content from
Facebook.
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