In his essay “The Post-Information Age,” Negrponte suggests that traditional (and historical) modes of capitalist production and consumption are no longer feasible (or profitable) in the digital age. Breaking what he calls “space and time,” the post-information age is indicated by our digital selves, rather than the more traditional narrowcasting or segmenting (politically, regionally, etc.). Negroponte argues for a smarter and more intelligent technological response to our “digital lives,” avoiding (or at very least eliding or side-stepping) issues of surveillance, tracking, and/or essentialism based on our search engine queries, Facebook friends, or other digital footprints.
In my imagination, perhaps, I feel like I read some sort of prompt for this blog post that tended toward the historical and comparative. To that end, I think there are certain commonalities that unite Hall and Negroponte: a sensitivity to the local and specific, and also an attention to the detailed and material realities of specific sets of people. Hall’s analysis, and its desire to reconcile economic and social analysis, mirrors the technological issues mentioned by Negroponte regarding monovocality, singularity, and the individual. But Hall would like to have both specificity and spread–suggesting that colonialization and racism are factors that poison the collective well (queer theory might prove useful here). But what of models of the digital self, as posed by Negroponte, and the collective and/or social as framed by Hall? How can we square the socio-economic ciricle of social and cultural relations (or political economy) while also preserving space for the individual as a person as well as digital entity?
Walcott may offer some insight here; in “Fragments of Memory,” he circles around issues of identity and expectation and suggests that for the Antilles to “play by” Western or global rules about what it should be, look like, and offer as experience is doomed to fail. His careful attention to materiality and aesthetics (“poverty is poetry with a V, une vie…”) acknowledges the Antilles in representation (mostly literature) and diaspora while calling attention to the specificity (and historical trajectory) of contemporary Antillean culture and language, space and place. Ultimately, I think Walcott has a similar “both/and” tack to Hall that sidesteps contemporary academic debates in favor of alternative models. However, Walcott does not engage with the sort of socio-economic analysis or academic dismantling that Hall might, preferring to use art–poetry–as the lens and vehicle on which to think of the Caribbean. The advantage of art is that it is both representational and material–Walcott’s essay conveys his thoughts and is his thought. It expresses the tension between multiplicity and individuality in its form as well as its content–language writhes in his descriptions with both beauty and violence, compatriotism and indignation.
Perhaps the alternative formulations of identity and reality that Walcott articulates as belonging to the Antilles, and perhaps the Caribbean more broadly, can (or could have found) elbow room and space to breathe more freely on the internet at the time Negroponte is writing. I’m not so sure that is still possible, or even desirable, now.
Note: I updated this after my original posting.