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Don Slater keynote: New media, development and globalization

November 7, 2008

EASA Media Anthropology Network 2nd Workshop, “Media Practices and Cultural Producers”. Barcelona, 6-7 November 2008

via Mediacciones website

Through terms like new economy, information society and network society, concepts of social change have been dominated, for some years, by narratives of new media technologies. On the one hand, social change is now understood to be driven by new media related features such as information, communication, network organization and ‘creativity’; and these normatively define both general social development and ‘development’ as the management of social change in non-metropolitan regions. On the other hand, the concept of globalization places new media at the centre of narratives of spatial reorganization, in which the annihilation of distance through new information technologies is central to any region’s participation in normative development.

Taken together, these terms produce a narrative that appears both universal and inevitable, and yet it is in fact a specific and located narrative, one that emerges from a northern encounter with technology. This paper is drawn from a series of ethnographic studies of new media use in non-northern ‘development’ contexts (Caribbean, South Asia and West Africa). The aim is to displace all three terms – new media, development and globalization – from their place within dominant northern narratives, and to see what they and their conjuncture might mean when placed in other contexts and other histories. Finally, the paper develops a methodological strategy for research in this area: rather than attempt to subsume all local histories within a dominant theoretical narrative, the communicative ecologies approach aims to generate local and specific understandings and practices of new media, development and globalization.

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