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Yoshida, Hiroyuki (2000) Information flows for African communities and their environments: An analysis of roles of geographical information in processes of decision making. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The identification of roles that geographical information can play in environmental decision making of, and for, African communities is the objective of this thesis. The hypothesis of this paper is as follows. Geographical information of Africa functions to reproduce and sustain environmental and socio-economic problems in the continent while maintaining various interests of research and decision making communities although such information are supposed to be used for the solution of those problems. The study also contends that emerging communication networks being most prominently actualised as the Internet have a potential to enable local communities to change the use / abuse of information about themselves and their environments. The analysis of current information flows via the concept of 'power' of Michael Foucault and according to the concept of simulation' of Jean Baudrillard suggests the need for examination of conventional information flows as alternatives to the status quo of decision making proces. Flows of scientific information arc self-perpetuating. They go through research communities collecting information from fields and decision making communities. Scientific suggestions are converted into agendas and actions. Imposed decisions resulting from these flows affect local communities and their enviroments. Research communities study such effects, and information flows repeat the process against and again Although individuals of the three types of communities - scientists, decision makers and local communities - may want "improvements" of some sort, institutions do not need any radical change. They only need a continuation of the self-perpetuation of the information flows for their survival. This phenomenon is termed the 'dynamic immobility' of the Foucauldian structure. A second feature of the information flows critically examined concerns the manipulation of the information by those 'producing' it. It is argued that the flows of geographical information on Africa delivered to the public by the mass media as news and reports contributes to the critical mass for implosion of meaning'. In such circumstances, the significance of African events such as famines and droughts themselves disappear, and only the illusion of a simplified and allegorised combination of tragedies and of humunitarian efforts are produced and circulated. The mass media do not simply provide information collected from the field to the public hut rather produce material to entertain and please the public by utilising various proper nouns such as placenames picked up from the fields in Africa. Just as scientific hypotheses are academic consumables for decision making communities in the Foucauldian sense, news and reports are humanitarian consumables for the public in the Baudrillardian sense. Individuals in African communities and those concerned with these communities need alternative information flows to verify and modify conventional decision making processes, Geographical information, not as an institutional tool for self-perpetuating production of policies and actions but as a process in which one individual informs his / her circumstance to another, can become an effective method to break out the status quo. The possibility of developing alternative information flows is considered using the case of Zapatista action in Mexico as reference. Findings from the analysis of the Zapatista case form a foundation for the development of methods of generating alternative information flows. The discussion of such methods includes an investigation of telematics in Africa Infrastructures for telecommunication with special reference to Internet connectivity of African countries and approaches to create geo-informatic products as interfaces for different perceptions held by the diverse communities in and around Africa need to be examined in this context Many African countries are, in fact, deeply involved in attempts to enhance Internet connectivity. It is also possible for individuals to process geographical data, the availability of which through the Internet is rapidly expanding, to check critically information circulating in the conventional decision making processes.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 14:58

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