[-empyre-] Re: cultural interfacing

Hi Ricardo + everyone,

I'm having trouble seeing the mistaken assumption that the account of
the killing of the 5 contract workers was from an Australian newspaper
as an interesting observation in terms of the geographical underpinnings
of the network. It strikes me more as a naive assumption...

i see your point. my thoughts on this are based on the use of "network" in a social, rather than purely technological sense. so, by "geographical underpinnings" i meant the assumptions that govern how the network functions in a communicative sense. the person assuming that the AP story should be read with more skepticism because it was framed by an Australian source, to me, points out that even in the "distributed" network, there are strong beliefs about location and culture that filter how information is received. Not that this a "wrong" or "bad" assumption, but it doesn't necessarily engage with the mechanisms of how information is produced/distributed. in other words, it is possible to believe that there is an "Australian" internet, that is a part of the "global" internet, without being engaged with the material infrastructure (social and technological) that might actually "ground" it in a meaningful way. it certainly is a naive assumption (tied up with ideas of "authenticity"), but it's one based on older notions of geography (an Australia that is informationally "distant" from the gulf coast of the US) that don't engage with the kind of hegemony and consolidation that's happened.

One geographical and cultural element of the network that I find interesting is that apparently transnational corporations are beginning to pay more attention to researching and constructing web sites that exist specifically to cater to a given culture and/or geographical location.

i think this example is more of a solid example of what i was thinking than the AP story anecdote, and certainly more interesting. but like a lot of people, i've been overwhelmed by the events on the gulf coast and have family that evacuated from just outside of NOLA, so everything has kind of been framed by that for me lately.

But in this context the web
becomes the latest tool for cultural colonization. I wonder if its
effects will be the same as television or radio, or do the parameters of
effect increase? After all the web may be used as a learning tool much
more effectively than television or radio. Or rather than considering
growing web accessibility as a form of colonization, is it more so a
means to empowerment?

i think what makes me lean toward colonization as the MO of these interests (other than history, of course) is the notion of "cultural specificity" as it's applied in "market" terms. so MS (or whomever) can make their web sites use culturally relevant imagery, read in different orientations, etc in order to appear specifically tailored to a geographically/culturally defined, market-tested group, but it's not about giving that group the tools to better understand MS's position, it's to translate the same values MS communicates everywhere else - buy MS. (sorry to use such an obvious target) i'm not saying that's bad in itself (well, maybe a little), it just is what it is. a con man that is multilingual is not a tool for empowerment.
this seems to be the holy grail of ecommerce - individual, scalable marketing. What Norman Yonemoto euphorically stated in a LA Freewaves video from a few years ago when talking about Amazon: "It's going to be hard not to buy it. Because it's made just for you."
on the other hand, i think there are projects that are happening that are about translation and scalability that aren't about expanding market ideology. Wikis and some of the many OS browser extensions for translating are more promising technologies for empowerment than MTV2 making a web site designed for diverse global markets.

Ryan, thanks for sharing the excellent review of inSite's panel
discussion from late May; I'd like to tie your review to the questions
I'm presenting above. Particularly Sally Stein questioning "the role
of information communication technologies in the construction of social
spaces..." Although Stein focused on cell phone use and likely personal
space in stating as you wrote - "it is the technology's role in
facilitating both connection and isolation that was of interest to
Stein. 'We may be more 'connected' more often, but to whom?' she asked.
Are our social circles more inclusive or exclusive as a result of how we
choose to use communication devices?"

i took Stein to be analyzing the actual (and promoted) use of these technologies. cell phones, in her presentation, are used to make "potential public spaces" into "private" space by using them to communicate with those already part of our tight social circles (and who aren't even in the same space). certainly, a similar thing happens with news feeds, blogs, etc as people can filter out information that isn't deemed of "interest" to them, or doesn't fit their ideological profile. but in the end, it's about personalized consumption. on a larger cultural scale, this kind of customization i think is what we're talking about above. but perhaps there's something more to this that you're getting at?

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