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digital subjects

August 26, 2010

In the first 4 chapters of Mark Poster’s book, Information Please: Culture and Politics in the Age of Digital Machines, Poster suggests that new human-machine assemblages proliferate with “globalization” (that he marks as different from both post-and neo-colonialism, despite historic linkages). He argues specifically that the colonizer/colonized binary doesn’t (and can’t) define or help us deduce what modern subjects look like, how they interact, or what types of selves they produce. He looks at power forms, spatial relations and networked connection to try and formulate what new “planetary” subjects might look like. Specifically, he argues that, “The digital subject, then, is located automatically in the global space of the network.”

How might we think of the “global space of the network”? Does it automatically redefine subjects? Does it replace place? How might we think about spatial relations within these networks and what types of power flow from and through them?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. allitravis permalink*
    August 27, 2010 10:38 am

    The “global space of the network” redefines current subjects of the world and introduces new ones. No longer are machines looked towards as inanimate objects. Instead, today’s technology creates digital media that act as key players in the game, taking on their own identity as subjects in the global network. Poster introduces the concept of the humamachine: “the media unconscious estranges the human from itself, introducing a symbiosis of human and machine that destabalizes the figures of the subject and object.” (36) This humamachine identifies the separation from the individual who speaks in a coffee shop from the (same) individual who blogs on the Web, emphasizing that the two are indeed different. “Digital information machines construct subjects who are present only through their textual, aural, and visual uploads.” (41) Their identity is confined to the words and visual displays on the website. In comparison to the individual speaking in a coffee shop, the blogger can reach anyone- his audience is endless- and his “place” is indeed replaced – expanding from the coffee shop stage to the world. This digital self obtains not only a greater ability to reach the world, but a higher degree of anonymity (which, without digital media, would seem like quite the contradiction). The creation of digital subjects breaks down territorial barriers and gives individuals a whole new freedom of self-identity. This identity, as Poster calls the “netizen”, requires the individual to connect their natural identity with their digital identity. As discussed in chapter five, the netizen looses some power over its identity when all personal information becomes widely available over the web. In 2002, identity theft became the fastest growing crime in the U.S. (91) This causes us to consider the question of what truly defines us, or what is our “identity”. Surely I am not defined by my Social Security number and birthdate. The creation of the global network has caused us to re-evaluate ourselves, our world, and how we fit in it.

  2. priyanka30 permalink*
    August 29, 2010 4:51 pm

    I think Poster’s argument about the “global space of network” is complex and interesting. Being netizens, all of us have been thrust into spatial relations and have had to reconceptualize our notions of location, time, and even ourselves, whether we like it or not. Without a virtual presence in this global space of network, we feel deprived of information and connections that have become so crucial in today’s era where information has become synonymous with better life chances.

    However, although Internet use has grown by more than 400% in the past decade (http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm), the fact remains that less than 30% of the global population has any kind of access to the Internet. This means that those who fall within this minority (us!) are privileged enough to even think about how virtual spaces are redefining us and our realities. As Alli said, we’re not defined by our SSNs and credit cards, but we have the amazing power to go anonymous or to adopt fluid/temporary identities online, the power to share information in a matter of seconds, the power to resist dominant ideologies if we want to, and the power to express our thoughts/opinions to the world at practically no cost. There’s as much power in these spatial networks, as there is in our ability to manipulate and harness the chances afforded by mobile technologies for our own gains.

    But what about the overwhelming majority of the global population that is rendered powerless due to lack of access to not only information (which is a luxury for many) but also to the basic necessities of life like food, clothing, and shelter. How do the fault lines that exist between the tech-elite and the tech-poor weigh into our thoughts about how new media is redefining subjects? Are we obtaining our power at the expense of others? Can we at all hope for a truly democratic digital culture without considering the larger ramifications of the digital divide?

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