What's the Matter with the Internet?

What's the Matter with the Internet?

What's the Matter with the Internet?

What's the Matter with the Internet?

Synopsis

In What's the Matter with the Internet?, leading cultural theorist Mark Poster offers a sophisticated and astute assessment of the potential the new medium has to redefine culture and politics. Avoiding the mindless hype and meaningless jargon that has characterized much of the debate about the future of the Web, he details what truly distinguishes the Internet from other media and the implications these novel properties have for such vital issues as authorship, national identity and global citizenship, the fate of ethnicity and race, and democracy.

Arguing that the Internet demands a social and cultural theory appropriate to the specific qualities of cyberspace, Poster reformulates the ideas of thinkers associated with our understanding of post-modern culture and the media (including Foucault, Deleuze, Heidegger, Baudrillard, and Derrida) to account for and illuminate the virtual world, paying particular attention to its political dimensions and the nature of identity. In this innovative analysis, Poster,acknowledges that although the colonization of the Internet by corporations and governments does threaten to retard its capacity to bring about genuine change, the new medium is still capable of transforming both contemporary social practices and the way we see the world and ourselves.

Excerpt

Electronic beams blow through the Iron Curtain as though it were
lace.

—Ronald Reagan, speech in London, 1989

Culture and New Media

Culture has become a problem for everyone. What was once a safe ground of inquiry has shifted as if by some earthquake whose effects long went unmeasured on academic Richter scales. Culture is now an unstable terrain marked by the scars of two decades of discursive rumbles. Where you stand on the culture question immediately places you, a bit too precisely for the comfort of many, on the map of scholarly and even political dispute. The humanities, the arts, and the social sciences are now fractured into contentious subgroupings that run across disciplinary boundaries all by dint of that little word culture. Everyone wants to claim the term, yet when they do so culture receives new, unexpected meanings. Historians now practice empirical cultural history but find themselves slammed in the face of literary criticism and theory. Sociologists want to quantify culture, only to provoke the complaints of humanists who set in opposition number and subtlety, magnitude and meaning. Aestheticians decry the application of the term to popular culture. Anthropologists deconstruct culture and practice ethnography in the “advanced” societies. Adepts of cultural studies wonder if their discourse can survive departmentalization.

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