Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Appadurai and Gitelman

I just read Arjun Appadurai’s article, and I started noticing parallels between his article and Gitelman’s right away. Appadurai suggests that “people, machinery, money, images and ideas now follow increasingly non- isomorphic paths…but the sheer speed, scale, and volume of each of these flows is so great that the disjunctures have become central to the politics of global culture.” (11) This is a process that seems to mimic the phenomenon of isolating the moments of “error” in documentation of the World Wide Web that Gitelman proposes. If, as she suggests, the history of the internet exists as a continual, if recontextualized, presence, then this is the same process that Appadurai describes in terms of ethnography. His example of the Filipino predilection for American pop music illustrates the concept of an historical archive’s continual present-tense: Americans can witness the content of an historical moment in its recontextualized form. In the analogy, then, pop Music becomes the New York Times article, and the Philippines become the microfiche or PDF scan. The analogy also helps to explain the importance of contextualization; although on first reading Gilman, I couldn’t figure out why the citation of a formerly printed and now digitized source matters so much, but when thinking about an article as a culturally displaced song, I can understand the distinction much better. While the content of an article (I think this is what Gitelman calls “the document,” as distinct from the “web page”) remains unchanged, the context can be altered so dramatically that it is necessary to rethink the more intuitive citation.

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