Floating Clouds and Flowing Water? The Difficulty of Convergence Culture amid Cyberimperialism

There is a Chinese saying “floating clouds and flowing water” to praise good writing and thoughts, but here it occurs to me suddenly that the convergence culture through new media is just the same. Owing to the liquidity of information and ideas, people from different cultural and ideological backgrounds can now easily access each other’s most private thinkings by reading blogs, posts, and so on. However, the highly public and sharp differences can probably cause conscequences even the authors would have never imagined. So, maybe it is much more difficult to arrive the level of “floating clouds and flowing water” in cultural convergence. Maybe I should not overly exaggerate the difficulties, but the good side can turn bad if the situation is worsened by people who use rhetoric to fight wars, not making friends, am I right?

The example in the introduction to Convergence Culture immediately reminds me of the film that mocks Muslim prophet not long ago. Even the fresh news reported by New York Times on Chinese Premier Wen and his family is now in the spotlight online and in China. While the freedom of speech on the Western side can explore interesting stories on anyone anywhere, I cannot help suspecting the validity of the news and its purpose of releasing such a seemed horrible news just before the big conference in China. It seems to me that the NYT, one of my favorite news resources, has chosen a completely wrong target this time. One who is deeply loved by the people in China by his charisma and his idea to fight against corruption, to cooperate internationally, and even to change the Chinese governmental systems. Who does not know that politicians all over the world make a lot of money?! If such kind of non-friendly reports goes on and on, how can the convergence of culture happen if people just wage wars against each other openly and fiercely. Does it mean that US will convert all the other nations?

Each person has a specific memory of history that is rooted in the specific culture, and it changes or even shatters when new media era demand one to converge to another system of belief. Clashes and conflicts either openly or secretly is not necessarily bad, for they prompt one to learn and search for the specific information on the “other” for a more holistic literacy—a worldwide literacy that can embrace different histories, beliefs, experiences, and practices. In the popular culture circle, people debate with each other by commenting to a certain piece of news, by daily dialogues on certain topics that they cannot possibly understand within the limitation of one culture, and by blogging and other means of social networks. In the academic circle, through multinational collaboration and cross-national communication.

However, when bad things, such as the anti-US protests happened in Egypt and Lybia, when anti-Japanese protests happened in China, who is to blame? Should someone who has always been bullied feel sad and say a word? Can the internet wake up one day and say, “Hey, don’t look at me today. Your heart will break if you see other people playing with your faith now!” I love the internet and all new media stuff because I use them as a tool to learn, to share, and to communicate with friends and family. But sometimes, I woke up and was made sad because of tons of negative or bad news that would literally give me no mood to go to school. I wonder why people just cannot understand that politics are politics, when you play with the politicians, consider the feelings of the civilians also. They suffer a lot because of your games! All the world is now learning and adoring the American idol(I am thinking of the copied Hollywood in India, and many other cloned things), but whether they will continue to do so depends on what their Godly idol does to them, I guess.

Back to my title, I think the cyberspace environment is highly imperialist and pushy because the wind that blow the clouds and waters, or the trend of some important agencies really decides which direction the world will go to. Trying to understand each other thoroughly is just in vain and pointless if people do not calm down and make efforts to learn from each other and really sit down to talk. Because history has proven that wars and hatred cannot save problems once for all.

Once again, the power of rhetoric in such a “convergence culture”, whether true or false, has frightened me. I wonder when will a genuine democracy of culture come into being.

I have some links for my dear professor, classmates, and blog followers below:

The first one tells how imperialism and the foreign invasions happened in Asia. It has an audio version just ahead of the text.

The second one talks about an American Chinese journalist’s struggling with his dilemma of identities.

The third one is a link of the Chinese Exclusion Act, it will also take you to the National Archives.

Imperialism Asia

The Olympics, China, and Me

Chinese Exclusion Act 1882

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The Spirit and Heart of Digital Writing—Digital Identity (Mid-Term Point Response)

http://www.jedbrubaker.com/

Hi, All! Did you ever think of what will happen to all your online files after you die? I seriously thought of this problem. I am the kind of person who always lament on the short life span I have on this planet and I seriously thought that I may want to pass down all my files, records of my pictures, my failures, and my success to my offspring. I felt bad when I thought they might be disappear like myself one day. And I want to hold fast to them, to preserve sort of a trace on earth that I had existed.

At this point of the semester, I think all of the topics we have read and discussed about are related to each other, but of all the issues, digital identity situates at the heart of the whole picture. Maybe because I am focusing my final project on digital identity, I think all the other topics are related or of importance to this very notion of digital identity. I tried to brainstorm the issue of digital identity and found myself thinking about globalization, digital composition, multimodal composition, writing with the new media, digital literacy, digital ethics, and so on.

Firstly, mass media and new media enable and accelerate digital globalization, which allows world citizens to execute power and exchange ideas cross cultures. Therefore, digital imperialism is quite an issue in the online writing space where news agencies obviously cling to their own set of norms and ethical standards. Digital divide and digital literacy are also investigated both inside one culture and from cross-cultural perspectives. All these issues cannot even exist without the core idea of digital identity. If we are not using social media and the digital appliances such as cellphone, computer, and so on, everything we are talking about now will be in the vacuum.

Steven Krause’s attitude in his “A Very Brief and Very Selective History of Computers and Composition” is one example of how the history of technology and computers has developed fast. When I read it, I cannot help thinking what the world is like during each stage of the computer and internet development. Globalization is displayed in Lanham’s “The Electronic Word” . The fact that the internet has enabled millions of the unprivileged and marginalized to read, to write, and to communicate with people whom in the non-digital age they could not get in touch with. Lanham also shows us the new phenomenon of the “unity of knowledge” and the disappearance of disciplinary boundaries.

Secondly, writing or composition instruction, under such digital and global circumstances, gets a new dimension of visual or multimodal writing perspective. Writing, which were mainly verbal texts, is increasingly embracing visual compositions. Writing instruction that once faced with the difficulty of world Englishes is now facing another challenge of how to instruct visual rhetoric as parallel to verbal rhetoric, and how to assess writing if it is multimodal. This current situation, is to some extent a step forward to build a new babel though the hybrid of verbal and visual rhetoric, the notion of which Dr. Hocks forges. Literacy for a world citizen is not only the verbal skills in the printing era, but also the ability to navigate and get what we want in a vast information sea, the ability to produce and understand multimodal and multi-media writing. Our identity as writers shifted from a simple pen and paper form to a complex but colorful one as displayed in Anderson’s prosumer concept. Issues such as ethics, intellectual property rights, legal enforcement on privacies, and so on will be increasingly urgent for many areas, including our field of rhetoric and composition.

“CCCC Position Statement on Teaching, Learning, and Assessing Writing in Digital Environments” defines the teaching, learning, and assessing writing in a digital age and makes digital writing and composition official and authoritative in the filed of composition. Because the technology and new media give us opportunities to reevaluate writing, to use machine to grade writings, and to assess writings that are not only verbal, but visual. “The Rhetoric of Technology and the Electronic Writing” illustrates how the increasingly use of computers and the internet in a writing classroom can be both challenging and rewarding depending on how the writing instructors make use of the technology. This makes our teaching, assessment, and view of writing different from our old tradition of verbal and printed notion of composition. We also face the issue of computer literacy as functional literacy as stated by Selber. Students’ performance can be enhanced if we teach them to become “empowered users” or “functional literate users”(7). Yancey’s “new key” embraces multi-literacies that have been enabled by digital revolution and Dr. Hocks’ paper gives us a hybrid both textual and visual rhetoric in digital writing, and she shows us how to teach visual rhetoric in our classrooms, which is just in time for the new dimension of visual or multimodal writing perspective.

Thirdly, issues such as privacy, gender, race, religion, and even world peace come along due to varied ideologies and practices in different cultures. Whereas digital writing enables people to express their beliefs online and communicate freely, it also brings problems such as new identity crisis, true and fake identity, national and/or transnational identity, gender identity, racial identity, religious identity, and so on, which all relates and influence one’s writing process.

Selber’s advice of helping students to become not only aware of social conventions, but also capable of critically analyze discourses that they are interested in is crucial when we deal with texts and visuals permitted with various issues within different ideological frames. Silber also suggests that our functionally literate students should be able to negotiate between and among discourses. To achieve this, we have to be able to design literacy technologies that will enable different rhetorics for cross-discourse communication(16). Cynthis L. Selfe and Richard J. Selfe hold that interface can be the agent for the exertion of power in electronic contact zones because interface automatically enforce the ideology of the designer. Exertion of power is automatically related to gender, race, and other issues that will be influenced by the power hierarchy, no matter the impact is from which level. Wysocki and Jasken prefer to stress the content of the interface because it is ideologically loaded(32-33). This again, relates to the exertion of power, and the function of writing in establishing one’s social position, in expressing oneself to make others act, and so on. Digital identities and complexity in our new media identities are not only what we express ourself or the window for others to know us, but also a tool for us to influence and persuade others through the rhetoric of our identities themselves, through interface design, web design, and through rhetoric techniques embedded in both verbal and visual composition.

It is easy to reach a conclusion that digital identity become the spirit of composition online or through social media. We are who we are when we use pens to write on our most private diary notebooks before, but we are who we are now when we are represented by a set of numbers of telephone or student card, we are who we are when our images and writings are exposed on Facebook, wordpress, and so on. Identity is no longer the simple ego we can apprehend before, but a digital one that is displayed in multidimensional ways.

I found this weeks readings related to sonic literacy, relationship between literacy and identity, between voice and culture are especially interesting to my ideas on digital identity. I want to do a comparative study between major social networks in China and the US, but my knowledge of the US social networks is scarce. So I decide to do a tentative study of the two groups by analyzing digital rhetoric, digital literacy, interface design, and related topics to illustrate similarities and differences based on culture, philosophy, and theories on postmodernism and digital rhetoric.

Interesting links on digital identity:

Digital Identity: Race

Foundations of Literary Studies: The Myth of Frankenstein

A blog for Vanderbilt English 199 Course

A Compositionist's Blog

Composing is a Way of Life

Foreign Policy

the Global Magazine of News and Ideas

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