by Paula Uimonen, 2001
The exponential growth and global expansion of the Internet has led many people to believe that the Internet is ushering in a new era, the information age, and a new social form, the information society. By equating the development of new information technologies with the evolution of a new informational social order, these notions reflect the primacy awarded to science and technology in representations of modernity. From an anthropological perspective, this visionary belief in technology-induced progress is instructive of the extent to which technological development is a result of culturally mediated social agency. And it is the ways in which different actors interpret the meaning of the Internet that this monograph is concerned with, the characteristics of which are analyzed in terms of the broader processes of modernization and globalization.
Approaching Internet development in terms of cultural management, this study focuses on the social dynamics underlying its expansion in developing countries. Individuals actively involved in this process form the ethnographic basis of the analysis. Positioned within different organizational frameworks, the activities and perspectives of these Internet pioneers provide an emic understanding of the culture of networking. Representing the social and cultural embeddedness of the Internet, the culture of networking is a subculture that is both related to and diverges from dominant cultural forms. In this investigation, the focus lies on the dynamic interrelations between the culture of networking and existing power relations, at international and national levels.
The research is based on multi-sited and translocal fieldwork in Geneva (international discourses and activities), Southeast Asia (regional and national case studies) and cyberspace (translocal site). Relying on a variety of investigative techniques, the research has been carried out from 1995 until the present.
Contemporary Southeast Asia is a fascinating region, rich in cultural diversity and with a great deal of variety in terms of modernization. These photographs aim to capture some of the striking images and imaginaries to be found in Laos and Malaysia, the two national case studies of this study.
The following institutes
have kindly sponsored this research: