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Can the Subaltern Tweet?
February 23, 2011 - 9:15pm

From the archives - this post was originally published at http://uvenus.org on 2010.06.28.

I am not sure I could be writing these lines in any other language than English. It is very possible you could not read these words were I writing them in my native language –Spanish–, because there might not be a platform where I could –or perhaps want to– publish it, at least not without me as an author facing the danger of a negative critical backlash. I say this to state my awareness of a relatively privileged position, of me as an author of this text in the present form in which you are reading it as enabled by specific technologies.

The effects of colonialism still disempower individuals, often reducing them to roles of consumption rather than production.

How can we live up to the promise of the Internet and the Web without erasing each other?

I believe a way in which the subaltern can make herself heard/read/seen at a planetary level is through a conscious, often painful process where individuals learn to see the English language and specific technologies as tools to think with and to do things, not just to consume things passively. This shift is also political: it means to stop seeing oneself as the oppressed of a given hegemonic power. This shift does not mean abandoning,or even less, repressing national languages or cultural traits. On the contrary, user-generated online content, with metadata in several languages and geo-tagging can be an essential part of this process.

One of the goals would be the inclusion of this content within the network of academic knowledge production. This would work as an act of online self-determination, understood as the freedom of misrepresented individuals and communities to determine their own online content.

In other words, online self-determination is necessary to affect the wider international community of communities by populating the Web with tagged, hyper-linked multilingual content. Online self-determination can also mean one’s technical, and very importantly, financial ability to represent and edit oneself and one’s culture(s) online, and to decide how they will achieve online relevance/visibility/ranking without being overshadowed by more dominant national languages and/or economies.

Perhaps a community of communities may seem idealistic.

Disciplinary, social, geographical, national, linguistic and financial borders are realities that internet access has not and cannot erase. Deeply rooted cultural traits/practices and beliefs are also obstacles to a practical critique of power dynamics in the language of those who are often perceived as the oppressors.

Computers are not places we live in, but they affect the way we think about ourselves and the planet.

Computers do not make the subaltern or marginalised individual think she can control the “globe”; on the contrary, computers can be windows to an inhospitable world. As means of establishing relations with Others, national languages and online technologies can both create communities and alienate large numbers of individuals. Simultaneously, computers have in fact transformed and continuously transform our ideas of who we are, what we do and how many we are.

A specific politics of planetary online friendship is at stake. Online decolonization and daily exercises of online self-determination are ways of befriending Others by acknowledging them as our contemporaries regardless of the time zone they might be in.

We start by recognizing our current positions.

The hyperlinking will follow.

Ernesto Priego was born in Mexico City and now lives in London. He is a PhD candidate in Information Studies at University College London. He has a background in English, comparative literature and cultural studies. His research sits at the crossroads of comics scholarship, history of the book and digital humanities.

 

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