“Developing” A New Culture

// Posted by on 02/10/2013 (10:46 PM)

In Mark Poster’s book, titled Information Please: Culture and Politics in the Age of Digital Machines, he presents an interesting theory: because people have increasingly shared their thoughts and ideas through the internet, “individuals no longer form identities exclusively through local practices.” This is because people’s opinions are much harder to censor online, and their beliefs and understandings of the way the world works is not tethered to their particular village, city, or town. The endless sharing of ideas thus creates a unified internet culture that is separate from one’s own local culture.

I was intrigued by this notion. Poster is not merely referring to message boards like 4Chan, Reddit, 9Gag as mean of sharing information and stories, but rather the internet as a whole as a means of diluting (for lack of a better word) one’s own culture and bringing it closer together with another internet user’s to create something new altogether. His India example referred to workers in India adopting American accents for call-center jobs and their ability to keep close ties with each other across great distances.

This got me thinking about one of the greatest modern technologies that we take for granted: video calling. Skype has managed to do what the telephone could not: convey real human emotion through digital face-to-face interaction. This was not a concept created by Skype; however, the company has become a pioneer in the field with their free video calling abilities that are accessible to the public. My nanny, who has been with my family for over 21 years, regularly communicates with her Eritrean family in Africa via Skype, bringing their cultures together in ways that letters and phone calls cannot achieve. The service boasts over 250 million monthly users and 663 million registered users worldwide, an incredible feat considering how young the technology is.

How does Skype tie in with Poster’s theory of a unique, unified culture? By communicating with each other through a service like Skype, people around the world are connecting themselves into a network of other individuals to communicate and share ideas. This technology is brand new, and yet it is revolutionizing the way people think and interact with each other. Whereas the telephone brought voices together over 100 years ago, video calling has brought people together across great distances for the first time.

At no other point in history nas a person been able to say, “I’m going to call my mother in Kansas from my apartment in Australia so that I can see her new dog.” I am extremely interested in seeing where we as a culture can go from here: what’s next, now that we can see and hear other people who are miles away? Smell? Taste? Touch? The implications are scary…very soon, unique and individual cultures may no longer be able to survive the digital age without joining the rest of the world in unity, for better or for worse.

Source: Engadget Article


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