Archive for the ‘Pramod K. Nayar’ Category

Pramod K. Nayar “WikiLeaks, the New Informational Cultures, and Digital Parrhesia”

December 3, 2013 Leave a comment

Nayar, Pramod K. 2010. WikiLeaks, the New Information Cultures, and Digital Parrhesia. Economic and Political Weekly 45.52: 27-30.

Like CDC, WL also sees itself as deriving its moral and ethical stance from the UDHR (citing article 19 on its website), and thus locates itself in a global cultural apparatus: the universalmovement for Human and related Rights. (3)

The persecution of Assange – his dramatic arrest, the rape charges, the threats of extradition and possible assassination – makes for a very strange mix where thevirtual meets the flesh-and-blood: online activity whose validity and value are sworn to by the very real threat to the personof Julian Assange. Conversely, does eliminating the ‘body’ of Assange alter the virtual threat that the new culture of information represents? The answer is ‘no’, for we are in the age of an electronic civil society and information culture unlimited to bodies, geographies or national boundaries. (3)

We therefore must see WL’s collection of documents as the processesthat make up the world’s functioning. In a sense, WL directs us, for the first time, to the makingof the world order (or disorder). (4)

We are now in the era of the hyper-visible, by which I mean the excessive and repeated circulation of such images we were not intended to ever see. (5)

Scenes of war, classified documents that legitimised torture, secret parleys behind policy constitute what we might term a counter-archive. An archive has traditionally been a space where documents are stored and the rights of interpretation of these documents rest with a chosen few (known in classical times as ‘archons’). Here, in WL’s archives we have a database from which we, as readers, need to build narratives. […] Therefore, the archive of documents WL leaks must be, and can be, made to tell a story– about injustice, corruption, deprivation, suffering in anypart of the world – depending on our choice of frames of interpretation and wanderings through the corpus. (5)

What WL does is not to pinpoint blames for wrong-doing on X or Y. Rather, it gives us a glimpse of the institutional, state, organizational culturesthat made X or Y’s acts possible. (6)

What WL does is to locate a Lynndie England (the infamous prison warden at Abu Ghraib) within an American culture of war and a war effort that empowered such individuals. The individual soldiers only denote individual wrong-doing, but what we need to see is the connotation – which is the cultural apparatus of atrocity. (7)

If public space is the space for different people to tell their stories WL marks the arrival of such a space (we shall return to the nature and function of this electronic space in the last section). This is the main reason why it is fascinating to see how the USA, the so-called defender of free speech and therefore multiple stories, has suddenly decided that WL is not about free speech at all because it hurts ‘global’ interests (US commentators have even called for the death penalty to Bradley Manning). (7)

These seem to be two apparently contradictory points – about digital parrhesia being performed at risk to the truth-teller and contemporary condition where we cannot pinpoint a singletruth-teller. I propose a slightly different parrhesia, one that is less interested in the truthteller than in the culture of truth-telling. Digital cultures create a new communications culture, which generates a new community, the global civil society (we have seen this in the case of online supports, campaigns, humanitarian efforts in the wake of the tsunami, Katrina, the Haiti earthquake, protests against the WTO, etc), and the globalisation of conscience. WL is an embodiment of this new form of communications-leading-to-community, a digital parrhesia. At risk is digital space as parrhesiastic space. At risk is a new media cultural practice (Napster, Bit Torrent, Rapidshare, Creative Commons, Open Source Movement, Wikipedia, WikiLeaks), not the individual voice. At risk is the entire culture of information sharing, the agora of information. (10)