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Karaganis, J. (ed.), Structures of Participation in Digital Culture. Social Science Research Council. (2008)

November 5, 2010

Structures of Participation in Digital Culture was interesting to read for the most part and I enjoyed the various arguments pertaining to digital culture put forth by authors from so many diverse backgrounds.

Below is a short summary of chapters 4 and 8, followed by comments/questions for class discussion:

Chapter 4: Other networks: media urbanism and the culture of copy in South Asia, by Ravi Sundaram

Sundaram uses the Indian capital of Delhi to examine his assertion that “new visibilities, networks within networks, and conflicts over intellectual property have changed the old world planner city.”  Sundaram emphasizes the following key points:

  1. Commodity culture has taken over Delhi, due in large part to significant urban density, mass migration, and economic expansion.
  2. Delhi can literally be divided into zones based on the production and consumption of commodities:
    1. Old walled city area: outdated and caught in a time-warp but still the center of commodity exchange
    2. The new municipal area: inhabited by “colonial capital” and the political elite.
    3. The southern part of the city: the most affluent part “where networks of corporate globalization are stronger” than elsewhere in the city.
  3. Media networks have been transformed and the gray market has facilitated the sale of pirated versions of popular cultural products (CDs, cassettes, gadgets, etc.)
  4. Urban planning is on the decline in Delhi, and from this declining landscape new media markets have emerged that exist in the gray areas between legal and illegal.

    a typical Delhi grey market

  5. Pirate electronic networks have led to two cultures: informational bleeding and “just in time” media.
  6. The urban experience in the Indian capital is now heavily contingent upon the media market which in turn is complicated by IPR and the “copy culture”.

Chapter 8: None of this is real: identity and participation in Friendster, by danah boyd

Written in typical danah boyd style, this article shed some very valuable light on the ways in which social networking websites (in particular, Friendster) is being mobilized by the youth. boyd explores the ways in which Friendster has evolved since its launch in 2002 and the manner in which its users (mostly, early adopters) negotiate social boundaries. boyd emphasizes the following key points:

  1. Social networking sites (SNS) are being used in order to maintain existing personal relationships much more than initiating relationships with people.
  2. Friendster essentially “flattened” networks by collapsing a range of relationships into the category of “Friends” in order to allow more visibility for social relationships.
  3. Online networks lead people to “recalibrate” their social structures to “accommodate the conditions and possibilities of online networks.”
  4. People belonging to two “subcultures” (I prefer the term co-culture, though): gay men and Burners were among the earliest and most active users of Friendster.
  5. Participatory performance is of particular relevance vis-à-vis Friendster. Users were performing their identities on SNS by customizing profiles, much like Watkins’s description of MySpace in The Young and the Digital (2009). These identity performances allowed users to “make meaning and build context”, both of which evolved over time.
  6. Friendster was among the first SNS to afford community formation in an online space and participants affiliated to different co-cultures started building online collective identities.
  7. Impression management (management of multiple personas of the same user) is especially significant on SNS because they problematize social boundaries between people as much as much as they facilitate new connections and relational maintenance.
  8. Although Friendster allows for an emphatic articulation of who “you” are, it only gives users this ability through “predefined mechanisms for expression.” In so being, a lot of users find Friendster formulaic.
  9. There is a marked sense of dilemma in users’ performance of identity on Friendster. While the performance of social relationships doesn’t substitute the relationships themselves, social distinctions are being rendered increasingly defunct by Friendster.

10.  Although Friendster let users gain control over their own identities, this control came at the expense of a “larger consensus about the norms and purposes of the system.”

Overall comments

What I took away from both these chapters is that digital media are making relationships more visible (via SNS, for example) and commodities more readily accessible (via the gray market, for example). However, both these phenomena are to be understood within the larger context of communicative ecology as explained by Horst and Miller (2006). Thus, what are people using Friendster for, and why? What are people going to the gray markets in Delhi for, and why? Clearly, cultural change is being facilitated in both these cases thanks to digital technology, but as Kim says, digital technology by itself does not do anything; instead, it is deployed toward specific objectives. My takeaway from these chapters is that the way digital technology is being used the world over is dislocating culture (the known way of life) and relocating it within newer structures of participation with new codes of conduct and new ‘norms’. Therefore, although concepts such as agency, expression, and networks are central to the idea of digital culture as we have come to understand it in these past 12 weeks, it also entails a redefinition of the self in a world where the mediascape is in a state of continuous flux and fragmentation. And, in the years to come, I believe the issues of power, control, and representation, and surveillance will become increasingly salient to the ways in which we understand digital culture.

Questions

  1. boyd suggests that “individual sociability will never operate on a global scale” although millions of people are now connected through SNS because these enormous networks are ultimately based on one-on-one relationships and small communities. What do you think?
  2. As per boyd, Friendster demonstrates that there is an inverse relationship between the size of one’s social network and the quality of one’s relationships with the “friends” within one’s network. In your experience, do you find this to be true?

Note: I had a lot of difficulty in understanding most of Sundaram’s exposition mostly due to the way he presents his arguments. So while I cannot comment on his arguments, I do believe that there’s a lot of value in the assertions that boyd makes vis-à-vis new media, social networking, and interpersonal relationships. However, I am biased because I am an admirer of boyd’s work and follow her blog rather regularly. By the way, if you’re interested, here’s the link to her website and here’s the link to her blog. She’s just SO cool! 🙂


next week

November 4, 2010

We are meeting on Monday the 8th to discuss the Structures of Participation chapters. Be ready to share and discuss.

You should all have made significant progress on your projects and need to post them on the projects tab.

Current events are lacking…get some up!

Structures of Participation in Digital Culture: Chapters 2 & 10

November 1, 2010

In Structures of Participation in Digital Culture, Joe Karaganis uses a series of essays in an effort to portray the networks being formed between traditional and social media. In particular, he attempts to explore the role technology (of all sorts) plays in the relationship between social structures and culture, and how this affects both individuals and collective societies.

Chapter 2, “The Past and the Internet”, by Geoffrey Bowker, is part of the opening section of the book which explores the way in which we perceive the world and its history. Instead of looking at the past factually, this section discusses how history is experienced and constructed in a new way via the evolution of technology.

Before the Web, there were two significant revolutions in the way humans recorded the past: written record keeping and the printing press. With the invention of each such change, information about the past (and who has access to such information) changed dramatically. Today, we are making a shift from memory practices marked by oral & written communication to those marked by electronic and oral communication. Network technologies have changed the ecology of recordkeeping and storytelling, where the technological and social are deeply intertwined.

With the invention of the Internet, a whole new way of recording the past has emerged, presenting many new claims regarding how the present is different and how the future will be reconfigured. However, before this can be looked at further, Bowker explores the relationship with the past changes incorporating such new technology in a process that he calls “databasing the world”.  He argues that “only through understanding our ways of configuring the past with new technologies can we develop new models of participation in the construction of knowledge and power.” (22) He breaks down this dilemma into two fundamental questions:

  1. What traces do we leave?
  2. Why does it make a difference?

For example, Bowker uses his experiences on the Web to describe the way that history is not necessarily recorded as what occurred in reality. That is, many of us are not our ‘real selves’ when online; we censor ourselves.

“What we leave traces of is not the way we were, but rather a tacit negotiation between ourselves and our imagined auditors (whether in a sense of listeners, readers, or moral or economic watchdogs); and yet we also need at some level an understanding of what actually happened in order to forge our futures.” (24)

Likewise, when we tell stories of our pasts to friends and coworkers, there are many things we skip over or ‘choose not to mention’. Over and over Bowker brings up the rarity of committing a story to paper with a view to telling it “wie es eigentlich gewesen ist (as it actually happened). However, despite this central fact about record keeping, there is still a need to keep good records! We are getting very good at reconfiguring the past as a tool for exploring & supporting the present; we tell the past as it should have been.

“If we want a future other than how it seems to be turning out, we must create a past that is other than how it seems to have turned out. Only an open past can unlock the present and free the future.” (34)

*Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why or why not?

One interesting point brought up by Bowker discusses the effects of our cultural circumstances as a reason for the amount of traces left (of not left) behind. “My potential memory is so great partly because I am white, bourgeois, male, academic and American- my set of traces is much more likely to have been covered …than those of a Cameroonian avocado farmer.” We often forget how culturally and politically weighted the Internet is. Likewise, “our environment now is intelligent for those with the technological hardware and competence to listen to it closely.” Social scientists, Bowker argues, need to draw attention to and seek to understand how our relationship with the past is “quietly being reconfigured, and with a revolutionary effect.” (26-28)

* What differences do the “traces” we leave online have for people without the technological hardware to access it? Does it affect them?


Chapter 10 is part of the second section of the book, which focuses on case studies regarding social technology.  It was much harder for me to get into this chapter, as such my focus for discussion will be on Chapter 2.

Social technology isn’t just digital; physical networks play a big role as well. The way our real world-relationships are conducted influence the ways we carry over these interpersonal relationships to the Internet. The individual then, can be seen as an active producer of digital culture. Warren Sack’s main point in Chapter 10, “Picturing the Public”, revolves around the power of “networks” as a way of thinking about association (notably, electronically mediated association). In particular, he tries to “reinsert networks into a longer history of the linked metaphors and technologies that shape our understanding of the “public” and our agency within it.” (165)

Sack dives into the different theories behind “public opinion”, including what it means, how it affects relationships and how it is measured. Likewise, he provides an account of a vast number of metaphorical descriptions of the public, representing different scientific perspectives. Our idea, Sack believes, “is shaped by different configurations of these metaphors.” (168)

Lastly, Sack discusses the network, and its ability to introduce people to those outside of their immediate social circle. In what I thought was a great quote from Thoreau, he says:

“We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.” (169)

Just because networks exist does not make them compelling objects of personal identification or (inter)national cohesion. However, the more one connection is used, the more the parties involved have to say to one another, until constant contact between the two forges a new bond between them. Networks, then, supported by modern technology, have fostered the exchange of ideas, which separate or group people into different publics.

The Young & The Digital: Chapters 2 & 5

October 25, 2010

Chapter 2: Social Media 101

Watkins begins Chapter 2, Social Media 101: What Schools are Learning about Themselves and Young Technology Users, states,

 

Part of MySpace and Facebook’s initial appeal among young people was the fact that even though the vibrant lives they were forming online were so strikingly public, most of their activities, communications, and identities were largely hidden from the adult world (pg. 19)

 

This however was short lived. With the acquisition of MySpace by Rupert Murdoch not only brought corporate dollars to social networking but also the political governance that was not too far behind. During 2006’s mid-term elections, the Republicans backed a bill called the Delete Online Predators Act (DOPA) which tried to eliminate the presence of social networking sites in the lives of teenagers by requiring any school or library to block access to any Web site that,

 

is offered by a commercial entity; permits registered users to create an on-line profile that includes detailed information; permits registered users to create an on-line journal and share such a journal with other users; elicits highly-personalized information from users; and enables communication among users.

 

And, according to Mike Fitzpatrick these sites, “have become a haven for online sexual predators who have made these corners of the Web their own virtual hunting ground” (pg. 20). But what the act seemed to forget was that there are these type of people in the physical world as well. By misrepresenting 91% of the Web’s users by showing that only 9% of them meet strangers online would be like saying that 5% of sports spectators streak or cause riots in the stands therefore … SPORTS ARE BAD! Note, that 87% of teens use the Internet and of that, these 91% use the Internet to further their off-line relationships. DOPA was “striking at the very heart of what made the social Web so compelling in the eyes of many – the focus on community, collaboration, interaction, creativity, and self-expression” (pg. 21). Thus, ALA (American Library Association opposed this bill by saying (in Watkins’s own words) the bill, “glossed over the educational potential of the social Web. Most stunning was the bill’s lack of understanding of the power and richness of social media and why it appealed to many” (pg. 21).

Watkins goes onto point out how the Brooklyn College Library (BCL) has used social networking to its advantage. Social networking has shown BCL, and other institutions, how to become a “dynamic learning environment” (pg. 24). MySpace allowed BCL to connect with art collectors nationally and internationally by “adding them as friends”; allowed the public, students, professors and staff to know what each is interested in and/or talking about; thus, allowing BCL to promote events online as well as the other, traditional mediums. But it comes at a price! The opportunity cost (in business/economic terms) of being present online means less of a “presence” off-line, in the physical “how may I help you” library arena.

Watkins goes onto point out the differences in access among poor and rich communities … so, how do these differences in access change the views of social networking and the Internet within these communities? And, how are these important to our discussion?

 

Chapter 5: We Play – The Allure of Social Games, Synthetic Worlds, and Second Lives

Watkins begins showing the shift from TV to games and what has caused that. The reasons for playing games seem to change from social group to social group … but there are always ideas of community, friendship and social interaction at play. Yes, there are examples of a guy playing a game like Mass Effect II (a single player RPG – Role Playing Game) for days at a time, but that’s the exception. Majority of people will play games like World of Warcraft (WoW), Everquest, or Second Life where interactions with others is important to their experience and knowledge acquisition.

Like Watkins states at the end of the chapter, “For the majority of young people, the computer-mediated world is about being with real people rather than virtual personas, friends rather than strangers” (pg. 131).

I do have to agree with his assessment that majority of youngsters like MMORPG’s rather than MMOG’s because of my experience as a gamer, and secondly because of my experience with gamers. Note: I will discuss further the skills that one acquires even while playing MMORPG’s for long periods of time … and the reason for the interest in MMORPG’s vs. mainstream media’s view of interest in MMOG’s.

Watkins, S. C. (2009). The Young and the Digital: What the Migration to Social Network Sites, Games, and Anytime, Anywhere Media Means for Our Future. Beacon Press.

October 21, 2010

The Young and the Digital deals with the ways in which new media formats have become intrinsic to the lives of today’s youth: a generation that literally doesn’t know what a world without computers and internet looks like. Watkins’ account of young people’s fascinating digital lives brings to the forefront something that we have discussed at length in previous classes: the fact that technology by itself doesn’t do anything. Indeed, as Watkins demonstrates through several examples and interview testimonials, young people use (new communications) technology as means to attain specific ends. However, in so doing, the technology often becomes the ‘end’ in itself.

Below is a summary of chapters 4 and 7, followed by my observations, and then some points for class discussion.

Chapter 4 – Digital Gates: How Race and Class Distinctions are Shaping the Digital World

The basic argument in this chapter was that social class is likely a significant determinant of whether young people are likely to use MySpace or Facebook for social networking. This is contrary to the commonly held utopian view that one’s race, gender, and SES cease to matter in the virtual realm. If anything, as this chapter indicates, our online presence is usually punctuated by the realities of our offline lives – including racial tensions, class boundaries, social stereotypes, and gendered identities. This chapter cited a lot of past research that revealed numerous interesting facts about social networking trends among the youth:

  1. In a survey, 84% of white students said they use Facebook most often among all social networking sites (SES). In comparison, Latino students were more likely to use MySpace. 80% of African American students use Facebook as do 84% of Asian students.
  2. Women use SNS more than men.
  3. Students whose parents are well educated are more likely to use Facebook than MySpace.

Additionally, Watkins’ interviews with high school and college students indicated that students are distrustful of MySpace but view Facebook extremely favorably. Below is a summary of the MySpace vs. Facebook debate, based on what respondents had to say:

  • MySpace is crowded, creepy, trashy, fake, open, crazy, immature, and uneducated.
  • Facebook is selective, private, mature, clean, trustworthy, college oriented, and simple.
  • Contrary to the belief that young people love customizable interfaces, most respondents actually found MySpace’s ultra-customizable features rather annoying, defining it as unsophisticated as compared to Facebook’s “pretty, simple, and classy” interface.
  • Respondents indicated a strong desire for privacy. They do want to be watched all time, but only by the people they allow into their social network. And, in most cases, these people are similar to them in terms of race, religion, nationality and class. “Others” are not welcome, or at best, are treated with apprehension and uncertainty.
  • There’s a consistent need for homogeneity, much like the posh gated communities that have recently become so popular across the US.
  • A lot more homophilic bonding is taking place on SNS than bridging (connecting with people who are culturally different), and youngsters value bonding capital more than bridging capital.
  • There’s as much disdain for MySpace as there is for the people who use MySpace. Most students think MySpace is used by “digital undesirables”: Blacks, Latinos, and ‘emo’ kids. Words like “hood”, “bling”, “crack”, and “ghetto” are frequently associated with MySpace, indicating the highly racialized terms in which youngsters think of MySpace, probably without even realizing it.

In conclusion, although SNS are changing the way the youngsters connect with others, they’re not really changing the nature of these connections.

Chapter 7: Now! Fast Entertainment and Multitasking in an Always-On World

For the young and the digital, entertainment at their fingertips is not a luxury – it’s a necessity they have come to expect. And, like fast food, fast entertainment is cheap, ubiquitous, affordable, but not always ‘healthy’. Watkins argues that “one of the most intriguing paradoxes of today’s digital media environment is that we consume more and less at the same time.” It’s true!!! As researchers have shown, we have shifted from a culture that desires instant gratification to one that wants constant gratification. In part, Watkins argues, this desire stems from the need to not miss anything. This has resulted in a paradigmatic shift in the way we use and experience media content. Even a few years ago, we ventured OUT to buy cassettes, music CDs, books, games, and movie DVDs to enjoy them at home. But now we have come to expect these media AT HOME on our mobile devices so we can enjoy them “on the go” – whenever, wherever.

Multitasking was the focus of this chapter. However, what we call multitasking, Gen Y calls “life”. They do not know of a world people only do one thing at a time and according to them, multitasking is the only way to be efficient. As Watkins contends, “among college students, using one media almost always means interacting with other media too.” However, medical and psychological research has consistently demonstrated that our brains are not designed to process multiple sources of information at the same time. Ironically, therefore, while students think they are being more efficient, they are actually falling prey to the modern epidemic of “continuous partial attention” (pg. 168) that usually has less than desirable manifestations in terms of productivity and concentration, and makes people learn less. Click here for an interesting UCLA study about multitasking and here for opinions from several experts.

Comments

Overall, Watkins’ arguments made a LOT of sense to me. Specifically, I appreciate the fact that he didn’t buy into the paranoid “moral panic” discourse of new media making soulless, asocial shells out of the youth. Instead, I found his arguments in these chapters to be thoughtful, well substantiated, provocative, and balanced. He also acknowledges the numerous shades of grey that emerge whenever we talk about new media/communication technologies and users’ engagement with them. Digital innovation, just like everything else, can be put to good and bad uses and I think this enhances the necessity of “new media literacy” manifold. Children are more tech-savvy than their parents today and they will find a way to access social media no matter what. In these circumstances, I think educational programs that highlight media literacy will help the youth use these new media formats effectively and safely.

Questions for discussion

  1. There’s much hysteria that people use new media in ways that make them unsocial or asocial. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the argument that people use new media in order to become excessively social. If one were to think outside of this binary, one would realize that most people around us do not belong in either camp – they fall somewhere in between. Does this mean that the wireless generation is using technology to multitask successfully and meaningfully, contrary to what psychologists would have us believe? In other words, in real life, is “continuous partial attention” really a problem? My students manage to take good lecture notes, even as they text, Facebook, check their email, and browse the net, AND they do well on pop quizzes! How do they do it?
  2. Watkins argues that social networks “do not appear to be radically altering the personal bonds and connections that young people make.” What significance does this have vis-à-vis our own engagement with emergent media platforms and self-actualization? To what “new” ends are we using new media? Or have the ends remained the same; just the way of getting to them have been made faster and more convenient, thanks to technology?

And now for some cool videos:

 

The Young & The Digital: Ch 1 & 3

October 20, 2010

Craig Watkins’ book, The Young and the Digital, uses surveys and interviews to get a picture the different types of experiences modern day teenagers have (growing up with the Internet at their fingertips) compared to their parents, grandparents, and all generations that came before this type of access and exposure to technology. With that in mind, he aims to explore what happens to people and their relationship with others when they conduct their social lives online. Chapter one provides a great introduction to get the reader to start thinking about this transition to a technology-filled lifestyle and what that means for the way we function as individuals and communities.

 

CHAPTER 1: Digital Migration: Young People’s Historic Move to the Online World

Wrap your head around this:

  • In 1950, 10% of American households had a TV set
    • Within 10 years, virtually every American home had at least 1 TV
    • Between 1980-1990, roughly 50-65% of households had MULTIPLE TV sets
  • In 1985, 8% of American homes had computers and 98% had TVs
    • By 1994, roughly 25% had computers
    • By 2003, 70 million American households (62%) had 1+ computers, 88% of which had Internet access
      • 76% of homes with school-aged children had computers, as compared to 57% of homes without kids.

So what do these numbers tell us? The generation WE students come from is the first generation of American teenagers to grow up with computers and the Internet at our disposal. Not surprisingly, we think nothing of the fact that computers are part of our every day lives…they helped shape how we “learn, live, play, and communicate” with our peers (4). Many of our earliest memories involve computers (common…you know you ALL loved playing the Oregon Trail game in elementary school computer lab J).  Knowing that, most of us cannot imagine our lives without the computer.

Next, Watkins turns the conversation towards the way the Internet can be seen as a promoter of independence for youth. “For the first generation of youth online, IM was one of their first truly independent experiences with the Internet…it was around this point that they began to go online, not because someone thought it was a good educational activity but rather because they wanted to.” (4-5) I can remember myself how ‘big” AIM was during middle school…it became the premiere place to talk to your friends and get the scoop on the latest gossip.

In 2005, roughly 60% of sixth graders used the Web, as compared to 82% of seventh graders and 94% of high school seniors. This transition had a large impact on the family life at home; many parents found themselves in unchartered territory, dealing with new challenges regarding their children’s computer usage.  Despite all of this, Watkins claims that the young people who grew up surrounded by technology were no different than the generations of youth before them (6).  Most teens are eager to break away from their parents and establish their own, independent identities. The only difference now is that they have a new outlet for doing so.

“IM satisfies two major needs in adolescent identity formation – maintaining individual friendships and belonging to peer groups.” (6) The fact that teens realized the social and communal abilities of the Internet early on could be one of the main factors behind the fact that youth seemed to adopt home computer usage more eagerly than their parents. Because of this, teenagers often became the technical support gurus of the family, flipping the power dynamics between parent and child in the home and leading the way in the transition to digital. Now a day, many businesses incorporate IM into their culture, and a great deal of adults (my dad included) have created their own online social networking accounts.

When broadband exploded, this further changed the way people (especially youth) used the Web.  By making the Internet a more visual experience instead of textually focused, it has developed into a viable alternative to television. Surveying college students revealed that 67% of those surveyed had watched less TV since coming to college (I myself don’t have any TV at my apartment…I watch all of the shows I want to see online). The Internet can’t be the total reason for this decline (we all know there are many more distractions at college than there are at home); yet, it should not be understated.  The students claimed to spend an average of 21 hours per week online, versus 14 hours a week watching TV.

Either way you look at it, it is undeniable the huge impact the Internet has made on the home life. Broadband, in particular, has revamped the Web’s technical capabilities and “paved the way for profound behavioral shifts and social transformation.” (11) The Internet has evolved from something we mainly consume to something we increasingly produce. Likewise, the computer has taken over the TV’s role of what Watkins’ calls “The First Screen”. No longer is the TV the first thing youth turn on when they come home to wind down or catch up on the news. Instead, 69% of youth surveyed said they logged on to the Internet as soon as they got home from work. “Young people are tuning out TV not because of poor programming…but because it is simply not compatible with the social and mobile-media lifestyle preferred by young people.” (12) In what I found to be a very interesting quote by technology leader Don Tapscott, “TV is controlled by adults. In contrast, children control much of their own world on the Net.” (13) The Web allows the user to be in charge of what they want to do and watch. Not surprisingly, TV has fallen behind the Internet and cell phones in the media mix of the youth surveyed.

It is important to remember that the group we are talking about is young people brought up not knowing a life without digital technology. Significantly, 65% of Americans ages 18-29 say that a home computer is a necessity of life. In contrast, only 25% of elderly Americans over 65 say the same thing. Instead, older generations still feel more drawn to the TV as their primary source of media technology because that is what they are more familiar and comfortable with. TV today, does not have a “must see” quality to it for most youth; however, for many the Internet has “must do” activities such as checking e-mail and Facebook accounts (or if you hang around with college boys, Fantasy Football leagues 😉 ). The Internet, without a doubt, can definitely be argued as the preferred screen in many households. What kind of society is being built as young people shift from a TV dominated world to a world dominated by the Internet? Is this good or bad?

 

Chapter 3: The Very Well Connected: Friendly, Bonding, and Community in the Digital Age

For young people, new digital technologies…are primary mediators of human-to-human connections. They have created a 24/7 network that blends the human experience with the technical to a degree we haven’t experienced before.” (47)

 

93% of young people surveyed own a computer; 96% a mobile phone. The ability to be connected to others through ANYTIME, ANYWHERE technology has expanded our sense of PLACE, what it means to be SOCIAL, and revamps our COMMUNITY experience. It seems we are “always on”, connected to some sort of screen, whether it be our cell phones, iPods, or PCs. For many, especially older generations, this notion seems to lead us to believe that technology is making young people antisocial; that we are more comfortable communicating via technology than face to face. What Watkins encourages us to explore is that what might appear to be a shift towards antisocialism might in reality be a change in the nature of what it means to be social among ‘the young and the digital’. That is, young people might be very social, just not in a way that would be understood or approved of by older generations. We need to look at technology not as being the thing that draws us into solidarity, but instead as the gateway to access people and relationships we might not otherwise have.

Likewise, it is worthwhile to look at the behavioral and societal impacts that this mobile-social network has: how it changes the way we maintain social relationships and communities, and the degree to which we feel that the types of relationships mediated by technology are engaging and rewarding.  One New York Times article is quoted as saying, “[Myspace] has the personality of an online version of a teenagers bedroom, where walls are papered with posters and photographs, the music is loud, and the grownups are an alien species.” (58) No longer is the mall or the movies the play to be for socializing; these offline areas do not provide a place that young people can truly call their own. Gathering, flirting, socializing, and connecting is all best done online.

Interestingly, Watkins makes a shift from the many new opportunities digital technology has afforded us to some negative views of the impacts of the new digital culture.  Although he recognizes the many benefits that have come from new technology, he doesn’t turn a blind eye to both sides of the coin.  He discusses the worry parents have about their kids (as young as two and three) being exposed to the digital lifestyle before they can develop the necessary face-to-face social skills that will be a valuable part of their lives.  He talks about social scientists apprehension about the violent and sexual media content that is exposed to young children and teenagers on a daily basis.  He even gets into the concerns of health professionals about rising childhood obesity rates as a result of “sedentary lifestyles associated with high levels of media use”. (50)

Ultimately, he says, the core concern is this:

 

Is technology turning young people into an electronic herd of social recluses- that is, a generation that prefers interacting with a computer, mobile phone, or gaming screen rather than a person face-to-face? ….Do the social Web and mobile phones undercut our ability to develop the ties that bind and keep us together? ” (51-52)

Many argue that you cannot truly establish bonds of mutual trust and reciprocity with someone you interact with primarily through computer-mediated communication. What do you think?

 

Watkins doesn’t believe there is enough evidence to sustain the claim that young people are indeed more comfortable in front of a screen than in person.  In addition, he does not feel that the migration to the online world has lead youth to abandon their off-line lives. Instead, the Web is being used to facilitate face-to-face interactions….the majority of students interviewed did not feel online communication was as satisfying or rewarding as live discussions.

In summary, this chapter pulled out the two major reasons young people go online: to strengthen personal ties with good friends (whom they had already met offline) and to keep in touch with weak acquaintances (again, met offline).  While committed to use of technology, young people’s main drive to this commitment is created by their desire to stay connected with others. Still able to maintain healthy and ‘normal’ relationships with the people around them, the social Web does not appear to be changing the kinds of relationships young people form, but instead revamping ways they are able to manage these relationships.

 

The Cell Phone: An Anthropology of Communication; Chapters 5 & 6

October 18, 2010

Opinion:

I really enjoyed this book. It seemed like an ethnography that really tried to capture the influence of a certain technology (cell phones) on a certain group of people (lower class citizens of Jamaica). It’s easy for us to say something like, “Oh yes … I know that quite a few people have cell phones.” But it is entirely different to see that the cell phone has now become the extension of self … so much so that we do not even think twice about using it to extend relationships (i.e. calling dad for money, or calling your office to let them know you have a doctor’s appointment); so much so that if we did not use the technology, we may not achieve – or at least it would be harder to achieve – certain goals we have set for ourselves.

Horst and Miller look into these examples, but also look at the cell phone’s relationship to family and economy!

Link-Up

–       Networked societies vs. Networked Individuals: Horst and Miller say that we should not look at this world in the society v. individual binary, rather “what is needed are detailed case studies that show how much more subtle the relationship between individuals and wider networks can be today and how much more complex their relationship has been in the past” (pg. 81).

  • What is the status on the complexity of relationship building today, due to the increased use of mobile technologies?

–       “The introduction emphasizes the capacity of the cell phone to assist in the micro-coordination of activities and networking of relationships (e.g. Ling 2004), but this assumes greater significance when, as in Jamaica, one starts to appreciate that what we call a ‘network’ is such a complex, multi-stranded, overlapping, contradictory formation” (pg. 83).

–       The cell phone’s duty/relationship to us is one that “can transform the phone from a device that connects into a device whose importance lies in its capacity to keep multiple strands separate” (pg. 83).

–       Chapter 5 shows that the cell phone’s “integration” into modern life is both one of agency and one of the “development in one’s social life” (pg. 83).

–       With the arrival of Digicel, families no longer had to wait in line at call boxes or walk a ½ an hour to get to one. Family members living abroad could finally connect with family members in some of the most remote, rural areas of Jamaica. For parents (who are living abroad), “This allowed for much more involvement of parents in their children’s intellectual and emotional development” (pg. 87-88).

  • Can the same thing be said with Internet use? (i.e. Internet Cafe)

–       Yes, the first example Horst and Miller gave hid certain aspects of the relationship from Mr. Levy via the phone, but in our own lives … what has been the role of the phone/cell phone in our educational/family experiences? In times sense past, how would these experiences have been different with such technologies being nonexistent? (application to an educational institution/traumatic experiences)

Coping

–       The first thing Horst and Miller seemed to suggest was that no matter how much mainstream media would like to say that cell phones have radically changed our (business and individual) daily lives, that simply is not true … in response to small businesses being afforded the opportunity to have a larger cliental and/or being able to sell their products to farther away places, “Although this aspect was not entirely absent, the cell phone did not appear to radically transform employment and entrepreneurial opportunities. Particularly noticeable was the relative absence of evidence that the cell phone is used to find employment” (pg. 103).

–       But the phone is used as a means of survival, especially when 70% receive some money from family members, partners/spouses/boy & girlfriends, friends, and others (local or abroad); 48% received 1/3 of their income from others and 38% received money exclusively from social networks and others (pg. 108).

–       I will read a quote from page 118 (1st paragraph, 4 lines from the top).

–       Do you agree with Horst and Miller’s statement that,  “In many established economies a great deal of institutional and personal work is done to try and separate the moral and intimate from the economic as incommensurate forms of value”? (pg. 119-120)

–       I will conclude with a quote from page 121 (bottom of paragraph, about 9 lines from the bottom).

Horst, H. A., & Miller, D. (2006). The Cell Phone: An Anthropology of Communication. Berg Publishers. Chapters 7 and 8.

October 16, 2010

The Cell Phone: An Anthropology of Communication is a richly nuanced and culturally informed exploration of the way the cellphone have impacted the lives of disadvantaged Jamaicans. It is a thoroughly engaging application of anthropological theory that reveals the transformatory potential of the cellphone and the reciprocal relationship between cellphones and Jamaican identity in less privileged communities.

Chapter 7: Pressure

For Jamaicans, pressure is both physical (blood pressure) and subjective (pressures of getting a job, keeping a job, fighting poverty, maintaining relationships and so on). As per Jamaican culture, pressure is felt by both men and women, albeit in different ways and is released via highly gendered means. For men, pressure arises from family obligations, having to make money, and being exploited by the social ‘system’. The male pressure is released by “cooling off” with other men in social spaces with alcohol, ganja, and cigarettes. But for women, pressure is to be alleviated through menstruation, sex, and worship! But the cellphone, as Horst and Miller found in their ethnography, is deployed by both men and women to relieve themselves of this ‘pressure’.

For men, the cellphone is instrumental in:

  • coping with boredom and isolation
  • acquiring and maintaining support systems (friends, colleagues, neighbors)
  • getting job opportunities and economic support
  • finding out information
  • organizing and mobilizing (limited) resources.

For women, the cellphone is instrumental in:

  • facilitating the prevention of living alone (considered a cultural taboo for women) and the resultant lack of privacy (considered a good thing!)
  • fostering intense social bonds and networks
  • letting the community take a great amount of interest in each individual
  • managing loneliness
  • coping with feelings of being overburdened and stressed
  • sharing their troubles and worries through counseling and communication

The cellphone in Jamaica therefore, is loaded with cultural meanings and its social uses are gendered. Overall, the authors found that “the phone has become readily accepted as a means to relieve ‘pressure’ simply by feeling connected to others and to feel part of that natural (i.e., social) state of being that defines Jamaicanness.”

Chapter 8: Welfare

This chapter offered a broader evaluation of the interactions between cellphones and Jamaican society. The following are some of the key points:

Health issues

  • Cellphone technology is not being used in Jamaica to disseminate health related information or for scheduling medical appointments.
  • Jamaicans use cellphones instead, to find alternative medical options, minimizing healthcare costs, comparing medical conditions and cost of medication with friends, and receiving emergency assistance.
  • Cellphones have not had much direct impact on formal health standards in Jamaica but have contributed significantly to the personal management of health and welfare.

Crime and security

  • Jamaicans feel less isolated and vulnerable to crime knowing that they can call for help.
  • Parents feel more reassured knowing that they can reach their children at all times.
  • Cellphones help in neighborhood vigilance.
  • Although there is a popular perception that cellphones have reduced the prevalence of crime in Jamaica, theft of phones has become a problem in recent years. Ironic. J

Education

  • School administration can now contact parents if they need to, in order to update parents and also to check on truancy.
  • Double standards have emerged as students aren’t allowed to use cellphones in classrooms, but teachers do so with impunity.
  • For students, the cellphone has become indispensable. (Somethings seem universal!!!)
  • Students are doing more research on Internet-enabled phones about sex than homework.
  • School authorities report that overall, cellphones have had a negative impact on students’ academic performances, concentration, and quality of work.

Religion

  • The cellphone is considered a form of blessing and good fortune.
  • Clergy see the cellphone as a medium of God since it lets them reach and help many people at once. But they also resent cellphones because they disrupt service.
  • Cellphones are used by Jamaicans to help each other thorough spiritual crises and to organize church events.

My thoughts

The cellphone evidently means different things in Jamaica for different people and this metamorphosis is fascinating. In Horst and Miller’s analysis, cellphone have had a definite impact on the way the Jamaican economy functions today. This is no surprise, considering the extremely rapid pace at which cellphones have penetrated the developing world, where people have suddenly gone from owning no phones at all to owning wireless phones.

Based on their interviews, the authors argue that cellphones have had a deep and lasting effect on complex issues such as social connectivity, relationships, crime, health, poverty, and religion. However, I think it’s sad that the cellphone seems to have accomplished very little in terms of formal medical care or even in generating real employment. Instead, Jamaicans use the cellphone for betting on lotteries and organizing social events. So while cellphones have changed Jamaicans’ experience of communication and have given people an overall sense of wellbeing, it all remains at a vague and diffuse level. This makes me question if they have afforded any ‘real’ advantages to low-income Jamaicans. If not, then the transformatory potential of the cellphone is being deployed toward superficial purposes only.

Questions for class discussion

  1. We talked about technological determinism in class a few weeks ago while discussing Lister et al.’s New Media: A Critical Introduction (2009). The foundational belief of technological determinism is that technology causes cultural changes. I believe the authors do a good job of avoiding deterministic conclusions – they clearly acknowledge the contradictions inherent to the use of cellphones in Jamaica. But even so, I am curious as to how Horst and Miller’s analysis speaks to technological determinism. It is obvious that technology is revolutionizing the way of life for low-income Jamaicans. Isn’t this a manifestation of technological determinism? Was McLuhan partly right? Or am I just confused?
  2. In talking about the ways in which cellphones help release cultural “pressure”, Horst and Miller argue that actions such as abuse, addiction, and overuse of cellphones can ironically lead to even more pressure. How might we think of this dilemma? For example, Jamaicans are spending a lot of money on acquiring and keeping cellphones, when ironically, they claim that cellphones help them make and save money. Can this be seen as a form of vicious cycle of economic exploitation disguised as the emancipatory power of the cellphone?

The Cell Phone: Anthropology of Communication CH 3-4

October 14, 2010

In The Cell Phone, authors Heather Horst and Daniel Miller conduct and ethnographic study in Jamaica to determine the impact of cell phone use on underprivileged communities and in everyday lives.  The first four chapters are dedicated to discussing the necessary theoretical background as well as the social, economic and technological circumstances that play an important role in understanding the impacts of the cell phone in Jamaica. Mary discussed the infrastructure in Chapter 2. In Chapter 3, I’ll discuss the locations chosen by the researchers for their study.

LOCATIONS

Before diving into the two specific cities in Jamaica that the authors chose to conduct their study, Horst and Miller give an overview of Jamaica itself, hitting the high notes of politics, consumer income, and the major industries. Some important things to note:

  • Jamaica is now the 4th most heavily indebted emerging economy with debts at 150% of GDP
    • Between 60-70% of the country’s revenues go directly towards servicing this debt
    • The country remains highly reliant on aid
  • Crime is one of the principal barriers preventing more sustained economic development
    • 3rd highest rate for violent crime in the world
  • Unemployment is around 15-17%
    • Unemployment of 14-19 year olds in the poorest sectors of Jamaica is 47%
  • 60% of students complete secondary school
    • Only 30-40% are functionally illiterate @ the end of primary school
  • Reasonable standard of living
    • 87% of households have electricity
    • 50% have an exclusive flush toilet
    • 64% have access to piped water (but might be outside)

Having this background information on Jamaica helps us to understand the setting in which this study is being conducted.  For example, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that the amount of Blackberrys and iPhones found in Jamaica are slim to none; the economic circumstances just don’t afford for them.

When picking the two unique locations, specific efforts were made to make certain that studies were conducted at one urban site and one rural site:

“There has always been a rural-urban divide in Jamaica, which has implications for income levels, survival strategies, and access to educational and occupational opportunities.” (43)

Assessing only one group of people within the many subsets of Jamaica would result in inconclusive results.  The following discusses the social and economic conditions that lay the necessary framework for understanding the conditions of the two fieldwork sites.

RURAL SITE: ORANGE VALLEY

Orange Valley is a central Jamaican farming community of roughly 500-600 residents, with an estimated 14,000 people living in the surrounding area that use Orange Valley for their transportation stations and markets.  The average household is 5.2 people, a rather large number but not abnormal for poorer communities. Twenty-four percent of households surveyed earned less than minimum wage. Landlines are rare to find; cell phones are often the only type of telephones available.

URBAN SITE: PORTMORE

Portmore is a low income area of approximately 200,000 residents that isn’t necessarily extreme in terms of violence or poverty. Rather, this area represents “the ordinariness of life as a low-income person trying to make ends meet in an urban context, in an area that potentially reflects the future of Jamaican society.” (43) Within Portmore is an area called Marshfield, where the majority of the research was conducted. Here, individuals enjoyed higher salaries and a higher standard of living than Orange Valley; everyone surveyed from Marshfield owned a TV, stove, refrigerator and other appliances. However, there is a great gap between the rich and poor in Portmore:

“…without proper connections and the support of family members, urban life creates more stress for low-income persons than in rural areas, where you can consume ground provisions…” (54).

Living in an urban area, although surrounded by more individuals with money, is difficult for struggling Jamaicans without their family and land to support them. SOCIAL connections become a big part of life and survival for low income Jamaicans. For many poor individuals, half of their income is dependent upon begging and the kind gifts from friends and neighbors. Because money is scarce, the primary source of survival is other people and social networks.

“This conclusion lies at the very heart of this volume, since it is the backdrop for understanding the cell phone not as a mere addition or luxury item, but as something that dramatically changes the fundamental conditions of survival for low-income Jamaicans, because it is the instrument of their single most important means of survival – communication with other people.” (57)

POSSESSION

Chapter four discusses the cell phone as a possession– in particular, the types of social messages sent by owning and using a cell phone.  Today, those without a cell phone are looked at as ‘deficient’. “When reporting their lack of cell phone ownership, facial expressions often spoke volumes about an individual’s sense of denigration and shame.” (59) Not surprisingly, there is a definite social gap between those who have cell phones and those who do not.

“I think it symbolizes maybe in a small way some kind of success, and I think people is fascinated to know that while they can’t afford maybe a big car like the person who is very successful, at least they have the ability to speak whenever they want. It is kind of an equalizer, the great equalizer.” (64)

Questions to Consider: To me, this is a very powerful statement that speaks loudly about Jamaican individualism. Based on the reading, what conclusions can you draw about why “having the ability to speak whenever they want” is such a powerful thing for Jamaican people to possess? What comments do you have about the cell phone being ‘the great equalizer’?

Chapter four goes into great depth on a lot of different facets of cell phone possession, so in an effort to keep this post from becoming a novel, I’ll talk about a few of the areas I found most interesting:

WHY CELL PHONES OVER LANDLINES?                                                                                                                                                    Landlines are much cheaper than cell phones…in fact, it costs roughly 30x more to make a call with a cell phone in Jamaica versus a dialing with a landline phone (76). So why would Jamaicans (with little money to spare) choose to spend a significant amount of their very small incomes on a service they could purchase for much cheaper? The book reveals a few interesting elements of Jamaican social norms and culture that contribute to this decision:

In rural areas….

  • Lack of landlines. Many places (such as Orange Valley) have very limited access to use of landlines. This results in the use of public phones:
    • Negative history of public phones, which were often out of order, vandalized or unavailable
    • Little privacy. Landline telephone use was often ‘rented out’ by public stores based on the length of the call, where ones’ entire conversation was in the open for the public to listen to
    • Negative histories and experiences with use of landlines
      • Jamaicans are very suspicious of telephone companies, believing they are hiking up their bills and charging them for more minutes than they have used

In urban areas…

  • Although landlines in homes are much more common, many also believed that they were being overcharged by the telephone company.
    • Family conflicts often arose as a result of the landline bill. Because a ‘family’ in Jamaica often consists of multiple adults (brothers, in-laws, etc). living together, each is responsible for contributing towards the landline bill according to their use. “Jamaica is unusual for the degree to which relations between members of the same household are monetarized, and a sense of fairness is rendered most explicit in the monetary exchanges that go on within a household.” (75) Often, family members become hostile and suspicious of one another for not fully owing up according to their usage.
      • The cell phone is seen as something whose individualized billing permits an extended household to ‘live good’ together.
    • Even if the ultimate bill for the cell phone is much greater, the worry is gone over what the phone bill will be next month because minutes are bought using pre-paid cards.

TEXTING

I thought it was quite interesting to learn that ‘texting’ does not account for a very large proportion of most Jamaican citizen’s cell phone usage. It is quite obvious that in the States, especially among youth, text messaging is a widely used means of conversing with friends and family. However, Jamaicans have been quoted as disliking the extra effort that goes into writing text messages. MOST IMPORTANTLY, text messaging is also thought to be less popular because it saves people with limited education from embarrassment since an inability to spell correctly. When texting is used, non-predicative text (such as ‘ur’ for ‘your’) is a much more popular route to avoid misspellings.

Far more widely-used than texting, Internet access though the phone has become a significant application used by low-income Jamaicans. Most individuals with phones do not possess a computer with Internet access, thus making their phone much like a personal computer. For many, their only exposure to the Internet has been through the use of cell-phones.   Thus, how they have come to know the Web is entirely different from those who experienced it via computer. It reminds me of what Kim brought up in class last week, about how her kids don’t think of buying ‘albums’ when you buy music, but instead think of buying ‘songs’.  Can you imagine surfing the Web for the first time on a cell phone? I think my idea of connection speed and Skype would be much different.

CONCLUSIONS

WHEW, a LOT of information was provided in these two chapters! Primarily though, I think the author is attempting to give the reader insight into the nature of Jamaican individualism.  As described in the family billing scheme for landline telephones, Jamaicans find a sense of individuality and autonomy by having their own cell phones and thus their own bills. In turn, they can use these phones as a means of expression, by having loud conversations for others to overhear and by accessorizing their phones to display their unique sense of style. The introduction of the cell phone not only provided Jamaicans with a new technology, but a new element for their social relationships. It is very interesting to read about!

Intro-Chapter 2 Cellphone

October 14, 2010

Chapter one:  Introduction, really was an introduction. This chapter was all about “setting the stage” for what is to come. This means discussing aspects of Jamaican historo-cultural elements that Horst and Miller considered important pieces in order for the reader to understand their “argument.” It was also a braiding of the previous literature done in several domains (communication, technological determinism, social networking, globalization, migration, anthropological research in general and more specifically within ethnography, and more) with an emphasis on marrying the previous range of literature about cell phones with the local, historical, and cultural context of Jamaica.  It was a lot and can appear at first, a bit overwhelming and “messy.” However, reading the entire chapter the importance of introducing all of these realms and ‘the range of communication’ (p.12) to the reader’s attention is better understand, and I appreciate their study more-so because they are attuned to the complexity of their research goal(s), which are/is: to consider the “impact of the phone in the developing world” (p. 3) specifically, “how low-income Jamaica has integrated the cell phone into their world” (p.19), and the relationship(s) of technology (cell phones) with people from Jamaica and how the two shape and are shaped by one another” (p. 7).

In order for the ethnographers to do this research, they explicitly note the relationship of power of the more “traditional” literature they were acknowledging and its potential co-opting effects it could have over their results/analysis.  From my understanding, these authors were seeing a very disparate or conflicting analysis and they were trying to forewarn the reader about these contentions by offering a critical lens of power in the field of anthropology, which I also appreciated.  This “conundrum” of having possibly potentially threatening or contradictory findings can be scary for the researchers presenting the information especially when the research can be overwhelmingly favored to speak one particular way. In addition, they make an important distinction, which is most research done on technological impact has been less in “developing” areas and more so in “developed/Western” worlds.  I think this helps their direction in that the “findings” may be different because of their sensitivities to power and the “Western-gaze,” because of their location (Jamaica), and because of the cultural context to which they are trying to honor.

History: According to the authors, Jamaican inhabitants, from the beginning, have used forms of communication for resistance.  For example, during colonization, slaves used “informal” spaces, such as the market, the church, and the “negro village” as areas for important exchange of information and communication.  The authors illustrated the various ways in which these places were used, such as the church, which was seen as an ally to slave resistance.  The chapter discussed the “Christmas Rebellion of 1831” where Black Baptist missionaries organized the largest slave revolt in America.  Church leaders would read these newspaper articles “aloud to the slaves” (p.13) keeping Jamaican slaves in “the loop” so-to-speak about revolutionize going on in other areas.    Also, the taxi-system was an important method of carrying news, “money for bets and information about happenings across the island” (p. 14).  This section continues with more examples about the market and the village, which were also spaces for communication that built communities of support and resistance to “the institution.”

Cultural context: The important of noise in Jamaican context deconstructed in the latter half of the chapter.  Horst and Miller distinguish the importance of noise in this culture.  Noise is an important form of communication that denotes meaning-making and ways of living.  While “noise” in the Western context generally means “irritations” “rudeness”,  and “improper,” “noise” in this particular culture means entirely something different. It states (p.17) “obtrusive noise [is] central to the creation of community, often in resistance to the establishment.”  When I read this, I thought maybe it isn’t so different than what this culture does. What kind of noise do we, as Westerners, create as an act of resistance? We have protests, blogging, clapping and cheering or booing (as parochial as I sound right now).  When they described the ‘man-o-words’ concept it first seemed very odd to me that the folks who participate in this form of communication would all speak at once, over the top of each other, but that somehow, through their simultaneous ‘talks’ they would produce a ‘harmonious’ message.  And then I thought to myself, ‘don’t we do this through protesting? Just a thought, maybe I’m wrong.  Anyway, I digress. I thought it was an interesting section where I totally diverged. J

The importance of sharing these historical and cultural pieces becomes central in understanding how this particular population’s relationship with this form of communication has developed known as the ‘communication of ecology’.  At the same, time Horst and Miller attempt to avoid problematic blanket generalizations by being conscientious to “language and style that retains something of the humanity and individuality of the people upon whom those generalizations are based” (p. 18).

Question: Well, I’m not sure what question to ask.  I’m still trying to absorb all of the “braiding” going on in this chapter… I’ll have to come back to this later.

Chapter 2: Infrastructure

Wow, I have never learned so much about corporate cell phone wars! The exploitation is evident, as many corporations see Jamaica as a potential ‘cash-cow’ with little regulation (with the exception of OUR).  The second chapter outlined the ‘duopoly’ held by the long standing, C&W (Cable and Wireless), and its recent arch nemesis, Digicel. This section of the chapter outlined the various strategies Digicel created and employed in attempt to ‘win-over’ subscribers.   Its tactics proved to be formidable for C&W and Digicel, currently, resides as the prevalent leader in cell phone subscriptions.  An important note: A large part of this victory is attributed to the ‘culture’ of Digicel and C&W in the eyes of Jamaican subscribers.  Digicel represented more than just a cell phone company but stood for values, beliefs, and attitudes of Jamaican culture.  It achieved this through brilliant marketing techniques that adopted Rastifarian colors, symbols, and images.  People from Jamaica had little awareness that Digicel even originated from Ireland because the marketing and “culture” of the company at the middle-to ground level was what Horst and Miller called, “Jamaicanized.” The chapter even mentions how Digicel employees proudly sported the logo of their company as it afforded them higher status within their community.  At the same time, there were and are other “players” identified as threatening the bastion Digcel & CW have over Jamaican’s population, which are Ocean Digital Communications and the well known citadel of AT&T.

Cell phone subscription is considered a ‘luxury’ as landlines “[are] the rent” (p.30); yet, one cell phone call to a cross-company call is more expensive than a landline international call. Despite Jamaicans claim to want to save money, Horst & Miller believe that it is these aforementioned ways of communication (man-o-words and other ‘noise’ forms of communication) that Jamaicans associate cell phones with and to.  This is the interesting point for me.  So, in understanding that these more traditional forms of communication were privileged and honored because of their resistant nature, are cell phones viewed in the same ‘libratory’ light—even in the midst of these giant corporations ‘taking people to the cleaners’?  Yet, when I read on, the authors warned of “draw[ing] too many conclusions from this chapter alone”J (p.36), because as they state, simply looking at macro commerce and economic practices is insufficient in understanding the usage of cell phones within this culture.  They cite that this culture is not just about capitalism, but “capitalisms, and often localized capitalisms” (P. 34). They draw on the absurdity and subjectivity of the “cost and fairness” debate(s) which complicates further the picture.

I guess my questions from this chapter would concern our own understanding of our own particular culture in terms of “capitalism(s)” and what forms they may take? Are the authors talking about these multiple forms of capitalism, which are also at the local level in a way that they can be transferred to industrialized countries such as the US, or is this completely off the grid? Anyway, I’m waiting… and in the meantime I’m still trying to put all of that information together.