Monday, September 14, 2009

Nationalism and ICTs. Good or Bad?

Castells writes about the Global Civil Society and how the media plays a role in creating a global society. With the emergence of new media such as twitter and facebook, the notion of a global civil society will become crucial to governments and communities at large. The case in Burma were public opinion was exposed on facebook, blogs and videos is a good example. The question to consider is one of access. The people who have access to internet and can post a blog or have access to a video camera and use youtube to share is something we must keep in mind. Waisbord pointedly mentions that we can't ignore the inequalities in cultural production and consumption. Karim states that the primary barriers seem to be accesibility to the servies and subscription costs. Karim also cites Newman that although there are diasporic communities, that does not mean that a majority of the group has access to them or that they are interested in using them. People living in rural villages in the developing countries often do not have access to internet, and usually depend on one source of information, usually the radio, as Waisborn mentions. Also, Karim reiterates what we read last week, that information usually flows from North to South, usually reinforcing northern views. What Latin Americans see on television that comes from the this North-South, ie, from the US to them, is different than from what they watch from Latin America, even from Univision and Telemundo, since these adhere to the Latin Ameican news values.

All three articles had one thing in common, they spoke about the power of the media and how, just like nationalism, it can be a good or bad thing. Waisbord says that nationalism is an elastic concept and that the media serves to nurture and perpetuate cultural identities and outline boundaries between in-groups and out-groups rather than their crystallization of cultural sovereignty. Karim gives us some examples of this in his article pertaining to Spanish-speaking Latinos in the US who watch Univision or Telemundo, for example. Latinos and all other immigrants, migrants, and nomadic peoples have television, radio, newspapers that make them feel at home, but also perhaps prevent them from assimiliating into the new place. Groups of people who travel to one area from a community feel at home by watching shows in their language, about their culture. The media helps create linkages. Nationalism can be reinforced and spread by using media outlets. Having this 'new cultural formation' is also due to the lack of spatial or literacy obstacles of the media.

Assimilation perhaps does not happen as quickly or at all due to ICTs and the media, but I think what Karim declares, that the diaspora is a “coexistence of multiplicity of cultural cartographies supported by the vibrant bodies of literature as well as other intellectual and artistic forms” is something positive that researchers need to think about in IC.

IC and the use of ICTs can be a two-way street in the sense that those in power can dissiminate information and demand control, and spread nationalism, but individual citizens can use these tools and new media to respond and make their views heard across continents. However, problems arise when governments and those in power wish to control, for example, the internet. Again, it is an issue of access and accesibility. In the US, our president has said that the internet should be free and open. However, this has not necessarily been the case in China, N. Korea and other nations. There are dangers from information sharing and also from the internet itself. We mentioned cyberattacks in class a couple of weeks ago. We are starting to rely more and more on the internet and new information-sharing technologies (how many people have an iphone or blacberry, for example.) An interruption or destruction would cause mayhem. Businesses, markets and individuals rely on the technologies, on television and other news sources for information, communication, and education, It would be similar to the Y2K scare, but it became a reality, there would be many unable to perform their jobs, for example.

I do believe those without these technologies would benefit from them if they were able to obtain and use them properly. People in rural African villages who only listen to the radio, if they own one, would be able to hear about the presidential candidates, other than relying simply from one source or from word of mouth. At the same time, if there was electricity available and we gave all of them televisions and computers and taught them how to use the internet, how would this change their society and ours? Would it all be used for good? Maybe, maybe not. (I have the movie 'The Gods Must be Crazy' in mind).

1 comment:

  1. "All three articles had one thing in common, they spoke about the power of the media and how, just like nationalism, it can be a good or bad thing. Waisbord says that nationalism is an elastic concept..."

    I agree, and he did, but I just wanted to add that as I reread Waisbord, I felt like he was missing the mark a little bit, if only because he is so concerned with the role of 'the media' and 'the national'. As you and Karim point out, individuals may or may not respond to the messages 'the media' or the government put out there in the way intended, or they may not pay attention to them at all...

    Castells 2007 account of the rise of mass self-communication shows how thinking of the media in terms of nationalism and 'assimilation'* is the old paradigm. The horizontal communication networks that are now the new distribution sites for media, news and other cultural artifacts available for consumption are being gradually bought up and brought under the umbrella of the the TNCs, but this is not changing their user-generated origin. The very nature of the success of such projects of youtbe, digg, blogging, and facebook makes it impossible to change the way they work and maintain their popularity because users would simply flock to another user-generated content location at which they have real control over content.

    *Take Gary Weaver's cross-cultural communications and you will never misuse this word again. It is up to the dominant cultur to 'assimilate' the newer/minority culture, not the other way around, so using that word to describe how 'immigrants should/shouldn't/can/can't assimilate' makes no sense. Minority cultures can acculturate to a newer culture, but without the approval and will of the new culture, they cannot be assimilated. This point is also well-illustrated by the example of the Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Many important lessons can be learned from either the original or next generation star trek.