Using blogs to create cybernetic space: Examining the India blogs

AUTHOR
Ananda Mitra

ABSTRACT

The paper uses data from blogs maintained by people of Indian origin to demonstrate that the process of entering a blogsphere can help to re-create in cybernetic space, the original real space left behind producing the phenomenon of “glocalization” where the global and the local can dwell together. It is increasingly the case that many people who would call themselves “Indian” or “of Indian origin” dwells in an emerging synthetic cybernetic space that is produced at the intersection of real geographic space and virtual cyberspace. Thus, Indians in New York spend time visiting virtual temples and Indians in Delhi spend time in call centers virtually living in the USA. In this paper, the focus will be on considering the way in which Indians in the global real space are spending increasingly more time in localized cybernetic space. This is done by using theories related to the new technologies and relating them to the understanding of diaspora – the condition of place-less-ness – that is increasingly a common phenomenon. The specific technology being considered is the use of Web logs, or blogs, which is one of the fastest growing phenomenon on the Internet at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

This is possible by beginning with the premise that the Internet can be considered as a discursive “space” which is composed of numerous discourses that are strung together with the use of a rhizomatic network of computers that are constantly being scaled up. As a result, there are millions of web pages that contain almost infinite number of texts and they remain hyperlinked together creating a discursive infrastructure whose physical location is nearly impossible to pinpoint and map, but whose presence is felt the moment one accesses the discourse using a networked computer. Blogs are increasingly a significant component of this discursive space. As I have discussed in the paper presented in Ethicomp 2004, a reader entering this discursive space may find it a comforting place because it produces a safe place (Mitra, 2004). Here the reader can enter into a dialog through the use of blogs. Like other components of the Internet, the blog offers the opportunity for people to use their own voice, through the texts and discourse they create, to produce the identity of the blogger who is located in the “glocal” space. Eventually, the readers of blogs move into the space created by the blogger when they read a blog. To many readers finding this space is particularly critical because the spaces created by the blogs could be ones that the reader was once familiar with but has perhaps become distant from, for instance, through a process of migration. Thus, I would argue that blogs can play a crucial role in the diasporic experience where people find themselves moving away from familiar places and having to live in new places. In such cases, blogs can help to recreate the space that has been relinquished.

Evidence for this can be found in blogs maintained by people of Indian origin. There are several reasons for selecting to work with people of Indian origin. First, in most cases, people from India who are blogging are most likely to use the lingua franca of the Internet – English. Next, like many other developing countries, India is witnessing an increasing warming of relationship with the West. This has resulted in larger number of people from India traveling globally. Some travel away as immigrants albeit with close ties with India while others could be sojourners who are only away for long enough to develop an yearning for home and the desire to remain connected to India during their time away from home. The movement of people is creating the emergent Indian diaspora for whom the need to remain connected is particularly critical.

Often technologies such as the blog can help to alleviate some of those challenges by offering a space where people can find the voices of others who either represent similar anxieties or offer tales of a familiar real place that can often be comforting. The new technology of the blog has made this peculiarly possible because, unlike Web pages that are often institutionally maintained, blogs represent personal voices of people who are speaking for themselves as opposed to being spoken for by others. Thus the voices that create the spaces are accentuated with personal and ideological overtones that can provide a very special image of a place which the readers might never find in Web pages or other forums. Furthermore, the blogs not only represent the voices of the speakers who are creating the discourse of the blog, but these voices often are connected with many other voices that appear together. Indeed it is this network of voices made up of many bloggers, as well as those who respond to blogs that creates the sense of place that the readers can enter. These voices are also unlike e-mails and instant messages since blogs send the personal message to a large and anonymous audience unlike the personal message systems that have a limited and known audience.

This paper examines a series of blogs and shows how the discursive process is used by people of Indian origin to voice themselves and thus create a sense of place. The blogs are drawn from many different sources and are written by people who are physically in India as well as by people who are outside the country. A narrative analysis is used to show the different ways in which the blogs create senses of space, identity and nationality.

REFERENCES

Mitra, A. (2004). Towards finding a cybernetic safe place: Illustrations from People of Indian Origin. Proceedings of the Ethicomp 04.

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