Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2010

Document Type

Thesis

First Advisor

Bella Mody

Second Advisor

S. Revi Sterling

Third Advisor

Andrew Calabrese

Abstract

The succession of highly authoritarian military regimes that have ruled over the country of Burma (a.k.a. Myanmar) since 1962 have systematically suppressed their citizens' fundamental freedoms of speech and expression. Such repression has become one of the primary mechanisms employed by Burma's junta to curtail political opposition and preserve their authority over nearly all dimensions of Burmese society. Currently, the nation maintains one of the lowest Information and Communication Technology (ICT) penetration rates in the world.

Researchers have conceptualized the relationship between power and technology in both utopian and dystopian ways over time. Dystopian theorists have tended to concentrate on the political economy of unequal living conditions, contending they will inevitably inhibit technological innovation and merely serve to perpetuate existing inequalities. Alternatively, utopian perspectives tend to take a technologically deterministic stance, maintaining that new technologies are inherently democratic in nature and will inevitably liberate citizens worldwide from the tyranny of authoritarian rule.

This paper will explore how contextual forces in Burma affect various dimensions of ICTs (namely the Internet and mobile phones) to help shape Burmese society. To do so, data regarding ICT use in Burma were collected and analyzed through a review of official government documents, NGO reports, academic journals, books, and newspaper articles.

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