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<eyebeam><blast> Other

There is an ambiguity in Olu Oguibe's post about refusing the 'Other'
between what the net 'is' and what we would like it to be or help us
become. I agree whole-heartedly with the need to think a new order of
people, but that project has to know what bogey it is dealing with
whereever it is, on or off the net. Olu Oguibe seems to argue that there
is no Other on the net already and there is no dominant way of
constructing selves, only the PONA who are to come. I disagree. There
are already Others and dominance on the net and calling it 'western' is
one way of trying to grasp it. Ignoring the 'western' nature of the net,
merely means leaving it in place and hoping this bogey really is only of
our dreams.

Put another way, the claim that the net is 'western' raises the bogey of
a dominant self because there simply is a dominant self on the net, both
because it is embedded in its technology and because of who has access.
For example, through ASCII english has become the de facto linguistic
standard of Usenet, email, the Web and most Internet based applications,
not just because for a long time the Internet could only carry ASCII
characters but because the software that carries the characters itself
often relies on ASCII. How Other are you if you have to express yourself
in someone's else's language? And, following Fanon, therefore in someone
else's culture and their civilisation? Another example is that
ubiquitous feature of electronic communication, flaming.  How damaging
is the competitive, individualist sort of communication that flaming
embodies, to any culture based on more collective principles? It is not
just a matter of questioning the meaning of flaming but recognising that
it is so widespread that it needs to be asked whether it is an indicator
of the net's dominant culture of communication. 

Arguing that there is a bogey and it needs definition, does not equal
stigmatising new arrivals on the net nor does it mean the net is defined
as irretrievably lost. One of the other great measures of the net's self
is its demographic profile, that has been (since it was first
realistically measured in about 1994) stable as overwhelmingly white,
highly educated, highly paid and aged 25-35. Over the years the only
significant change in this profile is its gender, which began at about
10 per cent women and now is between 40-50 per cent women. Along with
this change have come campaigns against various forms of harassment that
had previously been accepted because it was part of a dominant culture.
Change is possible, but it must be explored as part of the complex array
of forces and powers that already exists. 

Recognising someone's 'otherness' is not necessarily demanding their
'otherness' and may be part of destroying an 'otherness'.

The net is not a political blank slate, which returns us to Saskia
Sasssen's comments about the types of software being currently written.
The nature of software and hardware, and who it is written/created by
and for is one of the biggest political questions for virtual life--both
for the net that exists and is buing built.

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