#DHPocoSS Week 3: Summary of Maria Fernandez, “Postcolonial Media Theory”

mediatheorySummary of: Maria Fernadez, “Postcolonial Media Theory” (freely available online if you sign up for a MyJSTOR account) 

Find Discussions on Questions Here.

Summary by Alicia Izharuddin (@angrymalaywoman)

•Maria Fernandezʼs article is about the apparent absence of postcolonial theory in electronic media practice, theory, and criticism. Her article traces the opposing directions that postcolonial theory and media theory each take.

•Postcolonial theory is concerned with the far-reaching legacy of colonialism and imperialism that oppress its subjects while media theory has gone through a phase of utopian ideals of world peace and widespread democracy through advanced media use.

•Fernandez appears to be suspicious of any reconciliation of the two theoretical strands at first, as media practitioners speak of humanitarian universalisms and global interconnections that have come to replace latter imperialist rhetoric.

•But more pressingly, colonialism is connected to electronic media as they are incorporated into global markets of much of the world and societies that can afford connectivity.

•Fernandez is also interested in the work of electronic media artists who claim their work promote universal understanding between virtual strangers. But how transparent and egalitarian is electronic media art when access to money, infrastructure and competency in English belong to a small privileged few?

•Although the production and distribution of media technologies emerge from developing nations and often under unfair practices, the political economy of media technologies may one day benefit imperialist subjects in the same manner books, once the tools of colonial projects, became crucial to the construction of identity of colonised subjects.

•There are possible productive meeting points for postcolonial theory and media theory, namely the body.

•Postcolonial theory is preoccupied with the body as the site of colonial inscription. Electronic media theory of the virtual body suggests that in the Internet age, the corporeal will be replaced by code and transferable virtual information. Both share the notion of fluidity and incoherence of identities.

•But tropes of oppression that preoccupy postcolonial theory are rarely tackled in electronic media theory because of the latterʼs white middle bias and electronic mediaʼs lack of physicality of its users.

Fernadez Questions

1. Fernandezʼs article was written in 1999, and with the speed of technological progress, its commentary on the potential of media theory to reconcile with postcolonial theory may be rendered obsolete. What do you are the contemporary issues that would better define postcolonial media theory today?

2. How can we better understand postcolonial media theory today when powerful global media corporations and technological development originate and/or located in postcolonial states such as South Korea and India?

3. Consider critical DH as an approach in postcolonial media theory and discuss whether the meta discourse around recovering and preserving postcolonial narratives is complicit in the hegemonic and imperialistic discourse of academia.

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One Comment

on “#DHPocoSS Week 3: Summary of Maria Fernandez, “Postcolonial Media Theory”
One Comment on “#DHPocoSS Week 3: Summary of Maria Fernandez, “Postcolonial Media Theory”
  1. To answer bits of each question, some of you might be familiar with the Electronic Disturbance Theater http://digitalarts.lmc.gatech.edu/unesco/internet/artists/int_a_edtheater.html that had, about two years ago, been involved in the Transborder Immigrant Tool Project that attempt to equip each undocumented migrants from Mexico crossing into the southern borders of the US South West with an inexpensive disposable mobile unit that has a GPS tracking unit that will lead them to water sources and safe havens (and also won them of impending barriers to their safe passage)http://www.lareplay.net/projects/the-transborder-immigrant-tool/.

    Sometime last year, one of the founders of the EDT, Ricardo Dominguez, got into trouble with the UC for enacting the DoS as a form of collective hack and collective voice of protest. It was meant to be a form of performance art, but was considered a security violation by the officials. Dominguez is no stranger to all forms of controversy as a result of his interventions in electronic art
    http://www.ucsdguardian.org/news-and-features/san-diego/item/18236-admins-continue-to-investigate-dominguez

    Many artists and hacktivists are campaigning for the use of open source platforms to make computing tools more available to activists and those engaged in non-profit ventures.

    While one might consider English to be the hegemonic language for documenting some of these tools and materials, these very same tools have given voice to those without one, and without necessarily the English language fluency to also be participant in their mobilization. I think DH’s very location outside the canons set by the imperial dictates of academy is what makes it threatening to those who could not imagine the possibility of rigorous intercourse outside the outlines of such canons.

    The problem with postcolonial discourse is that there is a lot of resistance to the hegemonic discourse, but no solid alternatives are provided to counter or re-engineer that discourse. So, one has to imagine what exactly is that intervention or transgression that one claims to be doing. EDT attempts that within the confines of a developed world…and other artists from around the world are working to mold the tools, as well as critique the tools, they are using for creating their media art as political intervention. I am thinking about the transmedia art, like honfablab.org in Jogjakarta, who had also participated in the Berlin Transmediale festival http://www.transmediale.de/

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