Wikimedia spindoctor on failed Decolonisation Conference


READERS may be aware of the circumstances surrounding the hosting of an exclusive “Decolonising the Internet” conference in Cape Town.

A conference so exclusive that that it was not simply a well-funded invitation-only event, in the run-up to Wikimania Cape Town, but one which bizarrely excluded anti-apartheid activists — in the process failing miserably to include the very same persons referred to in its bold statements, cynically referring to ‘representivity, inclusivity, the marginalised and the local (see my letter to Douglas Scott, and my complaint to Wikimania).

The organisers still persist in claiming they were promoting “newly created alliances and networks, [working] together towards more diversity and inclusion in the experience of internet design, architecture, content, and governance” while further proclaiming: “We intend to dramatically change the way the internet represents the majority of the world.”

Exactly how this will ever be achieved by hosting closed door sessions dominated by ‘privileged white persons’ from the global North is still a mystery.

What the organizers did accomplish was some skilled (read manipulated) agenda-setting and box-ticking for the main programme’s half-baked keynote delivered by Dr Sean Jacobs, who parachuted in from New York to deliver an uneven address on the subject while claiming that Wikimania had done its homework on apartheid memory.

Witness Jake Orlowitz a Wikimania volunteer being interviewed by a clueless volunteer who ends her interview by stating:  “you did all my work for me, I don’t even have to ask any follow up questions”.

The podcast is a nothing less than a puff piece for the closed-door fiasco, in which local activists were not informed by organisers that the event was being co-located by Wikimania, on an international programme held in Cape Town, which will be remembered for its failure to include a single session on apartheid memory. 

Ditto Rhodes Must Fall.

Attendees were then bussed to Robben Island, and sites in D6 and local townships, without bothering to create a safe space for the very persons affected by apartheid separate development, and the latest round of academic exclusions on the nation’s campuses, nor given any other opportunity to air their views on the subject.

Orlowitz, much like so many megaphoned and amplified ‘male allies’ in the global women’s movement, proceeds to hog a debate on issues to do with developing world invisibility and ‘your’e not welcome’ implicit race bias, acknowledges its a ‘middle class hobby’, touches on issues to do with representation, in an 11 minute podcast published by ‘WhoseKnowledge‘ the apparent backers of the pre-conference.

Startling in that the obviously ‘white privileged male’  without a hint of irony, goes on to say ‘Wikipedia [is] struggling with inclusion’, ‘consistantly white men from the global North who do well .., and often who don’t see a problem’, “it’s not me, I’m not a part of it”.

Orlowitz claims his role is one of ‘using his privilege to raise awareness’ then bizarrely proceeds to speak on behalf of ‘folks who were born native and privileged’ as well as those who are ‘excluded from the system [but] ‘who carry so much knowledge’, before admitting, “I don’t even know what is missing”.

A point of view which rubbishes claims made by a member of the local Wikimedia Chapter, that the event was limited to ‘indigenes’.

Strangely Orlowitz calls systemic Wikimedia bias merely a ‘meme’; while claiming the decolonising pre-conference was inclusive of diversity and marginalised persons, but does not make any cogent argument for why the conference was closed.

That organisers wants to reproduce this closed model surrounding an online site famed for its apparent openness, is risible.

WhoseKnowledge is clearly one of many opportunistic organisations possessed of politically-correct do-gooder-speak, with all the resources but without the right model. Reverting to a previous era of closed and proprietary debate, is what is at fault here.

I therefore have no hesitation as a publisher and anti-apartheid activist, affected by Wikipedia deletions of apartheid memory, in once again rejecting the WhoseKnowledge organisation on the basis of ‘nothing about us, without us

SEE: James Alexander, you’re out

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