Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Information Culture

Terranova's examination of "network culture" proposes a culture shaped by information. Now "information dynamics" guide the flow of culture.
"Information is no longer simply the first level of signification, but the milieu which supports and encloses the production of meaning. There is no meaning, not without information, but outside of an information milieu that exceeds and undermines the domain of meaning from all sides" (9).
What Terranova's analysis obscures is a distinction between information and culture. Was not culture itself already a "milieu which supports and encloses the production of meaning"? How can we differentiate between the two?

It seems that information should be enclosed within the realm of culture. This is what makes the title, Network Culture, so appealing. It invokes an image of culture mapped out like a network. It provides a simply model, a structure for culture. Better yet, it is a model which takes into consideration the sorts of discontinuities and breaks, the incomprehensible noise which abound within history and culture. However, Terranova does not simply model her analysis after information theory; she manages to reduce culture to information. In her discussion of 'culture jamming' she simplifies acts of "graffiti on advertizing posters, hijacking of corporate events" to "signal distortion" (17). Is there not also something material in these acts, a material nature which simple "signal distortion" lacks? A materiality that also shows itself in the possible consequences of such actions, in the laws which prohibit and punish?

Though I don't want to propose an easy solution here, maybe it is the material which defines culture for Terranova. After all, it is the material which determines our means of "contact" with these information flows. Or maybe Terranova is moving in the right direction. Maybe culture is degrading. It is no longer culture which can be studied as such, but is so caught up in virtuality that only information analysis is fit to tackle cultural studies.

No comments: