In the (generally) optimistic messages of both both Derek Walcott’s speech and Negroponte’s article, I honestly started out looking for parallels in the works. I noted major ideas and tried to track them through both pieces, hoping to come to some grand conclusion, some sweeping stroke of genius that connected them to each other in a gripping and obvious way.
I ended both articles somewhat disappointed.
But, later, riding the train, the words of both men swimming around in my mind to the lulling rock of the cars on the track, they found each other once my expectations faded away. Both authors were, in their own way, stressing the idea of culture and connection being able to transcend time and physical space. There is the uniting idea of (a) people getting past both physical and metaphysical constraints in order to continue to create and unite.
Negroponte, imagining a sort of e-utopia (being an optimist, of course), spoke of the internet’s ability to allow people collaborate on the same project in different time zones and the ability of email changing accessibility, creating the ability to get past the “office hours” mentality. Of course, within context, this sounds more like a capitalist wet dream, being able to roll over something from time zone to time zone in order to create a faster turnaround time and, in turn, generate more money, but, if we take a moment to step back from that idea, no matter how well it sits in with a country obsessed with making money, it seems like a great step towards collaboration without constraints. There is also the archival properties of the internet — the ability for something to continue to live on for later use in some form or fashion, basically in the exact same way that it existed upon it’s creation. This doesn’t just mean documents and articles that can be accessed, or blog posts and ramblings, but things as common as websites dedicated to “classic” cartoons that no longer currently air on television, but are hosted online.
This idea of collaboration and creation that transcends time and place is a little more nuanced, a little less obvious in Walcott’s The Antilles. Here, rather than collaboration transcending time from present moving forward, time collaborates with itself. Walcott is careful to explore the various cultures that come together to make up the Antilles, the shores possibly untouched by many people living there right then, but that are echoed in the land, the buildings, and the people. Even as time moves forward and the island must put on it’s tourist face in order to generate revenue, the times and places gone or removed continue to intermingle. While living and breathing, while a concrete place moving forward through time as we understand it, the Caribbean also manages to transcend those supposed constraints to stand as an amalgam of all that has touched ad influenced and created, as well as all that continues to influence and transform it.
Honestly, it makes me think of the ability, both on and offline, to create and preserve histories. We already have genealogy sites, websites dedicated to hosting photographs and reconnecting family members and friends, which preserve personal histories. If the Caribbean has the ability to, in some ways, preserve parts of its history with much less regard to time and space, then the internet adds another dimension to this idea with it’s own way of sidestepping these constraints.