Monday, November 26, 2007

I was intrigued by the idea of the “technofrontier, the endless frontier made possible by industrial technology” (p.31) that Tsing sort of shoots out early on in her book, and while reading the rest of the book I always sort of keep it in the back of my head. I think attempting to understand technology as a frontier might offer up some really interesting thoughts. First, by definition, the technofrontier is unconquerable – as it is endless. How is technology a wild and untapped potential waiting to be harnessed? If it is, what is destroyed and what needs to be restored or conserved in the same sense as natural frontiers are exploited. And, what does that exploitation promise? Do luddites lack the courage to jump on the virtual Oregon Trail, or are they attempting to preserve something?
I’m also wondering what are some of the evolutions or connections that can be seen between the frontier and the idea of nature lovers, and maybe the technofrontier full of hackers as cowboys and consumers as nature lovers? Tsing brings up the Marlboro cigarette ads as focusing on “virility and risk” and “masculinity as the necessary prerequisite for the Great Outdoors” (p.144). I think it’s obvious that our culture is telling us we have to young and virile to keep up with and conquer/control new consumer technologies, starting with even the fairly mundane DVD player or TV remote. How many time does some pop culture reference to the extent of “I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the subtitles, so I asked my teenage son to do it for me” get made? I’ve also heard the Internet’s vast caches of information described in some of the sublime terms used by the nature-lovers climbing the mountains to learn from nature.
However, I’m not sure how or if the rural-urban distinction (p.135) might fit into this notion of Internet-lovers’ and the technofrontier. If we call it the technofrontier, how far can we stretch the metaphor, and what insights do we gain from looking at it under the model of the frontier?

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