Sunday, January 12, 2014

Translocal assemblages

In the current book project New Literacies around the Globe, we've had to confront some of the myths surrounding the idea of 'the global' as unbounded free space. In its place we use the term 'global assemblages' (from McFarlane, 2009) to capture how complex and multiple forces coalesce as place-based events. We suggest that these events are constituted by the exchange of ‘ideas, knowledge, practices, materials and resources across sites’(McFarlane, 2009:561) as language and power intersect with socioeconomic status. Although the word 'global' is so much easier, it often erases all this. Increases in the extent of broadband connectivity, and growing access to resources (particularly powerful handheld devices) is accelerating the sorts of exchanges that constitute translocal assemblages. But this isn't a universally even process. In the studies featured in the book, we see how practices are patterned by local forces as cultural resources are accessed (or not), appropriated and recontextualised within specific social networks. To be specific: things like PlayStations, jacuzzis,and mobile phones take on different meanings in different settings and practices like texting, chatting and flirting are given local nuances. More often than not, in translocal assemblages we see that sociotechnical practices are absorbed into existing ideologies, sustaining and sometimes amplifying them. In other words, technologies and the global flows that are associated with them rarely flatten out inequalities, but they certainly can draw our attention to them.

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