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Ethical Consumption and Production through Web 2.0: A Call for Participation

I have just finished writing a Call for Participation that will be published in the Autumn 2009 Development Geographies Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers newsletter. The purpose behind the short piece is to encourage geographers to contribute their expertise about any node on any commodity chain to the wikichains project. We already have a small amount of content in English, Spanish and French, and so it would be nice to only have more English-language content, but also content in any of the eight languages supported by the site. A section of the CFP is posted below:

There are isolated cases in which the media have brought issues such as child labor and poor environmental management to much of the world’s attention. For instance, TNCs like Nike, Mattel, and Shell have been forced to alter their production practices in Vietnam, Sumatra, and the Niger Delta due to sustained media pressure. But what forms would economic development take if information about many more sites of production was made easily available through the Internet and Web 2.0 frameworks? It is conceivable that both the production and consumption of commodities would become fundamentally altered. As such, a wiki website (www.wikichains.com) has been set up with the aim of encouraging a different type of globalization: a globalization of knowledge that will harness the power of the Internet and cloud collaboration in order to allow consumers to learn more about the commodities that they buy. By doing so, it is further hoped that altered consumer behavior will translate into improved economic, social, and environmental production practices in the Global South.

The basic framework of the website has now been implemented using the Mediawiki software (the web-based software also used by Wikipedia). Wikichains thus allows anyone with an Internet connection to create, alter, and challenge information about any commodity chain. Furthermore, the website currently supports eight languages (Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish), with the possibility to add more in the future. Some basic representations of chains have already been created (e.g. coffee, silk, and illegal drugs); however, we need are in need of much more content in order to bring about the critical mass necessary to get people from around the world to upload information about the nodes on chains that they are familiar with. Thus this contribution to the 2009 DGSG newsletter invites all geographers with an interest in the goal of this project to not only upload information about any node on any commodity chain that they are familiar with, but also to share the site with friends and colleagues that may also have an interest in contributing.