Tech Public of Erosion: the Formation and Transformation of the Palestinian Tech Entrepreneurial Public
Our five-year ethnographic study of Palestinian tech entrepreneurship provides a unique case that examines the interplay between technology, politics and power dynamics. In this paper, we trace the formation of the Palestinian tech entrepreneurial public and analyse how it has transformed from being a counterpublic to serving as a beacon for the development of the Palestinian economy while under Israeli occupation. Despite its apparent success, the foundation of the Palestinian entrepreneurial public is fragile, as it is stuck in a repeat and rewind cycle involving the eternal application of the lean startup approach and the associated business models, which encourage the mimicking of Western design solutions. We develop the concept of a public of erosion to characterise how the Palestinian entrepreneurial public has been produced and shaped by the attrition stemming from the interlinked infrastructures created by donor agencies, powerful billionaires, the government and the Israeli occupation. A public of erosion is characterised by heavy dependencies on factors outside its immediate control, and is shaped by processes that constantly dismantle resources, leading to the wearing down of its foundation. The concept of a public of erosion is intended to provide researchers with a new language and a lens to apply when investigating digital technologies in the Global South. Finally, we demonstrate how the current structural conditions result in producing bounty hunters and real estate projects, rather than a strong digital ecosystem necessary for the development of sustainable digital technologies.