New Media and the Natural World: The Dialectics of Desire

By Markley, Robert | Bucknell Review, June 2002 | Go to article overview

New Media and the Natural World: The Dialectics of Desire


Markley, Robert, Bucknell Review


AN earlier version of this essay was solicited for a collection that languished for several years. After months of struggling to revise this antediluvian (ca. 1994) paper, I scrapped most of it in 1999 to confront the problems posed by the last half decade of technological and cultural change. As the twenty-first century arrived, I again had to revise this piece in order to keep pace with a range of technological transformations which have rendered most of the mainstream pronouncements about cyberculture from the 1990s unbearably quaint if not downright antiquarian. My original intention had been to demystify the evangelical rhetoric of the early 1990s which, you no doubt recall, heralded the Internet as a revolutionary leap in human consciousness and community. Now, on the eve of another great leap forward in information technologies--from text-oriented protocols and static multimedia to dynamic video and immersive interfaces--the clamor for hypertext, the Web, and virtual reality seems the echo of a bygone era, a casualty of a digital marketplace saturated by the language, values, and assumptions of late capitalism. (1) To underscore how the rhetorical scene has shifted since the early 1990s, I offer this anecdote: at the annual Apple Developers Conference in May 1998, a session on multimedia authoring tools featured a keynote speaker (a prominent software engineer), who derided hypertext and HTML as "sandbox technologies" and prompted the audience to laugh uproariously by reading passages by humanists and social scientists which declared that the Internet recasts democratically the relationships among identity, technology, and socioeconomic power. This essay, in one respect, is an effort to explain both that laughter and the ironies that underlie it, to explore critically our faith in the planned obsolescence that drives the new media revolution.

In their efforts to ride the crest of the digital wave, producers, critics, and consumers of new media confront a fundamental paradox: the more rapidly information systems change, the more prone we seem to revisit the oppositions that have structured our understanding of technology for (at least) several centuries: technological innovation versus "inherent" human nature, expertise versus craft-labor, investment capital versus wages, and managerial control versus democratic dissemination, to name only a few. (2) In practice, we face a standoff. While technophiles may have muted their evangelism for the transformations to be wrought by new media, they have not developed a coherent vocabulary--theoretical or philosophical--to describe the technological or social effects that they are in the business of engineering; neither, however, have those cultural critics who remain skeptical of what Donna Haraway termed in the 1980s the "infomatics of domination." (3) In fact, despite their differences, both defenders and critics of cyberculture share a common heritage of dialectical approaches to technology and nature, a heritage that seems to dead-end in various myths of human-machine synthesis. My purpose in this essay, in part, is to argue that our fascination with technoculture is itself part of a dialectic--an ideology of modernity--that discourages our thinking seriously about the relationships between new media and the socioeconomic conditions under which they are produced, upgraded, and reproduced. (4) At best, this fascination with net culture fosters ways to rethink the relationships among rapidly proliferating generations of new media; at worst, it reinforces the oppositional structures of thought that divorce nature from culture and separate "essential" human qualities (the mind and spirit) from the technological fixes that characterize our implication in complex socionatural ecologies.

To work through the dialectical logics described by the oppositions human/technology and nature/culture, I begin by redefining our conceptions of how media develop, then go on to consider the implications of such a redefinition. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

New Media and the Natural World: The Dialectics of Desire
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.