It’s funny how the social media have resurected the pioneer spirit in us. People boasting about how they were awarded for their online efforts. Everybody wants to be the first in or on everything that is released. „Early adopters“ is what we are called – the race to the moon on a micro scale. Who is the first one to sign up for this or that new Web-Application? We are bothered by implicit vastness mostly because we are not part of it. Free space needs to be inhabited. Our absence is not acceptable, since we have so many important information to contribute.
“Up to our own day history has been in a large degree the history of the colonization of the outer fringes. The existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward, explain American development” (Turner). We seem to be compelled to adapt to the long forgotten images of the “expanding people”. Changing into what we have sought to repair for centuries – the effects of imperialistic behavior.
History seems to repeat itself within new media realms – we have become colonizers of the digital and we are proud of it too. Social development has been continually beginning over again on the online-offline-frontier. This perennial rebirth, this fluidity of digital life, this expansion toward the Online-world with its new opportunities, its continuous touch with the simplicity of primitive offline society, furnishes the forces dominating our characters. We are colonizers equipped with every single character trait that has been ascribed to those we feel have exerted devastating influence upon native cultures. This thought manifested when I saw a tweet whose author was boasting about having become King of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem via foursquare. Is it really that we need to digitally rediscover and inhabit symbolic places. Some will claim that it is a game and they are right, but are there limits? I do not have an answer to this specific question, but it just does not feel right to digitally occupie everything anew. What if I became King of Mekka or Mayor of a mosque in Berlin? In the context of speaking about colonial and imperial attitudes this aspect might be of minor importance, but it still illustrates my angle on a smaller scale.
It’s almost funny how everybody (on top or bottom) claims to be working against the enclosed (e.g. the struggle for opendata), while at the same time we deliberately exclude those who do not seem worthy of discipleship. “Follow me, but from your Follower numbers I deduce: You are not worthy to be followed!”
Within the digital realm we find the same hierarchies that we have so desperately loathed in the Offline. Kings and Queens have put themselves in awkward positions of power. Followers become disciples and strong networkers decide upon the well-being of digital identities. We claim to be a movement that aims in a bottom-up direction, but really we are not. We have structured our own universe in ways very similar to those we have sought to change or at least challenge: With very few on top, while the rest is supposed to deliver inputs that may exert influence whatsoever. But other than that we are on the verge of becoming sole retweeters and sharers – promoting ideas that come from the top and thus are imposed. This is very black and white, but that is what triggers discussion.
Turner, Frederick Jackson. The Significance of the Frontier in American History. New York,
Penguin Books, 2008.