Thursday, April 10, 2008

Convergence, Agency

In "Indigenous, ethnic and cultural articulations of new media," Srinivasan quotes Virilio to exemplify the dangers of “global real time” in disorienting and disturbing local times and geographies: “…Globalization and virtualization are inaugurating a global time that prefigures a new form of tyranny” (Srinivasan 498). The way to save community sustenance and enhance social capital for Srinivasan is to generate positive “social uses of information systems… through the sharing of information resources and creation of common spaces for socializing” (499). These common spaces “can be used to achieve locally and culturally specific visions” (Srinivasan 499) in an overall framework of “new interpretations and alternative paradigms” (Srinivasan 499). Appropriation of technologies is crucial for cultural/community preservation (he sites the Inuit as an example); likewise, convergence of technologies can be, according to Srinivasan, utilized as a vector for positive change. As I read the article, I kept ruminating on the status of convergence in Srinivasan, which seems to me to be almost socio-utopist, and the status of convergence and its appropriation in Jenkins, which is rather murky and entangled with corporate strategies: “…Media transition [is] marked by tactical decisions and unintended consequences, mixed signals and competing interests, and most of all, unclear directions and unpredictable outcomes” (11). Jenkins admits that “there is no vantage point that takes me above the fray” (12) but for Srinivasan this doesn’t seem to be an issue; the latter purports that convergence can increasingly be appropriated for the preservation of the local and the culturally sacred and that in spite of “disjuncture and difference in the global cultural economy” (Appadurai 1) or Virilio’s warnings, convergence will save the day in some kind of new, heightened social paradigm.

I feel that what is at stake here is the locus of agency in the use of converging technologies-- Srinivasan assumes that marginalized communities can, are, and should be using them progressively, while Jenkins focuses on the totalizing experience of pop culture violently transmitted on multiple media platforms. There is a disparity in how convergence is utilized (producing various ideological disputes about it); there is also the problem of who has more agency in appropriating it to transmit information. I guess my (really broad) questions are: if convergence is inevitable, will its intensity force some to be swallowed up by pop culture and others by their niche communities? Or, will there be a transformation in how we perceive information so that a more intense, multi-sensory experience will not threaten to be ideologically invasive? Or, will there be an amalgamation of different cultures with high consumer participation, as Jenkins suggests in the beginning of his article ("...old and new media collide... grassroots and corporate media intersect" [2])? Will convergence spread misinformation? And of course: how will politics respond to all of this?

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