Planning this blog series, we came up with a laundry list of issues we felt were necessary to be discussed. Fittingly, we ended up with an unwieldy title: „Congruence and Competition of Norms and Values in the Context of Global Digitalization“. The articles in the series – ranging from responsible research in the light of technological progress, to the digitization of cultural heritage and new digital borders – covered a lot of ground and a broad set of topics. What have we learned from them?

by Marwa Fatafta

Almost a decade ago, the internet was celebrated as one of history’s greatest liberation tools. People have unparalleled access to information and a greater deal of freedom to express themselves without fear of censorship or reprisal. This enthusiasm was short-lived, however. Today’s internet is heaving with hate speech, censorship, fake news, misinformation, and all forms of extremism. Governments have tightened their grip on digital spaces, and tech companies have grown into nontransparent empires with immense influence on the world’s politics, economies, and societies. These changes have brought forward new terrains of conflict and have redefined the relationship between the citizen and the state.

by Michael Nagenborg & Monika Kuffer

The discussion about the interplay between digital technologies and the process of globalization is often focused around the following question: who has access to global information networks and who benefits from digital communication technologies? These are essential questions and it can hardly be denied that they confront us with a series of political and ethical questions. However, we also need to recognize the ongoing digitalization of the globe, a process where more and more people are put on various kinds of maps.

Europe’s new digital borders

by Matthias Leese

The European Union’s (EU) external border framework is not only increasingly reliant on digital databases, but these databases are now set to become interoperable. By 2020, the European Commission (EC) aims to have a fully interconnected new architecture for identity management at the border in place. Based on biometric enrolment of all third-country citizens, Europe’s new digital borders raise a number of concerns, including suspicion, large-scale surveillance, and internal policing that spread well beyond the border site.

von Daniel Jacob

Das Internet ist ein gigantisches Netzwerk von Maschinen. Während sich dessen konkrete Nutzung permanent weiterentwickelt, bleibt dessen Funktion im Kern doch immer der Austausch von Informationen. Die vielfältigen Institutionen der Internet Governance lassen sich als Versuch verstehen, diesen Austausch zu ermöglichen. Eine zentrale Rolle kommt dabei der Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) zu. Sie verwaltet das globale Adressbuch des Internets und legt so fest, wie weit das Netz des Internets reicht. Die technische Notwendigkeit einer solchen zentralen Instanz wird im Prinzip kaum bestritten. Zunehmend jedoch verschärfen sich die Konflikte darüber, wie weit deren Kompetenzen reichen und wer sie kontrollieren sollte. Letztlich, so möchte ich zeigen, geht es um die Frage, wieviel internationale Autorität in diesem Bereich der Internet Governance notwendig und legitim ist.

by Maria Pawelec
Work of the author is supported by the Institutional Strategy of the University of Tübingen (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, ZUK 63)

Bridge International is a for-profit chain of private (pre-)primary schools employing technology to allegedly provide “high-quality, affordable education” in the Global South. Like many other actors, Bridge (cl)aims to bridge the global digital divide and to use information and communication technologies to realize development (“ICT4D”), in particular in sub-Saharan Africa. But are such projects really allowing the region to “catch up” with the rest of the world and strengthen its weak global standing? Not necessarily. Many projects’ implementation mirrors existing global power inequalities and may even reinforce them.1 Moreover, the technologies employed themselves augment these imbalances. The present contribution illustrates this, using Bridge as a case study.

by Zinaida Manžuch

Large-scale digitisation has brought cultural heritage objects and materials from the remotest places of the world to our computer screens. At first sight, this innovation seems to make cultural heritage accessible to everyone like never before. However, technological advances have not eliminated social inequalities between powerful and marginalized communities and ethical issues in communicating cultural heritage. These issues became much more vivid and obvious when the spread of cultural heritage reached the global scale.

by Nolen Gertz

With the rise of big data, internet-of-things, machine learning, targeted advertising, face recognition algorithms, virtual assistants, cyberbullying, cyberstalking, and cyberwarfare, we find more and more people and policy makers around the world debating whether technological advances are helping us or hurting us. Such debates often focus on trying to figure out a way to balance the need to preserve human values with the desire to not interfere with technological progress. The central problem that arises then is what to do when values and progress come into direct conflict with each other. Should we err on the side of caution and rein in companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook so they do not interfere with personal privacy and national democracy? Or should we take a more pioneering perspective and view the occasional rights violation as a necessary risk that can be outweighed by the rewards for medicine, manufacturing, and media? Or should we try to find a middle path and have tech companies and policy makers work together to develop guidelines for “responsible research and innovation”?

In cooperation with the International Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW),
Uni Tübingen

In the course of forming the global information society, the implementation of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) has been realized in many parts of the world. Technology today pervades most areas of human life, and is considered a useful tool for international development and the empowerment of disadvantaged groups. However, when implementing technology, central values such as data security, privacy and fair access to the internet are often neglected and local culture, content, and values become marginalized. Especially the export of ICT to the Global South raises concern about cultural domination and even neo-colonialism. Moreover, technology is not neutral but has values embedded in it. This provokes ethical questions about global power relations, (gender) justice, inclusion, and the implications of the distribution and use of technology. The authors in this blog series will explore related issues and discuss the congruence and competition of norms and values in the context of global digitalization.

by Hakim Khatib 

Authoritarian regimes and religious institutions in the Muslim majority world see eye-to-eye on the topic of atheism. United by their fear of losing control over their populations and their desire for conformity, consecutive governments have pushed for unfair restrictions on their subjects’ beliefs since their inception. But even in society, non-belief remains a taboo. Should atheists in Muslim majority world become more vocal?

von Holger Marcks

Am Ende ging es dann doch recht fix. Hatte der Islamische Staat (IS) noch im März 2017 fast die Hälfte des Territoriums in Syrien unter seiner Kontrolle, ist das Möchtegern-Kalifat mittlerweile so gut wie von der Landkarte getilgt. Das heißt zwar nicht, dass er als Terrororganisation keine Rolle in dem Land mehr spielen wird. Doch als maßgeblicher Bürgerkriegsakteur mit territorialer Basis dürfte der IS weitestgehend aus dem Spiel genommen sein. Das macht diesen verworrenen Bürgerkrieg zunächst einmal ein wenig übersichtlicher. Andererseits wird damit aber auch der Vorhang für das nächste Kapitel geöffnet, das neue Wirrungen verspricht. Denn schließlich waren wegen des Kampfes gegen den IS einige Konfliktlinien erkaltet. Diese könnten nun wieder heiß werden.

Gebiete unter der Kontrolle der verschiedenen Kriegsfraktionen im März und November 2017 (Quelle: syriancivilwarmap.com).

Allerdings lässt sich aufgrund der vielschichtigen Konstellationen nur schwer einschätzen, welche Dynamiken daraus erwachsen dürften. Der folgende Beitrag soll daher einen Überblick über die vergangenen und neuesten Entwicklungen im Syrischen Bürgerkrieg geben, um zumindest den Ist-Stand ermessen zu können. Die Anfertigung eines solchen Panoramas ist jedoch, zugegeben, eine kleine Herausforderung. Denn aufgrund der zahlreichen Konfliktparteien und multiplen Fronten sind die Entwicklungen derart konfus, dass sie sich nicht so einfach chronologisch zusammenfassen lassen. Der Beitrag stellt daher die jeweiligen Akteursgruppen und Allianzen dar und versucht, deren (ambivalenten) Verhältnisse untereinander zu sortieren und aufzuschlüsseln.

Ein Taktisches CIMIC TEAM (TCT) der gemischten Aufklärungskompanie (ISR Coy) des 4. Deutschen Einsatzkontingents MINUSMA geht über den Wochenmarkt in Wabaria nahe Gao/Mali, am 07.02.2017. ©Bundeswehr/Sebastian Wilke. [Quelle] [Bild in voller Größe]
Ein Taktisches CIMIC TEAM (TCT) der gemischten Aufklärungskompanie (ISR Coy) des 4. Deutschen Einsatzkontingents MINUSMA geht über den Wochenmarkt in Wabaria nahe Gao/Mali, am 07.02.2017. ©Bundeswehr/Sebastian Wilke
Eine frühere Version dieses Beitrags erschien bereits auf dem Blog Just Peace and War.

by Stephan Jockheck

Not unlike the recent report Filling the ranks on the recruitment problems of the British Army shows for the UK, the German armed forces (Bundeswehr) struggle badly to meet their recruitment goals and to fulfill the “Trendwende Personal” (the turnaround in the personnel strength) as proclaimed by the German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen. Last year the recruitment department of the Bundeswehr tried a new way of targeting especially young people on YouTube. With a series of 59 episodes called Die Rekruten (The Recruits) YouTube users followed a couple of German Navy recruits through their basic training at the German Navy Technical School.

The series was widely criticised for not showing the serious implications of military service. Two weeks ago, the new series MALI on the deployment of German forces with the United Nations mission MINUSMA in Mali started as a sequel. But does the new series give a realistic impression of the challenges and risks of being a German soldier today and why should this be a requirement for a YouTube series?

Dies ist ein Cross-Post mit dem HSFK/PRIF-Blog, bei denen wir uns herzlich bedanken.

von Eva Herschinger

Punk-Band Frontfrau, Ex-Katholikin, Kosmetikverkäuferin – für die meisten klingt das nicht nach der Biographie einer der aktivsten Anhängerinnen des sogenannten Islamischen Staates (IS). Und doch: Bis Sally Jones jüngst bei einem US-Drohnenangriff ums Leben gekommen ist, war die Britin für mehr als vier Jahre das weibliche Gesicht des IS. Die Geschichte von Jones wirft eine grundlegende Frage auf: Wieso werden Frauen Terroristinnen? Ein Blick auf das breite Spektrum und die Geschichte des weiblichen Terrorismus zeigt, dass Terroristinnen weder neu noch selten, weder vor allem Opfer noch rein persönlich motiviert sind. Wenn an solchen Stereotypen festgehalten wird, steht dies nicht nur einer umfassenden Analyse der Gründe, sondern auch der Prävention von weiblichem Terrorismus im Wege.  

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