Much like my colleague, Jamal George, establishes in his post “Time Zones”, time, specifically the idea of the future and how the past defines the present is very important in defining Digital life in the Caribbean and world as we know it. A quick read through Nicholas Negroponte’s Being Digital shows the optimistic view of the digital world, as we know it. Things on demand being at our fingertips on our devices through the use of the internet is something we now see as common place but in the nineties when Negroponte wrote his piece, this was not yet a reality. His predictions of the future is right on and even points at certain behaviors yet to happen, but that are most certainly in the works. His hope is that we would use this powerful digital space to create new social orders and find agency to create another world that will solve the issues we face.
As Stuart Hall notes in Articulation, there are racial structures we’ve created in our current society that keep certain people unable to find agency. Connecting it to Negroponte – It keeps the world and cyberspace in the same majority-minority structure that has been established through a history of white male dominance. These structures are currently being reestablished in the digital age with the Internet providing a space for us to play out the current ideas instead of fight them. Although yes, there are certain places where we attempt to fight stereotypes, dominance, and develop some form of equality (blogs or new sites), there is still a common thread that is reflected in our digital spaces. We can easily place blame here on economic factors of corporatization of the Internet and the argument of limited access in the Caribbean. But what about looking at social-psychological factors of not wanting to venture into the unknown unless it has something in common with what we do know?
It’s important to note that although we attempt to fight racism, patriarchy, and inequality in our current society, it is still an ongoing battle; one that the Internet has played a role in. Looking at the Occupy Wall Street movement that is no longer physical but rather digitally powerful political movement, we see people attempting to break this mold. Unfortunately many of these voices are drowned out by the overwhelming shouts of those comfortable and happy with the current social order. However this connected-ness afforded to us by cyberspace has allowed this movement to have legs through out the world, sprouting Occupy to take on a new life in various different cities.
Bringing this back now to the Caribbean though, it’s important to also bring in the work of Derek Walcott who very clearly articulates the pace at which life moves in countries like Antilles: a slow comfortable organic rhythm. Even he, in his reflections of celebrations occurring on the island, brings his own ethnocentric views, making less of these cultural events. Cyberspace is following a similar pattern, in which the participation of people in these countries is made less of because of the current dominant structures of major players on the world scale. Here, the US and Europe have majority voices and the rest are ignored. That does not mean that moving forward cyberspace cannot be used as a form of agency. I predict it can and will see this change, only once we acknowledge these connections and attempt to deviate from these paths.
Yes, Lusely…as cyberspace is a mirror representation of our socio-psychological state of of being, its also acts as a system of oppression that is purely and essentially patriarchal where information is disseminated through Euro-American lenses. This makes me thing of a ongoing discussion on Facebook regarding women in the middle east wearing Burkas and hijabs. One discussion that is being had is the idea of virtue and modesty, viewed through the Euro-American lens this kind of dress is oppressive, the information about this cultural religious practice is filtered through the lenses of racism and religious phobia. In American and Europe ii is normal for womens bodies to be exposed, exploited and commodified, for example Victory Secrets is a common staple in every American mall, but yet this is viewed as normal but women covering their bodies is seen as abnormal, subversive and threatening.
The “aha” moment for me was your mention of the social-psychological factors contributing to the reflection of our society in cyberspace. I never thought of this as a one of the reasons cyberspace overwhelmingly resembles society and all it’s inequalities. I usually resort to putting the blame on economics but you make a strong point here that we as users of the space must stand responsible for what goes on in the space.