Different People Use the Internet Differently

When I went to Vietnam, I recall being absolutely inundated with pictures of western celebrities, western cinema, books, TV shows, music, etc. Of course, there was also a lot of Vietnamese media too, and media coming from places like Japan, India and China. Could it be that the presence of global media means that Vietnam is becoming somehow less Vietnamese? I don’t think so. I met a Vietnamese girl, the same age as me, who owned a copy of Twilight. She had it on her bookshelf alongside a range of posters and other books and music CDs that were from all over the place. Firstly, it struck me as odd that someone my age was reading Twilight. In Australia, reading Twilight as a twenty-something is frowned upon, especially for students at university. And while it’s okay to have read it, it’s only okay in an ironic sense. People say, ‘I wanted to read it so see how I should use the word “sparkiful” correctly‘. But they don’t put it on their bookshelf and say that they love it to strangers. I’m not saying this to denounce this girl’s level of literacy or even taste in books. Instead, what I am suggesting is that Twilight may well be the same book all over the world, but it means something different to her in Vietnam than what it does to me in Australia.

This leads very nicely into a discussion about the internet. The internet does have a strong global presence. As I’ve mentioned numerous times now, obviously not everyone can access it, but it does appear to at least exist in every country. But, in each place that the internet exists, people may be using it in very different ways to how you or I may use it. Genevive Bell talks about this in the following YouTube video:

The idea that the internet is not something that everyone uses in identical ways is reflected over in The Anthropology of Homo Digitalis and His Tribes where Jukka Jouhki talks about 6 different ways in which westerners alone engage with the internet, those who use it for merely staying in contact with people, those who need it for work, those who use it to research their areas of interest and hobbies, among others (I’m a digital extrovert, according to the quiz that accompanies this article). Add to that a myriad of other ways to use the interent in different cultural contexts, when one has different levels of access, and different wants needs and values.

This data really highlights the anthropological nature of this project. Which is, it would appear that, even though the internet may have been constituted for a specific purpose, people are able to take it and use it in whatever way they want to or are able to. It seems to become a function of one’s lifestyle, rather than something that can change one’s lifestyle. In that case, of course the internet is not necessarily inherently neoliberal, it’s just used for neoliberal ends by certain people. But, if you tell your son to email a letter to a relative and ask the son to recount the reply to the letter, there is nothing particularly neoliberal about that. You are probably using the website of a specific company such as Google or Microsoft to send emails and sort of contribute to those companies because then advertisers are able to market to you, but the extent to this is fairly minimal, I would argue. Particularly if you don’t speak the language they’re advertising to you in.

One Response

  1. […] In different cultures, it serves different functions. Genevive Bell’s talk on this over on this post provides some particularly salient examples of how this might be. Additionally, as I explore here, […]

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