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“The new global cultural economy has to be seen as a complex, overlapping, disjunctive order that cannot any longer be understood in terms of existing center-periphery models”(Appadurai,1996,32)[1]

‘-scapes’, and subsequently technoscapes, is a term that denotes a complex work that has different meanings from its various perspectives; which can include different historical, linguistic and political situations that also combine different communities; from nation-states to local communities. Most important in the ‘landscape’ metaphor is the emphasis on the individual actor and how they move through the ‘space’ of the scape hence its perspectival element.

This definition stems from the idea of cultural interactions, not that they are new but have intensified in the contemporary era of ‘globalization’. The term ‘globalization’ was not quite yet in popular use in the early 1990’s when Appadurai formulated his ideas of scapes although this concept is inline with a then emerging theory of Globalization. Appadurai begins with how scapes are associated with the rise of “transnational cultural flows” which Appadurai coins and which eventually becomes encapsulated within the idea of globalization. The importance of the term globalization lies in its connection to “spatiality… [it] introduces spatiality, simultaneity, horizontality into a kind of sequential, temporal, vertical, developmental impulse.” (Rantanen,2006,11)[2] as opposed to Modernity’s time based metaphor.

Yet, Appadurai attempts to resist the totalizing elements of ‘globalization as Americanization’ and instead focuses on the idea of flow. Appadurai goes on to separate two concurrent trends: homogenization and heterogenization (Appadurai,1996,33)[3]. Homogenization becomes the dominant criticism of transcultural movements in that smaller polities are taken over by larger ones. This is often accorded to, or is a thinly veiled concern about, Americanization and commodification. These concerns tend to miss how quickly new forces are re-articulated and indigenized in new contexts.

Technoscape is one of the five subcategories that Appadurai outlines. Technoscapes is the description of the movement of technologies across previously relatively closed borders. Appadurai includes both soft (informational) and hard (mechanical) technologies in his version of technoscapes but still uses a fairly rigid definition of technology. His emphasis is strongly indebted to the influence of multinational corporations and capital and how this is based in “increasingly complex relationships among money flows, political possibilities, and the availability of both un- and highly skilled labor”( Appadurai,1996,34)[4].

The different scapes; ethnoscapes, technoscapes, financescapes, mediascapes and ideoscapes all work together and influence each other in myriad ways. What is stressed in these relationships is the fluidity with which they influence each other. The metaphor of flows/fluidity is key to understanding how this theory functions. As opposed to a one way model of cultural/media imperialism the idea of flow stress how these matters go both ways and also how nothing goes completely unchanged in its new contexts. Everything from the cultural to the topographical and environmental helps shape the different formulations. This model stresses how in analyzing any newly introduced technology their needs to be a consideration of the multiple, and different, influences and also how one technology developed within one area of the world morphs when it is adopted somewhere else.

[edit] References

  1. Appadurai, Arjun.(1996) Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis,London:University of Minnesota.
  2. Rantanen, Terhi. (2006). "A man behind scapes: An interview with Arjun Appadurai". Global Media and Communications, 2(1), 7-19
  3. Appadurai, Arjun. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis,Lodon:University of Minnesota.
  4. Appadurai, Arjun. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis,Lodon:University of Minnesota.
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