Foucault and social media: life in a virtual panopticon


The Kardashians are an example of living in the Panopitcon. Years ago, when I did my Reality TV paper as part of my Masters in film, tv and media studies, it was the beginning of reality tv. Ozzy and Sharon living their life on the MTV cameras. Now we all regulate our behaviour under the virtual gaze of known and unknown spectators. Even as I write this I regulate my words if not my thoughts. For posterity, cached in the virtual world, to be dug up by an internet anthropologist. This analysis is of course of the Western world by the Western world. When I browse through online posts and expressions of my fellow Indians it makes me want to dissect the behaviours of a people that only until a few years ago lived in a Luddite desert and have been suddenly thrown into a connected world without any priming whatsoever. I am a digital migrant but, may I say of myself, a very well integrated one. And it was through following a path of self awareness and regulation because I know the Panopticon exists. There are many Indians who wouldn’t have a clue hence a study of life online in a post globalised, free market, mofussil and metropolis India would be a fascinating read.

Philosophy for change

This is the first instalment in a three-part series.

Part 2. I tweet, therefore I become
Part 3. The call of the crowd

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You start the day bleary-eyed and anxious. You stayed up late last night working on a post for your blog, gathering facts and memes from about the web and weaving them into an incisive whole. Has it produced a spike in the stats? You sign in on your iPhone as you brew the coffee. But it’s too early to slip into the professional headspace – you decide that you don’t want to know. Someone has messaged you on Facebook, so you check that instead. Japanese manga mashup! Killer breaks off the cost of Lombok. Lady Gaga is a man and we have photoshopped evidence to prove it! A friend will appreciate that one, so you share it with her directly. Perhaps not something that you’d want…

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The Other Wellington Report.


In response to The Wellington Report by The Dominion Post. Because the voice of the ‘other’ is missing so how can it be a balanced report? See for yourself. All Pakeha faces and voices. No tangata whenua (Maori), no Pacific, no Chinese/Indian/Middle Eastern/other ethnic migrants or refugees. Not even international students. When Wellington and the surrounding region has three universities whose business is dependent on all those foreigners paying high fees.

So what does one make of this exclusion? That The Dom Post is racist? Or that the editor has no imagination?

Now I can be labelled Just Another F$%^%ng Auckland, JAFA come lately on the hills of this little capital. Fair enough. I lived in Auckland for eleven years so I am attached to that place but I am also a wanderer. Life brought me to Wellington and ten years from now I might be Berlin or Hong Kong, my favourite cities. I cannot predict. The only thing I’ve learnt is that wherever I live I must take ownership of that place, to immerse myself in it, to participate, to give rather than take. So I am.

The Dummy’s analysis of The (One-Sided/Racist/Unimaginative) Wellington Report.

The no-brainers:

  • That Wellington airport needs a longer runway to bring in international flights
  • That the region needs to be unified to make better economic sense
  • That we need to be attractive to businesses and the creative sector.

(Note: Pakeha businesses from the Western world and creatives only from Hollywood or from Asia too? Guess who has the money? ;-))

  • That Wellington and region should not be dependent only on government.
  • That we need better infrastructure in terms of motorways and digital connectivity.
  • That all the above will attract jobs to the city and rejuvenate it.
  • The above will also attract tourists and make it the coolest little capital again.

D-uh. A Somali from Newtown could’ve told you that (but the editor didn’t think of asking perhaps).

Waste of space 1:

  • Jo Coughlan talks about her daughter not finding a seat in any restaurant on the Queen’s Birthday holiday. That is how buzzing Wellington is.

Question: Did the daughter just go to Courtenay Place/Cuba Mall (because that is her idea of Wellington)? If there were more restaurants in buzzing suburbs then she might have found a seat? And she did not think of going to Jackson St, Petone? Too downmarket and working class? Oh but that is not Wellington. My bad.

One more question: Why does Kelburn, the centre of Victoria University, not have more student based commerce such as cheap eating places, bubble tea and karaoke bars?

The  Top Cuisine Food Bar in Marsden Village, Karori, makes a mean black bean chicken. Why does he not open a yum cha place, I asked him. Too dead he says. Maybe instead of always having to go into town to eat at a restaurant, people could detour to a suburb if they had a choice? East Asian students from Kelburn could pop over too?

Waste of space 2:

In her column about Wellington, Rosemary McLeod spoke only about botoxed Auckland women and the ugly houses on Paritai Drive.

D-U-D-E, even Aucklanders don’t care about botoxed women and the houses on Paritai Drive. There is so much else going on.

Big, big chip on the shoulder and existing in a really, really small world. She does eh?

Besides, comparing Oriental Bay with ‘any Auckland beach’ is an even bigger waste of precious space. It is like arguing with geography. Each place has its own charm.

Conclusion: Some Wellingtonians need to get a life and many have a fixation with Auckland. All the other important types The Dom Post featured are afraid of the coloured people coming in their precious city even though they know that the empire is gone.

‘Other’ ideas:

A city is made up of people; is because of the people. If a large part of the local population is excluded from any discourse about its identity and future, then how would people have a sense of belonging? How will they contribute, why should they contribute? Wellingtonians, as constructed by The Dom Post, are rich, white, hip, caffeine consuming politicians, creatives or businesspeople who live in their own little world; whose concept of existence comes from the West. As if detached from global realities and from the local requirements of the hoi polloi. They only talk to themselves about themselves.

New Zealand as a whole needs migrants and skilled labour. Wellington does too if dependence on government employment has to be minimised. With this new population will come commerce, diversity, new ideas and a new buzz because this new population will not be from England. Those days are gone and the days when migrant labour was imported, only to set them up in ghettos before Dawn Raids.  This new population will be global, of those travelling where there is work; of transnational people who might choose to stay if they like the life, if they have the diversity and variety. That is the discourse to be had. But if The Dom Post does not see this new citizen of the city, only whiteness, then those in there are merely meditating on their umbilicals. In a fear-of-change fashion.

Wellington is sister city to Beijing. Not a single word about how that relationship can be enhanced. (Gawd, more Asians! What does one talk about to these Orientals? Not cricket eh old chap?)

If we were sister city to L.A. might the report be orgasmic about it then?

Wellington can learn a lot from my two favourite cities-Berlin and Hong Kong. One with a small land mass and fear of damage from cyclones and tornadoes. Yet HK is defiantly democratic with the speediest internest in the world, a strong economy, big film industry and vibrant expatriate community that only adds to the madness and buzz. It is also a tourist destination. A walk through Kowloon at any time will prove that. Berlin, flat and wide, with a history of devastation through war and political division yet rebuilt again and again. Bergmanstrasse, Kreuzberg, Freidrichshain…how many buzzing suburbs, a strong heritage and culture, amazing architecture, migrants ranging from North Africa to Turkey, Vietnam and Korea that add to the vibe. Plus lots of introspection about Germany’s history.

Why? Because both cities welcome people from all over the world.

Wellington does not have to look at Auckland but at the people who live here, the coloured other, the tangata whenua. They are not going to go away by ignoring them as The Racist Wellington Report does. Because they are the people of this city, the present and the future. They will stand up and be visible. One day. Soon. That is The Other Wellington Report.

White Women in the Indian Imagination: Alexandra Delaney


An interesting post. Many things the writer says are true including the Indian male gaze but she completely bypasses that such behaviour is more than a local cultural, social or religious product, that globalisation and the free market have actually underscored even more, the idea of Indianness and ‘the other’; that the notion of feminism is deeply entrenched in the Indian imagination, male or female, as a white, Western concept of disregard, disrespect and disruption (because the original movement never considered non-Western, coloured women and their environments, still does not). The sustained portrayal of Caucasian women as loose and easy is a result of all the above, unfortunately.
….maybe this calls for a post of my own because it is beyond the simplistic discourse that Ms Delaney presents. It is a brave post anyway.

KAFILA - COLLECTIVE EXPLORATIONS SINCE 2006

This is a guest post by ALEXANDRA DELANEY: 

“Yeah, Indian guys think white girls are easy”, a British-born Indian remarked nonchalantly to me this week. Normally I’d be shocked by such gross racial stereotyping (of Indians) but in this case I’m inclined to agree. Not because Caucasian women by their very skin colour or cultural preferences are any more promiscuous than their South Asian sisters, but because of their sustained portrayal as loose and morally deficient. The image of the sexually liberated and ‘easy’ white woman runs deep in the Indian imagination, a perception which is drip-fed by the country’s all-pervading mainstream media.

The brutal rape and murder of an Indian student in New Delhi last December followed by numerous sexual attacks on foreign women has sparked international outrage. This year alone, a Chinese woman was date-raped in New Delhi, a Korean woman was raped after being drugged in Bhopal…

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Three Months And A Wellingtonian Yet?


The jury is still out. It is too early to tell. But I am trying. Last month I visited Auckland for a weekend. As the Airbus rumbled along Dominion Rd I noticed the new shops that had sprung up. An entire road the size of Lambton Quay, Courtenay Place, Cuba Mall, other bits of central Wellington put together. Buzzing and vibrant. DIVERSE. Then I told myself I should not complain, I should try.

Wellington is picturesque. Every day I drive to and from Porirua to Karori along the water and last week when it hailed on us, the snow streaked hills lining the harbour made for a stunning sight. I almost crashed my car stealing glances at the lovely view. Umm. That’s about it. Nah. 🙂

I got my first parking ticket in the last week of April. Signs of settling in, I think. Still to find the mythical free car park but I have an infringement notice.

Meanwhile I continue to battle the low water pressure. You see, the shower rose goes through the cold water first before it can deliver any water that is warm.  See this contraption?

That is the two tap pipe that brings water from the cold tap and hot tap through a single pipe into my bucket so I can have a decent bucket bath. Selling like hot cakes in the low pressure plumbing world of Wellington. My landlady’s plumber told her there is no hot water problem when I complained. He, I assume, who can live without his clothes in Alpine conditions, shrivelled body parts and potentially damaged lungs. So I have third world problems in a first world country. Bucket baths in a bathtub not built for that purpose. This contraption cannot be used as a shower because guess what happens when the pipe is lifted above the level of the taps? Physics, my dear Watson. The shower is now part of my imagination.

Aren’t we migrants lucky to be hardy? And then we stand up to make noise and complain. 😀 She ain’t gonna be right ‘coz she need fixing.

A friend once said to me that the pioneers who came from ye olde England/Scotland/remnants of the British Raj always wanted to go ‘back home’ so they built cold, damp houses here which constantly reminded them that it was temporary.

Think. Any new settlers would learn from the natives about habitation that suits the local climate. Warm and dry in the winter, relatively airy in the summer. Instead it was all about civilising the barbarians and imitating buildings from ‘home’. Then all got asthma and/or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, suffering from their ill abodes. Which bright spark would build a low pressure water system across the hills of Wellington? Hence I wash my thick, long hair from a bucket.

But like I said at the top, no more complaining. It is important to try and my philosophy in life has been to take charge of things so I can make the change. If I believe Wellington needs to be more than four streets and the five hipsters who work at start ups or in the creative industry, if this city needs more diversity, more migrants, more commerce, a united region, an international airport out beyond Whitby or those parts and outspoken leaders; new blood, not the fuddy-duddy, marbles-in-the-mouth Pakeha minority with a blinkered world view then I am going to work on it. So next week I am meeting Jack Yan‘s team to see how I can help him for the Wellington mayoral elections.

Considering that I might be living here for the next few years and might become a Wellingtonian yet.

By the way, Wellington does have a wonderful public transport system. Except that the last bus leaves the airport at 8.30pm.