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Short Paper – Information Please (Chap. 1-3)

August 29, 2010

Chapter 1

In this chapter, M. Poster, states: “the condition of globalization, of which the Internet is a major component, imposes a new and heightened level of interaction between cultures.” He goes onto say that a culture’s autonomy is greatly reduced as a result of the “global information network”; and simultaneously “the task of constructing a planetary culture is posed.” Two things happen (Poster, pg.9):

  • First, traditional attempts to maintain this autonomy become “dangerous and retrograde” (Local ideologies are no longer “absolute” and held “at the expense of others”).
  • Lastly, the opportunity to revalue the traditional system and definitions of “global”, “human”, and “culture” arise.

The rest of the chapter is an example of where these two ideas intersect and conflict one another, in what I call Computer-Computer mistranslation (“All the bits and bytes are there all right, but the message does not always come across or get decoded.” – pg. 10). The example he refers to is the “Evil Bert” pictures posted on the Internet by Dino Ignacio. Bert is pictured with almost all evil people from Hitler, to the Ayatollah, and even the KKK (for more photos of Evil Bert … Click Here). But the one image that Poster focuses on is the image posted in the October 8, 2001 issue of the New York Times.

People were saying it shows Al-Qaeda’s use of American popculture against “the West, while other said it was a simple mistake. I guess the simple thing is … You decide for yourself!

QuestionI know this has little to do with Poster’s main message, but it’s something that really offended me (and I’m not even Muslim). Is Ali Asadullah correct in saying “The core causes for terrorist rage and aggression against the United States is the Spice Girls” not “hatred for freedom, liberty, and democracy,” … “Muslims want their cultures, traditions, and religious and societal standards respected” (Poster, pg. 22)? Or is Poster correct in saying, “We can assume that ‘freedom, liberty, and democracy,’ surely not hallmarks of Asadullah’s Muslim cultures, are not all offensive to their faith. If that is the case, one wonders why ‘freedom, liberty and democracy’ are not more widely practiced in the Middle East, indeed, why they are completely absent from that part of the world”?

Really Poster? Which truly is more offensive, this …

or this?

Chapter 2 & 3

This is the chapter I had the most trouble with. Although Poster made some well thought-out arguments, he completely misinterprets Bhabha’s postcolonial work and instead focuses on Appadurai, which blatantly states “Media” or “Mediascapes” in his work.

First off, Bhabha and Appadurai alike, were not focused on “digital culture” per say, rather on the construction of terms like “nation”, “state”, “self”, etc (I spent all of last semester working through Bhabha – gave a class facilitation on his work, Spivak, Appadurai, and others in Rory Ong’s “Nationalism” course). All of these terms, and terms like colonial mimicry and discourse, hybridity, and social liminality are all processes of what Bhabha defines as “Cultural Production”. And, goes onto show that we can never, even as much as Poster tries to do so, get out of the box (remember in elementary school the teach said, “Just try thinking OUTSIDE OF THE BOX!”), outside of some power struggle/hegemonic force … but what we can do is rework/redefine/ “revalue the system” (according to Rory Ong) in a way that is more suitable for society.

Secondly, Poster does not use “postcolonial” in the way that Bhabha, Spivak, and Appadurai use it. In chapter 3, he uses neocolonialism (pg. 50) in the same way that most academics use postcolonial … not “post-“ as in “after colonial” but “post-“ as in the modern institutions that still uphold such old yet subtle rhetorics/ideologies and methodologies.

Lastly, Poster has some good material in Chapter 3, but again makes some comments that beg the question “Is this a good idea?” He discusses the way in which culture, and even our society has been turned into 1’s and 0’s, where everything from our conversations with family and friends and our business transactions are now “online”. But is says, “The consequence of culture transformed into electronic digits is that the world has turned upside down, with many of our assumptions put into question about time and space, body and mind, human and machine, subject and object, gender, race, and class.” I would even go onto add what is “real” and/or “virtual. Poster goes onto use Hardt and Negri’s definition of Empire, which “manages hybrid identities, flexible hierarchies, and plural exchanges through modulating networks of command” (Poster, pg. 54). After going through Foucault’s work regarding prisons and power, Poster states that televison, print, and the Internet, “construct subjects, define, identities, position individuals, and configure cultural objects” … aka we are/we define ourselves around these mediums not separated or detached from them – one of Bhabha’s main points in his book (Poster, pg. 62)!

But it never fails … when I start liking his work he somehow finds a way to ruffle my feathers. When Poster starts describing a construction of “critical theory of globalization” he says media should, “look not for a revolutionary subject but for a matrix of dispositifs, for a cluster of technologies of power that constructs networked computing and human assemblages that might, after they are extensively deployed, act in fashion that transforms Empire into a planetary system outside the nation-state and capitalist market and toward what might still be labeled radical democracy (Lalclau, 1990)” (Poster, pg. 65). Now although this sounds good, until he can define a system not using Empire as a key linguistic term, he will still operate in modern, postcolonial theory. You don’t change anything if you still use the language of the colonizer.

Question … Isn’t Bhabha’s notion of “hybridity” – having multiple identities for different situations with Cultural Production – the same as Poster’s definition of diaspora – networked computing “conjures forth an identity no longer split between First and Third World, between metrople and native home, but rather, a body so fragmented that its morphology is a diaspora”?

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