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Processes of Inclusion and Exclusion in the Information Society

In the year 2000 the Swedish parliament set as a policy goal to achieve an “information society for all.” That goal was translated in Kista, traditionally an immigrant area, into Kista Science City’s motto: “unlimited.”

The idea of “general access” behind those formulations is grounded on a limited understanding of technology, gender and race/ethnicity. It very much relies on a liberal discourse that views technology as both gender neutral and colorblind. When, for instance, the Swedish parliament’s measures to increase IT competence among citizens are to invest on IT education at school and the university levels, they disregard two issues. One, the often limited access of minority groups to such fora. Two, the binary opposition of masculine/technical, feminine/non-technical that permeates so much of IT education (Henwood, Plumeridge, and Stepulevage, 2000) and contributes to maintain women outside those educational programs.

Another example is found in Kista Science City’s vision: to “develop Kista to a living and growing Science city, with companies and a university on an international level, in an environment that attract competent and skilled people.” The ideas of “competence” and “skill” in such a formulation are intimately linked to a (white) “international” worker. “Immigrant” and “international” become antagonist concepts.

In contrast to the liberal, “equal opportunities”, discourse that seems to permeate Kista, a social constructionist approach focuses on the social and cultural context of technology, where gender and race are being produced. The project aims at exploring two processes of exclusion to the information society that is being created in Kista. One, the symbolic relation between technology and masculinity. Two, the association between the idea of “international” and the concept of whiteness. Empirical material comes from one year long ethnographic study of the Kista region.

Project leader:
Ester Barinaga, since 2008 at Copenhagen Business School (CBS)

Status:
This project was part of the research program "The network society from within", financed by RJ from 2002 to 2005. Project final reporting took place in 2010.


Publications

Barinaga, Ester, 2009, Powerful Dichotomies – Inclusion and exclusion in the Information Society. Stockholm: EFI.

Barinaga, Ester, 2008, “The information society - a global discourse and its local translation into regional organizational practices”. In Dariusz Jemielniak & Jerzy Kociatkiewicz (eds.), Management Practices in High-tech environments. Idea Group.

Barinaga, Ester, 2006, “Välkommen till Kista Science City – om problemet att definiera en högteknologisk region och om hur ‘den andre’ konstrueras i denna process.” In P. de los Reyes & A. Neergaard (eds.), Arbetslivets (o)synliga murar. National report on power, integration and structural discrimination, Sweden’s Ministry of Justice, SOU 2006:59, pp.101-143.

Barinaga, Ester, 2006, “Informationssamhällets utanförskap”. In A. Gullberg (ed.) Tensta utanför mitt fönster – Ingång till Tensta Bo. Stockholm: Stockholmia Förlag.

Barinaga, Ester and Lena Ramfelt, 2004, “Kista – The two sides of the Network Society.” Networks and communication studies, Vol.18: 3/4: 225-244.

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