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Does the Internet Follow the White Rabbit? #HASTAC 2014

Does the Internet Follow the White Rabbit? #HASTAC 2014

After an inspiring Opening Ceremony and Keynote Address at the HASTAC2014 Conference in Lima, I headed off to hear fellow Dukie, David Dulceany present on "The Digital Divide and Questions of Access to Technologies and the Internet in Latin America and The Caribbean." His talk, "Internet without Internet: The Digital Divide in the Caribbean" took a theoretical approach to addressing questions of digital inequalities in the region that is broadly defined as the Caribbean. As we know, the Caribbean is an extremely complex and diverse maritime region shaped by its position as a major interlocutor in trans Atlantic trade during the 14th-21st centuries. As a crucible of Atlantic cultures, this region's communities were shaped by modalities of thought from West Africa, Europe, and the Americas. In defining the rich cultures of this region, David drew our attention to the different conceptions of time that many Caribbean people hold. In addition to "Western" notions of linear time, notions of circular and sedimentary time (among others) profoundly shape many Caribbean peoples' world views (For a more detailed and theoretical exploration of time in the Caribbean and broader Atlantic World, consider looking into Ian Baucom's Specters of the Atlantic).

While listening to David present, questions bubbled to the surface of my mind about time. Along with iconic images of Alice in Wonderland's White Rabbit and newly popular plot twists from movies such as Inception, my mind flickered with inquiries about the impact of linear and non-linear time on the ways in which people conceptualize, use, and shape the internet to align with their world views. If communication and information technologies are profoundly shaped by economically privileged countries/communities (often identified as "Western"), does the internet reflect their typical dependency on linear time? Or, does the internet align more with non-linear notions of time? After all, the internet allows us to continually go back and change content, building up information like sedimentation along a river bank. Shared Google Documents allow people to write simultaneously or at different times, clumping workflow in really interesting and diverse ways.

If the internet is more non-linear, than linear, what impact does that have on the ways in which people in the Caribbean conceptualize, use, and shape the internet? By contrast, what influence does that have on people who live in a world largely defined by linear time? Perhaps the differences in how people understand and employ the internet are not that profoundly shaped by conceptions of time. But, what if they are? What does is say about Digital Scholarship that non-linear time might be more impactful than linear time on the ways in which people use the internet? I think it shift the terms of debate about the Digital Divide and adds another layer of complexity to an already intense set of questions about access and equality in the Digital World.

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2 comments

I really appreciated the inclusion of analysis of local site specific digital narratives and global digital narratives.  How do these local narratives shape our collective narrative and forms of communication interactions in the digital medium?  As a documentary stroyteller these are exciting ideas to think about.  Thank you David and Ashley!  

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Great questions, Jenny (and ones that preoccupy the topic of my dissertation topic: the evolution of 19th century local food markets in an increasingly Atlantic/Global age). The questions that drive my dissertation are also ones that come to mind while traveling in countries such as Morocco and Peru, which have both strong/continuous street market cultures and fairly established tourism trades. Who/what influences the products sold in these markets? Say you go to an artisan market in Cuzco. There, you might find beautifully woven, colorful items that upon first glance appear "authentically" Peruvian (dare I use that word?) Some tourists immediately think of the iconic llama as a symbol of Cuzco and the Andes. These llama patterns are included in traditional woven items - rugs/tapestries. Yet, these same llamas now show up on very European/American-looking purses, hats, and and trinkets ranging from bottle openers to coffe mugs. In what way are global expectations of what Peruvian artisan crafts should look like influencing the manufacture of artisan goods for tourists? It seems that The Global can even affect what at first glance seems to be an embedded ("static"), historical craft tradition. As we know, though, culture is by no means static and the balance of Global versus local cultures and expectations is one that has been teetering back and forth for millennia. I would like to do some follow up research/investigating on the influence of Peruvian artisan crafts on American fashion (perhaps an example of The Local affecting The Global).

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