Malka Older’s State Tectonics and the Internet’s Potential for Good

If you follow me and read my books, hopefully you already know that I donate ten percent of my earnings from each of my novels to an organization that works in areas related to the book’s themes.

Infomocracy is about, among other things, the importance of engaging in governance and holding both leaders and civil servants accountable. I donate some of what I earn from that book to the Accountability Lab, an organization that uses innovative and exciting approaches to build accountability at the grassroots level around the world. (Read more here.)

In Null States I wrote about political entities left out of the global political system, and so from that book’s earnings I donate to the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, which supports stateless people and works to end statelessness. (More on that here.)

I donate for a couple of reasons. In part, it’s because I feel so lucky to be able to earn any money at all writing. I have another career (or two) that I enjoy and can earn money from, so it feels right to contribute at least some of what I earn writing to others. But the main reason is because I want to anchor the novels in the real world. I want readers to feel that, through buying the book (or encouraging their libraries to buy the book) they have already impacted the issues brought up in a fictional context in the novels. I hope that it’s a small step from there to understanding that they can also make change in other ways, whether through small every day decisions about what news they listen to or read or watch and transmit, or in larger ways like writing a book or running for office or making a statement through their work.

It has occurred to me that given the trilogy’s focus on information as a crucial element of our age, a determinant of power over which wars are being fought, none of the organizations I support work directly on that issue.

Until now. (Dun dun dun)

I am very pleased to announce that I will be donating from my earnings on State Tectonics to Global Voices. I’ve been a fan and follower of Global Voices for years, so I’m thrilled to be working with them now. They are also a great match for the book, because they work to activate the democratic potential of the Internet. Global Voices offers innovative, decentralized reporting that comes from people around the world, telling stories that the major media conglomerates show no interest in. Like Information, Global Voices includes a translation program – and by “program” I mean people working together for a specific purpose, not machine learning – to remove the one of the barriers to understanding. They advocate for free speech. They train underrepresented groups in using media tools to tell their stories.

It is easy to forget, in today’s context of bot farms, troll swarms, echo bubbles, foreign infiltration, and fake news, that the Internet has incredible potential for good: to bridge the gaps between people, instead of dividing them; to transmit understanding about faraway parts of the world; to provide the information that we all need if we’re going to make responsible choices, not only in the polling booth, but in our lives. Global Voices does that work. They also provide the news stories that I want to read, stories that I’ve consistently found offer me a new perspective whether they cover breaking news or daily life. Like the characters in my books, the (largely volunteer!) reporters, editors, translators, techies, and others at Global Voices are working to build the future that they want to live in.

Malka Older is a writer, humanitarian worker, and Ph.D. candidate at the Centre de Sociologie des Organisations studying governance and disasters. Named Senior Fellow for Technology and Risk at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs for 2015, she has more than eight years of experience in humanitarian aid and development, and has responded to complex emergencies and natural disasters in Uganda, Darfur, Indonesia, Japan, and Mali. The Centenal Cycle series—Infomocracy, Null States, and the forthcoming State Tectonics—is available from Publishing.


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