The 'Wall' Within---Portrait of a Pixelated Dream
Just nominated, I'm writing this post to say hi! I'm Bolin, and I'm auditing Prof. Olson's New Media, Memory& the Visual Archive this fall at Duke. I have this migratory post from our intranet to share with you folks, for I really want to know your opinion on this issue!
This is a commentary post on A virtual counter-revolution The Economist &David Weinberger utopianizes upon the shoulders of William Gibson(yeah, he's coming to Duke!!)
Anyone who considers that China, a no google.cns land with chains of Great Firewall, should take the blame as being socially awkward in the virtual space that adore freedom might want to think twice if he or she admires Google enough. He can simply fly to Beijing or Shanghai and ask people randomly on the street, do you have any difficulty logging onto google.com? You will get similar responses like yeah? oh, I will baidu it and see. The point is do not be evil. Google honors that and so does the Chinese.
Back in the good old days,as both my mother and grandmother usually refer to, people consumed less gossip/news of strangers unless they were geographically or genealogically connected. While kinship has been gradually eroded by unclear family unites, the collectivism fever of the last century has long gone with wind, young men and women, either ambitious or just cashless, are flooding into the big cities, leaving their children and parents back in the villages where time ceases to click and count. Theres no word of mouth myth in the county, for the elders are either deaf or tired; no bedtime folklores, as parents are busy checking stocks online and kids are fed with stories from RSS in their own right. and, no craft vendors w/o licenses would venture their crafts on the street. The spirituality and materiality of their craftsmanship is either bribed by commercialized local companies or degraded by their reckless apprentices. Thus, the only untouched tale, an urban legend, becomes digital, virtual, and even spacial. It is the Web in days/nights of our life.
Google would not blame Tim BL for being an Englishman and HTML, although clearly abstract, is written in English alphabet. The Economists should have taken Tim BLs semantic web under their belt if they had admitted that the Web is far from neutral and universal. Sovereignty is aloof and intangible; profit is calculated but not concerned (remember the collective gamblingDot com Bubble); social norm is always out there, but only in print, in exam, and in Sociologists traffic-free blog. People simply get used to Baidu because of its Chineseness. While youtube users may complain videos duration constraints, frequent users of tudou or youku are watching the full-length movies translated and subtitled by dedicated invisible friends across the screens in the world. There was also a time, netizens favor human flesh search engine instead of virtual encoded ones, because they take the responsibility to fill the gap between online/offline modes of our society too seriously. They spend a lot of time in online forums, sharing and replying things of their common interests. Plugged off, they will walk out their home or office with the incepted messages/digital memory they have just marked in mind. Once in a while, spoilers around the nation will release new info. and update details of the nailed issue in highlight, e.g. public disgrace activity that was published online by bystanders (abusing cats; not man bites dog).
The beauty of the web is its simplicity and accessibility, which is why it should also allow complex architectures such as second life, facebook, and more chaotic structure such as a tower of babel. The labor of the Chinese encoded in these firewalls is a gesture, either normative or instrumental, striving for uniqueness and authenticity within their linguistic/speech community. For us, Chinese, as our mother tough, and the whole memory webs that have been built or under construction with the symbolic dynamics of Chinese characters and rhythms are the backbones of our identity. For Foucault, as he might agree, Googles rival in China is neither the big bro Government nor the local blessed IT firms under conservative umbrellas, but the living Archive (A Chinese box?) which is constantly producing and linking texts and authors of its own (and also new symbols). This is the dream machine that has outlived primary orality of the cumbersome past and unfriendly touches from the strangers in the last two centuries, although its legitimacy in the International institution is still pending. The idea of rational ignorance makes excuse for Googles dominant role in our intellectual lives. Will it become another nation-state that could one day spread its necessary evil? At least William Gibson and David Weinberger buzzed up.