Dis/Ordering: The Use of Information and Communication Technologies by Human Rights Civil Society Organizations

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This chapter focuses on the agency of nonhumans, i.e., of information and communication technologies (ICTs), in a very specific context in which organizing is intimately related to questions of visibility/invisibility. The role of ICTs as (dis)organizing devices in this context is studied using a communicative approach and an ethnographic methodology. The chapter indicates that ICTs create the paradox of (in)visibility: 1) visibility creates order and enables coordination but has negative consequences because it is conducive of data aggregation, monitoring and preemptive policing that serve to obstruct individuals from collective action; and 2) invisibility facilitates coordination because encryption, concealment and obfuscation allow individuals to organize, but at the same time leads to disorder through ellipsis, exclusion and silencing. The findings show that ICTs are powerful surveillance devices that operate on different time—space infrastructures and are appropriated by other actors for managing (in)visibilities across different sites. The chapter contributes to the literature on organization/disorganization on account of its communicational orientation, which can be found both in the object of study (ICTs) and in the communication-centered approach mobilized to study ICTs. The chapter contributes to the literature on ICTs and on civil society organizations (CSOs).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDis/organization as Communication : Exploring the Disordering, Disruptive and Chaotic Properties of Communication
EditorsConsuelo Vásquez, Timothy Kuhn
Number of pages21
Place of PublicationNew York
Publication date2019
ISBN (Print)9781138588387
ISBN (Electronic)9780429492327, 9780429960567
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes
SeriesRoutledge Studies in Communication, Organization and Organizing

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