virtually one, actually the other
In space, no one can hear you scream; in deep space, no one will hear you scream; in deep space you are alone. In the vacuum of deep space, the sounds mere humans make with their vibrating vocal chords will be insignificant. Yet with the right equipment, power, and knowledge, screams can be heard loud and clear.
The World Wide Web is wide, but shallow. Envisioning an all-encompassing framework that encompasses everything is highly seductive. Concepts of the 'Global Village' or the 'Electronic Nomad' present paradigms of simple geographical transitions, but these expeditions are defined by Western 'tourists' paradoxically seeking places different from their lived experiences and unspoilt by their own cultural influences. They desire a highly heterogeneous world, but one effortless to access. The surfer (again the language of leisure and adventure) is awaiting that next big electronic wave to ride.
This international network of networks is only as deep as those that control
the conjoining individual servers; it is therefore not amazing that it reflects
the corporate values of those in control of its nodes.
It is consequently unsurprising that individualistic silence is created online by the overbearing presence of corporate and governmental real and imagined 'security' concerns. In the vastness of space, screams are easily absorbed. The language and acceptable mores are carefully crafted; national government and corporate e-mail snooping (lately in the form of Google) to ensnare detractors is achieving 'terror' induced acceptance. Everyone is supposed to maintain similar protocols, codes and programmes demand people perform in particular fashions. That these stipulations are culturally, ethnically, and racially coded is indisputable. (2)
Meanwhile offline, there has been what can be described as a 'Multiculturalism and Immigration Special' of The Times newspaper on the third of April 2004, (3) with front page Headline of 'Britain must scrap Multiculturalism', accompanied by the ubiquitous photograph of capped and bearded 'Muslims' burning a cardboard British flag. The vilification of multiculturalism, with Trevor Philips (Head of the Commission for Racial Equality) at the forefront (rendering him a darling of the political Right), collapses personal identity into nationhood. Nation is coded as underscoring identity, arguing that troublesome differences between individual and state ought to disappear. An acceptable position if identifying with modal mainstream values, but difficult where forging a workable political identity in a new space. Reifying 'national' values, and demanding unquestioning obeisance in the name of integration, means accepting facelessness as reasonable price of being online.
But if each server is allowed alleged its mythical political and cultural autonomy, then it is essential to recognise a multifaceted world order. Otherwise culture becomes a fixed dominating homogeneous ethnicity, the very thing modern travellers eschew.