Sunday, September 30, 2012

Data production

I found Terranova's chapter on free labor compelling, distressing, and a bit out of date in regard to developments in Internet infrastructure post-publication: "Free labor is the moment where [the] knowledgeable consumption of culture is translated into excess productive activities that are pleasurably embraced and at the same time often shamelessly exploited." (78) I think Terranova understands those activities as largely textual engagement in communities over a smooth network space. However, as bandwidth has increased and with the birth of the mobile internet, it's probable that the majority of activity online today is concerned with media objects (photos, video) shared on connected but discrete proprietary platforms (Facebook, tumblr). This advances several of the implications that she has identified.

First, there are the increasing success of the commodification of content on the internet. In addition to ubiquitous advertising on content platforms, more traditionally structured business models from iTunes to the New York Times paywall have emerged, but it is also about charging for _production_, whether charging for the cost of the hardware (eg, iPhone camera) to the premium accounts necessary to host the content (Vimeo).

Additionally, Instagrams are likely something less than the 'knowledge work' she discusses, but are certainly "involved in defining and fixing cultural and artistic standards, fashions, tastes, consumer norms, and, more strategically, public opinion," (82) and really, the "curation" mode of tumblr is nearly an ideal instantiation of consumption-production activity where the provenance of the image is nearly irrelevant but the association with individuals' streams is desired.

Unfortunately, as the dynamics of YouTube has definitively shown, her differentiation of online activity from the "people shows" of TV was premature. I think that her brutal assessment of television fully applies to much of the activity on the internet that is less about "self-fashioning" and more about desperately generating social capital: "those who do not produce marketable style, who are not qualified enough to enter the fast world of the knowledge economy, are converted into monetary value through their capacity to _affectively_ perform their misery." (95) In this case, however, I think the "qualified" individuals are not those that generate any knowledge per se at all, but those that develop and run the platforms. Facebook can be easily understood as affective performance which is all but compulsory. And because Facebook is a closed, proprietary platform (with its own 'cloud'), the production-consumption of the masses generates value not only through advertising itself, but through the generation of a commodity Terranova doesn't develop enough -- data. The quantization of behavior increasingly has material value, as it enables the capitalist entity to shape the activity of the population to whatever revenue-producing model in which it has stake. I think all of this both validates Terranova's intuition of the Internet pre 2004 and also points to the maturing / degrading milieu in which we are currently operating.

@anyplace, @anytime

Reading through the Terranova, I was interested in the stakes of our inability to conceptualize the servers and routers that ground the space of the internetwork. As Terranova notes, “…if the abstract Internet space is a grid in principle equally accessible from all points, in practice [how we get from A to B] is determined by the relation and state of traffic between the servers” (45). Yet, as she also notes, the “Internet grid” seems to function based on the principle that one can travel to @anyplace, and that once there, one can access its contents at @anytime (46). Such a conceptualization thus entails a disavowal of the actual movement of information, the packet switching, the unequal bandwidths, etc. Accessing a webpage with a server based in the United States is different depending on whether or not one is in France or South Korea, not only in the geographical distance between the various points, but in the temporal distance determined by network speeds. @anyplace obscures the geographical distances, while @anytime negates the question of speed of access.

Why, I wonder, does there seem to be an inability to think through the physical structures that ground Internet space and time? There seems to be an ideological collapse that allows at @anyplace and @anytime to untangle themselves from the ‘real’ conditions of their existence (although as Terranova also discusses, the (im)probability that corresponds to the virtual is also very much at play). Is this meant as an ‘equalizer’ of sorts, an ideological push towards a view of the internet as an equal, even playing field that serves to obscure the protocols and power relations that govern it? Why do people not know more about the servers and routers that allow @anyplace and @anytime to exist in the first place?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ongoing Process of Self-Legibility

“Here, national and international mediascapes are exploited by nation-states to pacify separatists or even the potential fissiparousness of all ideas of difference. Typically, contemporary national states do this by exercising taxonomic control over difference, by creating various kinds of international spectacle to domesticate difference and by seducing small groups with the fantasy of self-display on some sort of global or cosmopolitan stage” (13)

This quote in Appundarai’s text on disjuncture and difference, gestures toward Anderson by specifying the contingent forces of the nation-state when threatened by deterritorialization. What I found most compelling is that the priority of the state is to encompass difference in order to protect against fragmentation of national identities – nationalism serves as both a means of cohesion and just as readily a threat to this community as its formation can splinter and regroup. The state’s job is to interpolate all of its it’s constituents because of the constant human desire/necessity of subject to be called into being through recognition by the exterior world. This is the effect of cultural reproduction – and the appeal of mediascapes to create a landscape of subjects that doesn’t necessitate a geographical dwelling. This necessity of subject interpolation is central to Thrifts discussion of the effect of numbers or ‘qualculation’ to shift our cognitive style determined by frameworks of time and space. This new sensory experience is based in relative space and bound to a series of axes invariably bound to the body and therefore will probably result in strengthened egocentric co-ordinate systems. This of course refers to the tool of ‘YOU’ and the zoom in feature of community mapping to reassure the human that they are in fact part of the map. Recording and archiving also serves this purpose. I began thinking of the naturalization of these ‘artificial paratextual forces’ as bound up in their role as prosthetics – not only in being attached to the body but by calling it into being – and this reliance/dependence results in an anxiety over the removal of this subject hood. Therefore, just as with the imagined relations of political ideology, this construction is preferably erased until it threatens our subject hood.  

food for thought: erasing the quasi-causality
Girl Effect:
Starbucks Vote Commercial:

Q: In Granovetter’s work he notes that people rarely act on mass-media information unless it is also transmitted through personal ties (pg 1374)  V/ Thrift’s recognition that “this perpetual mobile space is seen as one in which joint action arising out of several causes brings new things into the world.. the realm of the virtual continually marks up the world” (pg 592). What allows for this technological transcendent marking? Does it necessitate networks that encourage and maintain weak ties? I think I answered my own question. But what about the lack of paths/ties we have with our government? How is this trust (feeling of constituent that they can predict and affect behavior) built in our political system – without these connecting forces. When does mass-media motivate without personal ties which encourage it? 

Appadurai, Flows, Cognitive Mapping

Appadurai’s complication of the narratives of globalization as a process of homogenization obviously centers largely around the sense of a “social imaginaire” as well as “constructed ethnicities.” Sleep Dealer showed us an example of how flows through Appadurai’s different –scapes can work to create a situation for an imagining that attempted to subvert the “imagined world of the official mind” (as Appadurai would say). The film seems almost too easily tied to Appadurai’s points—the notions of “flow” and movement are tropes (beginning with the water, and then obviously labor and physical movement, etc).
Perhaps I am too stuck on Jameson, but I really like thinking about Appadurai’s riff on Anderson, the “imagined world,” as yet another way of cognitive mapping. This is most salient in terms of the constructed ethnicities, where people are actually making decisions regarding the imagined space of their migrated ethnic communities—they have to decide what parts will be significant in order to map out these identities. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Defined fields of possibility and cultural flow

I found Appadurai’s discussion of imagination as central to agency particularly fascinating.  That our capacity for imagination allows us to participate and exert ourselves onto and within the movements of money, people, technology, media and ideas, the global cultural flow, would seem to be some sort emancipatory act, a loosening of certain structures that create “clearings that disclose opportunities to intervene in the flow” (Thrift, 293) But the virtual labor in SleepDealer is not fueled by the imagination of individual actors. Sleep Dealer’s nodal system, which connects laborer’s nervous systems to the global economy represents the ideas of increasing heterogeneity, an inclusive diversity, while globalization is demanding a subject-less interconnectedness. Systems are run via the minds of Luz, Memo, and Rudy, but would we describe this as the type of agency Appadurai defines.  
There are limitations to the scape’s flow. Note his discussion of the fetishism of the consumer: The misconception that you are an actor with agency when you are a chooser with limited options seems not far off from his description of imagination as social practice, a form of work within “globally defined fields of possibility.”
Memo’s laboring virtual existence moves freely through the spaces his physical self is not permitted to go. These extensions of self,  a gesture towards the cyborg,  that allow one to enact the position of subjects one would never have had access to previously, to be the laborer in Tijuana and in San Diego simultaneously, do we consider this an evolvement or a form of estrangement? Statements such as “sometimes you control the machine, and sometimes the machine controls you” and  “Most of the time I don’t feel anything,” from Sleep Dealer’s character’s indicate an emotional impotence and powerlessness. There is no depiction of human labor as one that move’s freely and willfully within the various scapes of global cultural flow.  Granted the role of individual responsibility is pivotal to the film’s storyline, is repressive equality just as central to the character’s actions and situations?

 The question of access becomes central to Sleep Dealer and to Appadurai’s depiction of nations as agents of 'repatriation of difference', in that they transform homogenized global forms into heterogeneous discourses of national sovereignty. He says: "States find themselves pressed to ‘stay open’ by forces of media, technolog , travel which have fuel consumerism throughout the world, for new commodities and spectacles.  On the other hand these very ethnoscapes, mediascapes and ideoscapes, such as ‘democracy in China’, that the state cannot tolerate as threats to its control over ideas of nationhood and ‘peoplehood’."  What is at stake in participation in the various scapes, when we are given access to and made accessible to the “forces of cultural gravity” that pull at us?

Deterritorialization: Appadurai & Sleep Dealer

We are introduced to Memo as he recounts his story, immediately drawing the viewer into the character's past in Alex Rivera's Sleep Dealer. Memo notes that it is hard for him to remember home, but sometimes, during his dreams or when he is connected through his plugs, the memories of home will resurface in his conscious. Although Memo is both geographically and mentally disconnected from his home, Sleep Dealer introduces the concept of memory banks, and thus disconnects the idea of Memo's home from the past and allows us to view and Memo to experience them in the present. In fact, throughout Sleep Dealer, the notion of temporality is continually twisted and reworked, and in fact, through Luz's memory bank, even commoditized.

I found that this related to Appadurai's examples of 'deterritorialization', a condition or state that forms because of the constantly changing ethnoscapes and ideoscapes we find ourselves in. Appadurai claims that "...the sheer speed, scale, and volume of each of these flows are not so great that the disjunctures have become central to the politics of global culture." In Sleep Dealer, we see these descriptors that serve as catalysts of disjunctures in global flows depicted as the net. Sleep Dealer introduces and exaggerates to  it's audience the immediacy of today's want for an instantaneous, and 'real' connection to our present.

Perhaps because of the trauma of losing his father, perhaps because of a dream of making it in the big city, Memo exemplifies the experience that is deterritorialization while in Tijuana. Memo becomes embedded in various foreign networks upon his arrival, contrasting sharply against his arguable 'off the grid' upbringing in Santa Ana del Rio. Appadurai claims, " this fertile ground of deterritorialization, in which money, commodities, and persons are involved in ceaselessly chasing each other around the world...". Likewise, Memo soon becomes a part of Luz's aspirations as a writer, the US government's search for 'aquaterrorists', Miguel's search for retribution, and is granted access to the highly prized commodity of his nodes. In fact, in order to establish himself as a 'deterritorialized' person, Memo's main objective is to obtain nodes and connect himself to his new surroundings. Sleep Dealer also compares Appadurai's concept of deterritorialization with outsourced workers, which both Memo and Miguel come into direct contact with.


Both Thrift and Appadurai underscore second sight, a new way of envisioning the world, Thrift in a more literal sense as it relates to spatial configurations and technologies that address ambiguities previously unseen and Appadurai in his attempts to move the reader away from familiar models of Western political privilege/cultural imperialism. And while there is conscious effort in both texts to keep things perspectival, it seemed to me that these theories or alternatives came at the cost of “Self” (self-knowledge, self-thought, self-production).

In Movement-space we see that to favor the invisible calculations that computing/qualculation offer is to favor artificiality, which is at the cost of the natural. We stop asking questions, but instead assume answers, relying on “it is there because it is there” logic (584) as things are re-naturalized. The human self is compromised/at risk because the system has changed or the way we see the system has changed. (This interested in conjuction with labor – man-powered/made v. mechanical)

In Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy we see that Self is othered and subject to external definition on international scales. In the imaginary Appadurai describes, Self and Other are likened so much so that they become homogenous forces. He tries to suggest that global flows do not alienate or displace consumers and that relationships of power, tied to diasporic determinism, can construct cultural hybridity but there are still several moments of disjuncture in the text that counter Appadurai’s argument. This forced me to question further whether you can really simultaneously be homogenized and individualized.

Quantifying the Amorphous in Sleep Dealer

The quote “in a world in which numerical calculations are being done and redone continuously, so that static representations become subordinated to flow (not least because ‘the image, in a traditional sense, no longer exists’) , the nomadological movement becomes the natural order of thought.” (Thrift 590) is partially reflected in Sleep Dealer’s imaging of the act of selling memories.  
                The most obvious analogy which we can extract is the new amalgamation between an image and a story. This non-image is the very essence of this flux, down to even when they are in their static holding pattern before selection they are still in constant movement. These memories are further delineated from the traditional image in that they cannot be falsified or opened for interpretation, as they are narrated by the author who is rebuked to tell the truth, which is tempting to bend to create a more enticing story. However, this recording of memories is a form of quantifying the incalculable, partially because the very form of memories is not as fixed as the film would lead us to believe. Discoveries in neuroscience have proven that each time we relive a memory consciously or not that neural connection is recreated so memories adopt a quantum state where the very act of observing them can alter them, and these changes can compound with time, so the idea of a static memory is inherently false. However this calls into question Thrift’s analysis that movement-space is an entirely new phenomenon. Our individual existences and perceptions have always existed in a kind of flux, thus is the process of maturing and learning, but it is not just limited to the conclusions we draw based on internalized information, but also that the internal data-set which we use as evidence is also subject to change. However, changes in type of mass communication which allow constant revision (even in non-numerical calculation) rather than static informational media, such as the written word have made this state of consistent change much more apparent.
                Despite this overly simplified view of memory which the movie portrays it does have other parallels to the Thrift text. Although Sleep Dealer references much larger system, it really only focusses on three characters it can only represent a simplified microcosm of unfathomably complex calculatory systems, furthermore since complex mathematical models don’t make ideal cinematic fodder I must use loose analogy as a form of analysis. I interpret each characters decisions and intuition as “co-ordination and activities respond to the projected reality in which participants become oriented. The system acts as a centering and mediating device through which things pass and from which they flow forward” (Thrift 591). This mediating device is the memory marketplace, which can share subjectively ‘true’ information from virtually any walk of life – ie the ‘projected reality’. As Rudy strives to learn about Memo’s true character he communicates through Luz who is his, albeit somewhat unreliable gauge of Memo mirroring the way that numbers are often used to quantify but abstract from the desired truth in that they can reveal too much, and like Luz’s ‘writings’ often gloss over the important facts. Nonetheless, as Rudy persists in his search for understanding with Luz as his proxy shares more memories (or takes readings) he gains further lucidity about his job. So, these memories made static retroactively affect his job loyalty and his actions. . The memory’s continuously flickering rotations and transformations and projections hove into view” (Thrift 591) makes Rudy evolve his perspective on the role he plays in the social structure, and ultimately shifts this role when he goes rogue and turns against the private water company which previously held his loyalty. The special abstraction of remote drone piloting allows this misunderstanding, and only through temporal abstraction is Rudy able to reconceive his duty as a reprehensible deed, but the main cause of the trauma is qualitative abstraction: when the water company notices Memo’s listening dish they immediately assume that it is based from a terrorist organization – a safe assumption some might say, but it too broadly generalizes a world into threats and allies. This world doesn’t let things merely exist but forces them into confined categories which can overlook the nuances of our complex existence.

Appadurai's Theoryscape Network Hierarchy

"The new global cultural economy has to be seen as a complex, overlaping, disjunctive order, which cannot any longer be understood in terms of existing center-periphery models....The complexity of the current global economy has to do with certain fundamental disjunctures between economy, culture and politics which we have only begun to theorize" (Appadurai, Page 6)

Arjun Appadurai's theoryscapes on "global cultrual flow" are effective at talking about the cite of recent cultural flow and perhaps 'disjuncture.' Although I understand the ethnoscape (Page 7) as the human network in the cultural system*, and the technoscape (Page 8) as the realm of (recently digital) mechanized systems of creation and distribution, the last three theoryscapes are less clear to me. The finanscape (Page 8) seems to be the cultural area where mysterious ideas and ideals about capital come into existence, but is their origin really mysterious or just hidden? Next we arrive at the mediascape and ideoscape (Page 9) which I thought were very related. I'm pretty sure that most of what I think of as the way I am effected by a global ideoscape comes from the mediascape and all the mediascape stuff comes from the technoscape right? And it's all reliant on money, which is the finanscape?

This complex interrelated multidimensionality reminded me of two similarly confusing things: string theory and political institutional bureaucracy. To try to better understand it, I thought I could eliminate one or two. Maybe I could say that the mediascape and technoscape were just the glue between the enthnoscape and the ideoscape, running on some finanscape fuel. But then I realized I didn't understand what the fuel was? What is capital, the substance of the finanscape? I'm not sure the finanscape exsists or if it's just a thing used to suppress the working class. Maybe emerging imagined networks, characterized as 'disjuntures' and potential crises, are simply the result of the technosphere gaining so much power, it is expose sing the finanscape as a part of an ideoscape created by certain enthnoscapes useing technoscapes.

Do some of the scapes control and/or create the other scapes? Is that what is causing disjuncture, hierarchy and the resulting revolution of the suppressed 'working class' used for the cultural benefit of the controlling party? Marxism as a part of natural selection, demonstrated as machines of the technoscape revolute against being used to create suppressive ideoscapes, mediascapes and finanscapes.

Part of the enthnoscape includes the migrant communities Appadurai focuses on, but also the owners of media which Appadurai mentions during the discussion of mediascape on page 9. Enthnoscapes demanded self-improving technoscapes and used them to create mediascapes which sold the idea that finanscapes and ideoscapes are different things (because no matter your ideology, your a part of capitalism and finananscapes, right?). Now, as technoscapes are improving at the rate of Moore's law or faster, enthnoscapes cant seem to keep up with their control of the ideoscapes through mediascapes. Does this make sense? I will hopefully explain this blog post in class because it's gotta end now.

Computational Creativity

One of the arguments which I found the most compelling in this week's reading was Nigel Thrift's conception of "qualculation" and the re-humanization of our lives through digital technologies. Generally, as Thrift points out, we hear doomsday theories which insist that the ubiquitous nature of computers in our lives are in fact making us more logical, rational, cold. One of the more obvious rebuttals would ask why a shift to a more rational world mean a divorce from our nature and be necessarily a bad development? Thrift finds a more interesting way to phrase this problem, delving deeper into the issue at hand and asking why, to begin with, computers need make our lives less human. For Thrift, the millions upon millions of calculations that are being propagated around us from the most obvious sources, such as our desktop computers, to those hidden from view in everything from our cars to the traffic lights we drive them under allow us new avenues of exploration rather than mass standardization. An inestimable number of minute fine-tuned calculations allow for qualculation - an introduction of qualitative reasoning into a quantitative structure.

So, in what ways does the proliferation of computers into our lives now actually fulfill Thrift's idea? In what ways have we changed the way to interact with interfaces or map our surroundings? I would argue, in support of Thrift's theory of qualculation, that there are infinitely many new forms of intellectual and artistic expression that stem directly from our interaction with computers. We have been introduced to new avenues of access to information and archives through the internet and computer-created databases. We have developed new media in which to create, from electronic music and digital art to 3D modeling and computer programming. We have found new methods of communicating human to human, whether through cellphones or email, connecting people in ways that would never have been possible before. While technologies to require standardization in order to communicate with each other, we have opened up the possibility for ingenious feats of engineering and competitive product markets. While these technologies are all based upon the logical structure of the computer, the binary 1s and 0s of electrical pulses in a microprocessor, they allow for human production and creativity. As we discussed last week in section, and touched upon in our discussion of Snow Crash, in this sense, the language of mathematics is perhaps more primal, indeed natural, as it is the based upon which the whole world can develop.

Appadurai and Granovetter

Both Granovetter and Appadurai seem to be trying to diagram a kind a bird’s eye view sketch of events that happen on individual and interpersonal levels, essentially they are trying to zoom out a define terms and systems to talk about this “new” mobility (imagined and physical). From my reading space in its physical sense in both works becomes increasingly irrelevant when think about networks and is exchanged for imagined space, or the movement between two spaces.

What I think is interesting in reading the two together is when Appadurai discusses deterritorialization, especially when he references the Gulf States. In the Gulf, especially in places like the UAE, the “expat” or “migrant laborer” communities exceed that of the Emirati population. What makes immigrating to the Gulf for work different from the US is that there is no social mobility, no possibility of citizenship, and so definitely no possibility of political participation. However, I wonder what would happen if political participation (I mean those states would have to extend political participation to its citizens first, minus Kuwait to some degree) was a possibility for immigrants to the UAE.

This is where I think it is interesting to bring Granovetter into the discussion. In his piece “The Strength of Weak Ties” he discusses community organization and asks the reader to imagine a community “completely partitioned into cliques”. This reminded me of the Gulf and countries in the Middle East where tribal relations are still upheld( but also I thought about my family friends who moved to DC and they fell very quickly into a “clique” that revolved around the Coptic Church) and thus the subsequent social obligations that come with that are different, but conceptually, the idea of a clique is the same.

The reason I thought to the Bedouin tradition of having a tribe was because democracy’s “compatibility” with the Middle East is often cited as incompatible because of religion. I wonder if the concept of “weak tie” as essential to networking; or the creation, proliferation, and maintenance of networks, and thus connecting with others on a level of knowing they exist is integral to the notion of democracy. I wonder if, religion aside, is there more to democracy than just secularism, is there a network or some kind of imagined infrastructure/superstructure that must be created before hand or simultaneously for it to make sense?

Appadurai's "Imagined World"

“My own hypothesis, which can only be tentative at this point, is that the relationship of these various flows to one another, as they constellate into particular events and social forms, will be radically context-dependent… What I have sought to provide in this essay is a reasonably economical technical vocabulary and a rudimentary model of disjunctive flows, from which something like a decent global analysis might emerge.” (Appadurai, 21)


Based on Appadurai’s claim to be providing only a vocabulary and a model for the disjunctive flows of the current global system, and no “decent global analysis,” I will focus on the former in my own analysis of the essay.  The project of looking at the terms and models that define global flows reminds me of the essay “What is the Concept of Globalization Good for? An African Historian's Perspective,” by Frederick Cooper.  Cooper, as the title of the piece suggests, is an African historian interested in the problematic of having a single, overall concept which purports to encompass the entire concept of “globalization,” whose piece was published about a decade after Appadurai’s piece.  According to Cooper, the term “globalization” (which, admittedly, Appadurai uses sparingly) has come to represent three dominant paradigms which, though incongruous, together (as the only options for defining the term) have a totalizing effect on the dominant paradigms about global flows.   Appadurai acknowledges all three concepts in his essay, although only refers to one of them by the name “globalization.”  For Appadurai, “globalization” refers to what Cooper calls the “social democrat’s lament,” which is to say, the fear of homogenization as the world ‘gets smaller.’  The second concept of Cooper’s “globalization” is the economically derived concept, most notably practiced by the World Bank and the IMF, which Appadurai mentions, but does not discuss precisely.  Finally, Cooper’s “globalization” includes what he calls “the dance of the flows and fragments.”  This third concept of “globalization” seems to me to be the model which Appadurai is putting forth in this essay: the unevenness and unpredictability of the various pieces of socio-political and economic forces which today determine the flow of capital.  My point is not that Cooper disagrees with Appadurai’s model, but that Appadurai’s model—which seems to have been somewhat revolutionary in 1990—had ten years later become such dominant part of the paradigm that it has arguably played a role in inhibiting a more organic determination of what the global landscape looks like now.  This essay perhaps stands as a testament to the power of vocabularies in the contemporary world, the world which it hopes to describe, to the extent that it has acted as a prescriptive voice as much as a descriptive one.  Thus, what seems most interesting to me about this article is not so much the ideas it puts forth, but the example it presents of the power of the prescriptive voice within this “imagined world” it discusses. 

Global, Cultural Disjuncture and its Alienation or Liberation

“The imagination has become an organized field of social practices, a form of work (labor, culturally organized practice) and a form of negotiation between sites of agency (‘individuals’) and globally defined fields of possibility” – Appadurai

Selves and identities are now characterized by an instability of a new kind. Ordinary people have access to a barrage of images, text, commodities, ideas etc. that imaginatively rearrange into a web of global meaning and identity. With migration, media, production, and technology all operating within a highly connected global economy, imaginations may no longer be framed by a teological “imagined community” such as a nation, state or ethnic group, but be guided towards something beyond; perhaps an “imagined concatenation of scapes”, which by nature of its global force, can liberate individuals from their culturally-specific sense of locality. Here Appadurai seems to suggest that individuals can participate in complex, global flows by deriving imaginative power from the instability, moving freely among many flows, transcending beyond what is local, intimate, and immediately accessible. If imagined identity is “spread over vast and irregular spaces,” but still linked to groups by primordial sentiments or technological capabilities, what type of liberating power does this give over to the individual? Certainly, as diaspora and diffusion become standards of a global, cultural disjuncture, culture and individual belonging does not have to be limited by nationhood or geographic territory. But in terms of the human essence, is there anything gained/lost in this new order?

To be here and there simultaneously—to inhabit a world that is “rhyzomic, even schizophrenic”—calls into question the relationship between “rootlessness, alienation, and psychological distance” versus “fantasies of electronic propinquity.” Sleep Dealer, with its virtual labor, closed borders, and global network of memories and experiences, presents the tension between these two poles—how cybernetics can extend bodies beyond normal human limitations for both escapist and exploitative purposes, from connected sexual experiences to virtual labor from faraway lands. On one hand, it seems that the traffic of people and identities can be liberating with new conditions of neighborliness and connectedness, but on the other hand, it can be debasing (like treating the sleep dealers as mechanical objects). Does a global, cultural disjuncture liberate individuals through imaginative power or suspend them in an alienating vortex or global flows without a sense of time, place, or distance? And is imaginative “power” even the correct word here? Appadurai avoids the relationship between power and global flows and how privileged groups might control flows to manipulate others. Is the word truly in a state of total disjuncture or are their architects behind global flows that may reveal a less disorganized quality about them? From Hollywood dominating global mediascapes to elite “priest programmers” setting the standard for global technoscapes to the militarized US/Mexico border in Sleep Dealer erecting limits to ethnoscapes, what is the nature of power and control in the global economy and its relation to individual imagination?