Archive for March, 2011
[for citation details - email me]
Changes, Transitions, Upgrading, Rewriting… what stayed constant if anything?
I started work on this book during a post dot.com socio-economic era soon after I had completed my last book. The last book (Gajjala, 2004) to be based fully on my own research endeavours and collaborations drew on the work I’d done both for my dissertation and towards tenure, during the mid to late 90s. In the midst of that book project and this current one (and I anticipate the same for the next one I am embarking on as I shut the covers on this one) – shifts have occurred. These shifts have reaffirmed for me that what I was observing at these cross-sections are indeed impacting our presents and futures in ways that compel us to re-seat ourselves from disciplinary comfort zones. What is discussed in this book that you are reading the “conclusion” of, for instance, does not just impact our social and cultural lives as if those were separate from political and the economic. These online/offline intersections are changing the way we need to respond to situations around us – whether in our domestic everyday or in the world-wide political milieu. What is most compelling is not that there are shifts or there is change – these are givens in any era. Our urgent attention and reflexive engagement is needed to observe carefully how this so-called speed of change allows a loss of memory that permits status quo hierarchies to be unchanged generation after generation. While bodies and cultural objects are coded as interchangeable and made visible as agents of difference, democracy and multiculturalism – code is standardized and these individual agents of so-called change are placed on naturalized technical platforms. Code is made invisible. Does this mean that the cod-ers – the labor that codes – have the power? Does this mean that the complex literacies involved in producing the platforms and networks are created by the labor-force that codes them? What configurations of practices, literacies and assumptions underpin how this labor force is trained and simultaneously rendered powerless while they labor to produce “us” in the interface?
Should the Humanities and Social Sciences be left out of these kinds of inter-disciplinary practices of standardizing socio-cultural financial code named as “technical” and “Technology,” as we continue incestuously “blind” peer-reviewing each other’s work, gatekeeping to ensure there is not more than a bit of fashionable dissonance and multiplicity in voicing – as we maintain outdated hierarchies of knowledge-production?
In continuing work my call to fellow researchers is to scrutinize closely every practice, every code, every interface, woven designs, crochet patterns, spoken word – for what seams seamless. We have been looking at and reveling in the discovery of “ruptures” and celebrating them or pointing to them as evidence of hopeful change. But we are missing what hides in the background of the ruptures we see “popping up.” What are the non-changing factors that are hidden by the fast appearing manner in which the “newness” of the place/space/time/body intersections seem to have the potential for reproducing “old” oppressive regimes in brand new bytes great speed and less time for reflection and contemplation.
How do we “upgrade” the lens that sees – what do we look for and why. How is an “unscripted entry” (here I refer to a recent podcast interview of Larry Gross where he talks about the unscripted entry of Justin Beiber and the likes into the mainstream) into the mainstream actually a product of status quo production mechanisms that have shifted and been hidden through the continual and simultaneous upgrading and standardization of layers of access and literacy. What do we write and publish for and why – if we reproduce consistencies in the name of discovery of newness?
CFP: Digital Diasporas and Transnational Social Movements: Capital, Labor, Mobility and Identity
Editor – Radhika Gajjala
(see http://personal.bgsu.edu/~radhik )
“Digital diasporas” occur at the intersection of local/ global, national/ international, private/public, offline/online and embodied/disembodied. In digital diasporas, a multiplicity of representations, mass media broadcasts, textual and visual performances and interpersonal interactions occur. The term “digital diaspora” is most often used to talk about how diasporic populations the world over use the Internet to connect to each other. Scholars such as Anna Everett (2009) and Jeniffer Brinkerhoff (2009) have each used the phrase in relation to very specific situated histories of forced migrations (African American histories of slavery) and transnational travel respectively. The link to labor flows and hierarchies of colonialisms and digital globalization is clear in both. In most general usage of the phrase “digital diaspora,” however, it is used to describe migrant populations without attention to the specific conditions of subjectivity that produces diasporas. Further, it is interesting that international NGOs (specifically the United Nations) and Transnational corporations as well as National businesses have mobilized the notion of digital diaspora in “reverse brain-drain” efforts where very materially successful transnationals and migrants with moneys to invest actually get to return home.
In the past I have edited a couple publications that center around South Asian Digital Diasporas (a Special Section of New Media and Society in 2006) and South Asian Technospace (a co-edited collection of essays). My intent with this next volume on digital diasporas is to include material that helps elaborate on the more current platforms where links between transnational capital and labor flows can be mapped in the context of the increasing NGOization and ITization of the globe. Thus questions include (but are not limited to) – why “digital diaspora” and why now? What forms a “digital diaspora” within gaming environments and social networks? How are non-profits and transnational corporations (similarly or differently) mobilizing this idea of digital diaspora in relation to labor and capital flows? How does a “digital diaspora” form – how does it “look” – how does it function and so on.
From prospective contributors, I will need an extended abstract of 800 to 1000 words that fleshes out the theoretical and methodological approaches in relation to a specific site that will be examined.
1] Extended abstract due on June 1st, 2011
2] You will hear back about your abstracts by June 30th 2011 – with suggestions on how
you can proceed if the abstract is considered acceptable for the collection.
3] Full essays are due by September 1, 2011.
If you have questions regarding the publisher and what exactly I’m looking for and so on – feel free to email me –
firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject header “digital diasporas.”
Recently I wrote/published a bunch of articles on conceptualization of identity in Secondlife space – and am back doing further immersive ethnographies in various virtual worlds in relation to building monetary value for social identities and in relation trans-nations, inter-nations and the local and global. Some of what I write next will both contest and extend what I have written and published in the previous phase of immersive online and offline (and offline trans- rural as well as trans- urban “deep hanging out”) ethnographies.
As usual – some of this will be co-authored and other essays will be single-authored with a clear acknowledgement of its collaborative nature. Am working in bits and pieces with multiple groups of people both within and outside the Western academy as well as both within and outside virtual worlds.
Let the layered investigations resume (continue – actually they never stopped – but now that I have my first draft of the book manuscript on Technocultural Agency finally done – I am calling it phase two as I move this work into my next two book projects being developed)!
Mapping nodes where my research and personal journeys have (and continue to ) overlap online/offline
over the years …its mostly a personal journey on my own, not surprisingly.
Last week (not yesterday) on Saturday, I was walking the streets of London looking for an Internet Cafe where my first experience of a f2f meeting of friends (flesh meet we used to call them?) formed fully through online discussion spaces (this group were from the spoon-collective list “cybermind” http://www2.iath.virginia.edu/spoons/).
It was akin to meeting a group of pen pals – but with hardcopy snail mail letters we would not have shared the same letter with a *group* of people – some of whom we did not know we were “broadcasting” to since we were still writing as if we were writing one to one letters (I think I said something of this sort in my dissertation way back in the 90s when this was all new in my understanding and experience and it was considered a research “finding” through my cyberethnographic investigations)….
I had my 11/12 year old son with me then – and we both figured out the London underground to get there (this was our first actual venture into London city – previously we had only been at Heathrow airport en-route to the US etc) – and little did I know at that time, how much the online/offline social world would be shaping his skills and personality – future social and professional life. But knowing this and being aware of this in this very personal, applied, concrete and historically contextual manner makes me able to connect with how my undergraduate students (not just grad students) live through these contexts. The fact that I have many nieces, nephews and even a grandniece and grandnephew who are not only sophisticated with-body world travelers but are also sophisticated navigators of online/offline social networks in their personal, educational and professional lives, enhances this understanding.
I think how commonplace it is now to weave online and offline social networks and how the younger generations no longer think about this … and of course the social networks that form through each of the platforms (multiple and multifarious in present times) and software available in present times are of such a wide range…
Now, as I continue my ethnographic investigations in virtual worlds – am waiting for an upgrade again so I can re-join the 3D worlds and continue to follow the RMTs…
It would be another kind of personal journey, no doubt, if I also tried to stretch my mapping to physically travel through
all the places (not just the countries – but the actual places, nooks and crannies) I recollect from my journeys hopping from country to country in my childhood.