Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Network Society Part 2 of Part 2

Picking up where Dale left off, here’s a summary of part 7 and the afterward with occasional commentary.

Tubella is interested in the collective identity that is being (re)constructed by the new media of the globalizing world. Looking at sub-national autonomous television, she finds that the creation of Catalan Television has been “instrumental in normalizing Catalan culture, recovering knowledge of the language, and strengthening the country’s cohesion” (395). Tubella makes a bold claim that “cultural and collective identities are constructed in new ways that signal a fundamental transformation of human experience” (387). But I don’t think her evidence sufficiently backs up this claim about “fundamental transformation.” Also the connection between this chapter’s argument to the network society (which she calls a “new language” for analysis, 386) and the Internet (of which clear evidence of identity building does not exist, 398) are weak at best.

Chatterjee uses a case study of television structures in India to challenge claims of cultural hegemony/media imperialism, reporting “the gradual importation of media products into developing countries was mitigated by the state’s control over television, limiting the contradictions surrounding the creation of independent systems that relied on the West” (416). In the Indian example, community and regional elite were able to extend control over these media channels, despite the efforts of “well-resourced external players” (405), such as Star TV.

Himanen revisits the three primary characteristics of Weber’s “Protestant ethic” and revises them to construct the “hacker ethic” of the network age. For him, the hacker ethic is epitomized by 1) a culture of innovation arising from creative passion, 2) a new emphasis on project-based work which leads to more self-managed time, and 3) the importance of financial markets where money is made from money. Although Himanen tries to distinguish the hacker ethic from the dot-com economy, his analysis is clearly situated in a late 90’s mentality. To add to his misfires, he glowingly compares the hacker ethic to Florida’s concept of the creative class (425), naively claims IT “makes it possible to transcend time and place” (427), and optimistically(?) sees the culture of innovation creating “a culture of people fulfilling themselves with creative joy both in their work and leisure lives” (430).

Williams closes the collection by providing a historical perspective to the preceding discussions of technology. As “technology” is rather new as a concept, “[t]he emergence of the history of technology is therefore an inherently presentist application of a category of current importance back into history where technological activities abounded, but where the concept of technology as an historical agent was absent.” (437). Still she cautions scholars to avoid the tendency to substitute technology for history, but rather recognize that “technology and history cannot be separated, and we are destined to create history as well as technology” (447).

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