In Media Res – Global Machinima contd

What sorts of convergences, conjunctures and connections emerge in relation to globalization and populations the world over as we fall into what is now being referred to as “Web 2.0”? With almost everyone on the Internet now claiming to uncover marginalized voices that have, or are being “empowered” to speak back to the center – where and how are we to locate the center? It becomes more important than ever, therefore, for media researchers to re-examine conceptual categories and frameworks such as “globalization” “new media” and even “empowerment”, “multiculturalism” and “voice/voicelessness”. Work by researchers examining presence and absence or voice and voicelessness is increasingly used to celebrate the “diversity” of identities emerging online, while binaries such as embodied/disembodied and global/local are deployed unproblematically in both utopian and dystopian viewpoints regarding the Internet.

In the book on “Pedagogies of the Global”, the editor, Arif Dirlik writes that

Rather than erase difference by converting all to Euro/American norms of modernity, however, capitalist modernity, as it has gone global, has empowered societies once theoretically condemned to premodernity or tradition to make their own claims on modernity on the basis of those very tradition to make their own claims on modernity on the basis of those very traditions, as filtered through experiences of colonialism, neocolonialism, or simple marginalization by the forces of globalization (Dirlik, 2006, 3).

Digital media plays a significant role in aiding these connections and shaping these re-presentations. As an example we can look at the new languages in which women’s emancipation is articulated in global feminist communication/media networks.” Based on my research over the years examining internet spaces in relation to offline community practice at the intersection of development and globalization, rural and urban and how they are being impacted by multinational economic globalization drives, I want to suggest that these languages of women’s emancipation in globalized media spaces are in fact re-codings of familiar liberal feminist discourses interweaved with a capitalist, consumerist rhetoric of individual choice. What I suggest is nothing new. Lexicons of women’s empowerment and the “new” of media merge to per-form a multicultural, “inclusive” global village while routing around communities whose image and praxis cannot be easily appropriated into the rhetoric of individual choice in consumption. The communities thus made invisible are often communities that are part of hidden labor forces (migrant farm labor, sex workers, sweat shop labor, workers producing computer hardware and so on), on whose social and economic immobility and lack of access to resources, rests the mobility, individual-appearing choices and freedom of other layers of workforces that contribute to and benefit from multinational economic globalization.
This is being demonstrated by the way, for instance, NGOs are increasingly being deployed in a variety of ways to work on the intersections that traditional political and economic structures are unable (or unwilling) to engage in. NGOs then appear in a broad continuum from complicity and resistance (or vice versa) in relation to what Dirlik refers to as Capitalist Modernity. (Gajjala fortcoming 2008)

In the clip at InmediaRes which I got from Rik’s blog{Rik’s blog itself is a very interesting layered negotiation of voicing in the midst of globalization – but more on that some other time} , (see http://www.holymeatballs.org/ for more information on the program that enabled this voicing), we see an interesting example of how Machinima is being used in education and in efforts to connect children “globally.” Digital literacies taken for granted by children from some layers of society the world over, are being transferred to children in projects of (self) representation and empowerment.
If, as responsible media scholars and producers, our task is to create awareness of discourse produced, then, even as we generate “new” mediated forms of re-presentation of Others within a global internet space we need to continually raise questions. Are we still replaying themes of objectification, Othering and the production of stereotypical native informants? Or are we educating and connecting different populations in the world in genuine dialogue and understanding? There are material consequences to our re-presentations. The key is to uncover what the consequences might be and to understand how even very well meaning re-presentation of the Other in contexts of globalization can get appropriated in the service of policy that may allow for further exploitation and oppression of such populations. Thus the goal of critique would be to improve on the collaborations and not to shut them down.

I am sure I have not covered all the complexities in this brief note, and my intention is not to devalue the work being done by such organizations as those who are trying these innovative ways to generate dialogue, connections and education. However, I want to assert the need to get beyond celebrations of the “new” and to look deeper into what older forms of hegemony and neo-colonialism might be seeping into such projects unintentionally

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