The Dialectics of the Mediascapes: Their Promises and Perils for Global Art and Activism
In his groundbreaking 1990 article Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy, Arjun Appadurai defined ‘mediascapes’ as one of the five dimensions of globalization that referred “both to the distribution of the electronic capabilities to produce and disseminate information (newspapers, magazines, television stations, film production studios, etc.), … and to the images of the world created by these media.” (299f.) Connectivity is presented as the pre-condition for participation in this global world of digital media. Yet, the promise of connectivity embodies some alarming paradoxes: On the one hand, the widespread use of the Internet has created a “culture of connectivity” (van Dijck 2013) that has opened a galaxy of new opportunities for diversity and participation and on the other the Internet propagates a homogeneous structure vaguely modelled on western democracy and market economy (Rheingold 2008; Miessen 2010). This is the space in which my first case study resides: the Ottawa-based collective A Tribe Called Red has built a global platform for a loose collective of artists and activists dedicated to eradicating the lingering effects of colonialism through remix and remediation under the title “We are the Halluci Nation.” (Barnes 2016)
On the same note, the Internet is often presented as a public service (Benkler 2007; Lessig 2008) that seeks to empower citizens and encourage deeper participation in democratic and self-governance practices, and yet, there is an increasing commodification and privatization of the Internet (Morozov 2011; Coleman 2012) that clamps down spaces for innovation, experimentation and risk-taking, punishing those who do not fall in the logic of late capitalism (Jameson 1991) that the digital web comes to embody. Similarly, the digital spaces of interaction and expression have emerged as the new public spheres that circumvent the traditional control, containment and censorship on traditional media. Simultaneously, these new public spheres are precarious or at best uncertain (Dahlgreen 2005), often betraying the trust, anonymity and safety of the artists, activists and actors whose actions are rigorously monitored, regulated and controlled, the conversation censored, if not muffled or silenced. This is where my second case study on the role of social media in last year’s military coup and the counterinsurgency against it.
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Barnes, Tom (2016): A Tribe Called Red Aim to Unite Artists, Activists Against Colonialism on ‘Halluci Nation,’ Mic.com, 12 July 2016, https://mic.com/articles/148474/a-tribe-called-red-aim-to-unite-artists-activists-against-colonialism-on-halluci-nation#.YbyDDeTPz (31 March 2017)
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Morozov, Evgeny (2011): The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom. USA: PublicAffairs.
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Andreas Stuhlmann joined the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at UofA in 2014 after teaching German Studies and Media Studies at the University of Hamburg (Germany) and University College Cork (Ireland). His research interests include Modern German literature and culture, digital culture, exile and refugee studies, German-Jewish cultural history, critical theory, media theory (film, radio, comics, digital media), intertextuality and intermediality, adaptation and plagiarism. He’s currently working on book on Hannah Arendt and on an edited volume on the dialectics of connectivity.