I found Matt’s lecture today to be really interesting, especially the example of the IndyMedia website that he showed us. Thinking about the increasingly globalized nature of the world today, I can’t help but feel like that website is a great example of both equal statuses for all nations worldwide and of the imposition of symbolic power that one nation might enact upon another. Equality comes in the ability of all users to add news updates to the site, regardless of location or language. Wherever one logs onto the website, the essential format will be the same – wherever one happens to be, whatever news story one happens to be looking for. At the same time, though, the website does have specialized sections for various regions of the world to allow a more localized experience with the site. While equality is possible, then, it is not necessarily mandated.
At the same time, though, I think about the distribution of resources throughout the world and the ways in which a site like IndyMedia could end up propagating, in some ways, the cultural hegemony it otherwise seeks to disrupt. At face value, it may seem like IndyMedia is exposing worldwide consumers to news events that they otherwise might be unaware of, thus expanding our knowledge of other cultures. However, the type of people who are able to use IndyMedia severely narrows the exposure we have to the rest of the world – we are getting news stories from literate, computer-savvy, and politically interested parties, rather than from a truly diverse and democratic sector of the world’s population. What promotes itself as an independent media source is very likely to be controlled largely by a certain group of people with their own agenda to push – we are not getting independence, but the minority agenda presented as majority.
Plus, there’s the issue of language when it comes to true equality on the web. Someone in class said that their IndyMedia homepage showed up in Spanish because they had their computer set to Spanish, but otherwise, most people would get English. The default language put in place during computer production affects the overall web experience and in the end, seems to allow for such subtle symbolic power plays. Thus, the default of English in the global technology community (and, more and more, Chinese or Japanese), and all of the cultural assumptions carried along with it, become a global norm. The IndyMedia front page is only available in eight languages overall – someone who doesn’t speak any of those languages is no longer on an even playing field.
Am I being too harsh on IndyMedia, or does anyone agree with me that it’s not as much of an equalizer as it makes itself out to be?