Tuesday, September 25, 2012

temporality and nationalism

In his argument for the cultural roots of nationalism, Anderson devotes a substantial part of his discussion to shifts in ideas of temporality. For him, conceptions of time have moved from “a simultaneity of past and future in an instantaneous present” to a conception of simultaneity that is marked by “temporal coincidence, and measured by clock and calendar.” (24) He talks about the birth of the novel and the newspaper, identifying them as two forms of media where the latter form of simultaneity was presented, thereby existing as forms that provided the means for imagining communities like the nation. This discussion made me question new forms of media, specifically social networking sites and television. While they certainly provide the means for imagining communities in the same way that the novel and the newspaper do, time seems to operate differently in these new media spaces. There is an idea of “liveness” in new media that could not be present in the novel or the newspaper. The Facebook news feed, the Twitter news feed, the “live” updates on television news networks – they all present information in “real time,” even episodic television shows have an element of liveness in the way the narratives are presented from week to week. How does our present interaction with time within new media relate to what Anderson (referencing Benjamin) describes as “homogeneous, empty time?” How can we understand nationalism in the present moment, given this further shift in our conception of simultaneity? In general, the Internet and forms of new media seem to offer the possibility of both affirming and reinterpreting nationalism, and I’m interested in exploring the ways in which this might be.

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