Virginia Eubanks, author of Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age, fills us in on the highlights of her tour.
I’ve been lucky to spend much of the spring and early summer touring in support of Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age. It’s an especially exciting time to be thinking and talking about the relationship between technology and social justice. The questions asked by audiences from Concord, NH to New York City to Philadelphia made it clear that, despite differences in race, gender and class, many of us are curious and concerned about the impact of technology on social, political and economic inequities. I was asked tough, insightful questions: Does the Arab Spring prove that social media can create radical political change? How does technology affect workers in the sagging American economy? Can we use new IT tools to increase governmental transparency and accountability?
What truly stood out for me, though, was the extraordinary on-the-ground work being done by social justice organizations in the cities that I visited. In Montréal, my event at the Concordia Community Solidarity Co-op Bookstore was supported by both the Concordia Women's Studies Student Association and the wonderful Simone de Beauvoir Institute, which is dedicated to exploring feminism as a tool for understanding social justice and fighting for social change. While in Canada, I was hosted by the delightful Christina Haralanova, who co-authored the WITT training toolkit, Strategic ICT for the Empowerment of Women, and introduced me to Montréal's hackerspace, Foulab, which teaches people to repurpose and redesign everything from wearable electronics to analog robots to mustard.
In Baltimore, my event at Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse was co-sponsored by Hollaback! Baltimore, a brash and refreshingly witty group dedicated to using online tools to end street harassment of women and girls. In Washington DC, my event at Busboys and Poets was sponsored by DC Jobs with Justice, the Institute for Women's Policy Research, and Teaching for Change. I stayed a few extra days in DC to undertake a “social justice tour” of my own, meeting with members of a number of community organizations. Though I learned from all the people I met, the highlight was undoubtedly my visit to ONE DC, whose steadfast commitment to shared leadership and healing in the midst of difficult struggles for housing and economic justice astonished and inspired me.
Though my book offers some uncomfortable truths about the “real world of IT” in the lives of poor and working-class women and families, my intention has always been to highlight popular technology—approaches that help all people develop critical technological citizenship and engage with technology as a site of political struggle. We can make an extraordinary impact on the inequities of the information age when we think, and practice, technological development and social justice together. What my tour proved to me is that liberation technologies are possible; in fact, they are everywhere you look.