Protagonist vs Skeptic

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 “Creating a new theory is not like destroying an old barn and erecting a skyscraper in its place. It is rather like climbing a mountain, gaining new and wider views, discovering unexpected connections between our starting point and its rich environment. But the point from which we started out still exists and can be seen, although it appears smaller and forms a tiny part of our broad view gained by the mastery of the obstacles on our adventurous way up.” [Einstein, cited in Zukav 1979: 45]

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Opinion on the nature of the digital realm varies greatly. Many commentators see it as an entirely new frontier; Nguyen and Alexander consider the Internet to be a “universal discursive space” without precedent; “we are equipping our world with a social nervous system similar to those in our own bodies.” [Nguyen & Alexander 1996: 99] They suggest that this has profound implications; “in world history, no new medium has diffused so quickly as cyberspacetime is doing, or required such rapid readjustment.” [op. cit: 102] This adjustment is one which newcomers must make in the way they think, in order to understand the world that they find online. “Jacked into the matrix, they find a lateral world of people cooperatively connecting to play roles, share ideas and experiences, and live fantasies.” [op. cit: 103]

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Others, however, are not as convinced that what is emerging requires such radical readjustment. “I can’t help worrying about the gross disparity between the ballyhooed electronic utopia and the mundane reality of today’s networked community,” writes Clifford Stoll, [1995: 13] himself a long-time computer-network user. “Next time I’m in traction, I’ll check into Usenet. One of the joys of computers is how they’re great at wasting time that might otherwise be difficult to waste.” [Stoll 1995: 49]

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 The arguments fall into a pattern of protagonists and skeptics; the former extolling the opportunities for creating new communities; the latter concerned with the tendency to neglect addressing people’s increasing alienation from one another, in favour of the promise of technological solutions. “These are familiar dichotomies in advocacy and critique of industrial society, extending back through Marshall McLuhan to nineteenth century formulas of ‘Gemeinschaft/Gesellschaft’.” [Anderson 1995: 13]

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 It would seem to be the case that “we can assume a priori neither the existence of nor the need for a new branch of anthropology.” [Escobar 1994: 216] In anthropological literature and elsewhere, there already exist concepts which make adequate descriptions of the structure of digital culture, and which places it within the wider cultural movement of which it is a part. This is required since “for Anthropology, inquiry into the nature of modernity as the background for current understanding and practice of technology is of paramount importance.” [Escobar 1994: 213] An understanding of modernity and an understanding of technology, however, seem to be inseparably intertwined.

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Source: http://cpmu.haystack.co.uk/newbie/discourses/protagonist-vs-skeptic/