Academic journal article Cartography & Geographic Information Systems

Information Technologies, Advocacy, and Development: Resistance and Backlash to Industrial Shrimp Farming

Academic journal article Cartography & Geographic Information Systems

Information Technologies, Advocacy, and Development: Resistance and Backlash to Industrial Shrimp Farming

Article excerpt

Introduction

While the overwhelming belief is that advanced information and communication technologies (ICT) will profoundly influence society, experts differ significantly about whether these impacts will be positive or negative (note 1). Current discussions of ICT frequently embody either optimistic or pessimistic predictions. Such polemical debates, however, hinder the design of policies, programs, and projects that are intended to realize the development or the democratizing potential of these technologies--especially when applied in the developing world. Empirical evidence suggests that both positive and negative impacts occur--depending on which of many diverse points of view is embraced, the potential for particular stakeholders or social interest groups to take advantage of the technologies, the scale or level of analysis at which impacts are evaluated, the political-economic and institutional context, etc. This article accepts this ambiguity. It also begins with the assumption that technologies are shaped by the decisions of social actors with particular goals and objectives. It is their vision of the future that is imbedded in the new technologies. It then follows that in order to understand and predict the impact of new technologies it is fundamentally necessary to explicitly examine the goals and objectives of those who are shaping them. The article uses the recent globalization of resistance to industrial shrimp fanning and associated industry response to empirically explore the relationship between society and ICTs in the developing world both in terms of how society shapes technology and conversely how technology affects society. Based on ethnographic and survey research, it integrates several areas of study: resistance to the expansion of global capital; the formation of a significant global political arena associated with human and environmental issues; and the role of ICT in achieving social goals. Especially of interest are the links between ICTs, political and public advocacy, and participatory development.

Scholars of globalization contend that the mobility of capital has created a global commodity system that significantly by-passes the modern nation-state and that processes of globalization have consequential social and environmental costs (McMichael 1996). These costs, in turn, have provoked considerable mobilization against transnational capital including a proliferation of local, national, and international, non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These trends have resulted in the emergence of new social actors and alliances among actors, both among those who support and those who oppose globalization. The activities of resistance groups often have induced significant and well-organized backlash which at times denies the existence of social or environmental crisis or promotes the view that market forces can best mitigate any social or environmental problems that do occur. National elites and other agents of global capital, at times working in concert with mainstream environmental organizations, are engaged in ongoing attempts to usurp the social, moral, and political imperatives that connect grassroots NGO movements with seemingly, de-politicized institutional mechanisms that are often techno-scientific in nature. In the environmental arena, these processes of resistance and backlash have taken place as the numbers of national level government agencies concerned with environmental policy and management, and transnational institutions mandated with implementing various forms of global environmental governance, have increased. The result has been the emergence of new social actors and the formation of a global arena in which new forms of political agency have been created and contested against both established and newly configured relations/structures of power. This article investigates the roles of ICT in the emergence of one such important global sphere that has formed around environmental and human issues associated with the expansion of aquaculture, specifically industrial shrimp farming in tropical coastal zones of Asia, Latin America, and Africa (note 2). …

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