Monday, November 13, 2006

Group 5 posting

Michaels article: Eric Michaels, in “For a Cultural Future”, observes the production of Australian Aboriginal film and examines on a larger scale its effects on Aboriginal culture. He illustrates an instance of the traditional “Fire Ceremony,” a ceremonial dance functioning to resolve disputes that is significantly dangerous – and likely “savage” in Western eyes – as those who are punished risk being badly burned. Michaels highlights how the advent of film and television technologies in these traditional societies allows for a greater cultural continuity, but also recognizes that the flow of mainstream media through new channels into traditional cultures threatens to supplant them. Ultimately, it seems, the pendulum could swing both ways; and Michaels shows how even in the reverse – with Aboriginal media flowing outwards – there is a risk that cultural values will be cheapened and reduced to “savage theatre.”

Poster article
: Poster analyzes postmodernity through the lens of information organization and electronic communication. Electronic communication, he posits, is displacing the idea of a rational, autonomous, individual. The individual is rather being multiplied in various representations that are disseminated widedly in a decentralized environment. (think fax, mass emails, globally -accessible blogs) Identity becomes unstable as information/symbols/language that define it is multiplied, separated from the author, and used for marketing and monitoring. Like print, electronic communications allow speech at a distance to be more efficient. Though the way language is interpreted, confounds single definition of the individual.

He first talks about advertisements and theory surrounding it. The traditional theory is that ads are deceptive, and work to manipulate demand for a product (Marx). Though Poster goes on to credit ads with using language to construct alternate realities where one would never act the same as in real life. Linguistic properties connect the viewer and the product, associating meaning between the two. Pepsi=youth=sex=fun=popularity.

He next views computerized databases as masses of information about individuals that may be sold, monitored, reproduced, and distributed. Myspace comes to mind. Individuals are defined by certain traits, interests, histories, which can be sold to mircosoft for marketing purposes or looked up by future employers. Poster uses the term superpanopticon in that privacy is nulled so that constructs of the individual can be readily exchanged. The panopticon shapes and molds behavior by threat of surveillance. Databases multiply the power of surveillance, making an environment where the individual may not know that computers have their information, but the computer may know who he/she is.

Finally, Poster observes how electronic writing separates the individual from the message, much like print technology allowing a message to be sent long distances and viewed by multiple people. Thus, like Derridas acknowledged, the problem becomes (mis)interpretation of the author's original meaning. With blogs, instant messaging, email, the writing moreover is less fixed and more interpreted through signage.

Discussion questions: How does Plant connect the concept of the cyberspace to the feminine? What specific attributes does he bring up to compare the two? Do you agree or disagree with them?

Can you think of any contemporary examples of women in technology similar to Lovelace and Hopper? Any contemporary examples of technology that replace people in a similar fashion to the automated loom?

What would Poster have to say about the influx of Facebooks and Myspaces on the Internet? Is it generally empowering or subordinating, and for whom?

Is it due to technological advancements and modernization that cultural rituals like the Fire Ceremony disappear or are their other reasons?

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