Critical Approaches to Culture + Communications

A Weblog by Ron Burnett (Founded in 1994 and now celebrating 23 Years!!)

This site began as one of the first academic sites in Canada when the World Wide Web was in its early phase of development. I have maintained it through many iterations since 1994.

Geographies of Dissent (1)

I like the phrase, “Geographies of Dissent? It suggests a great deal to me not only about the space within which dissent takes place, but the potential to map the many different types of activities that come under the heading of “dissent?

My orientation to dealing with this issue is from a technology and communications point of view and is governed by what I will call an aggregative approach. That is, there are a large number of activities of dissent taking place within advanced societies that make use of various forms of media and new media. It is often difficult to see how all of these varied engagements are connected or whether they lead to genuine change. Nonetheless, what I would like to explore is how the sum of all these parts adds up to something very important that is not as visible as one might like, but nevertheless may have an impact on mapping the process of dissent in Western countries.

Depending on the vantage point that one takes, and therefore depending on how broadly or narrowly one looks, claims can be made about levels and extent of dissent. The issue of vantage point is crucial. If the perspective I take is governed by a concern for the nature and quality of the public sphere, then my overview will of necessity be broad. If the approach I take is oriented towards communities and more specifically to micro-communities("A microcommunity is a self-organizing collective of individuals who wish to learn about and contribute to a particular research domain, and aspire to enable and enrich each other’s research in this domain."), then I will need to combine a broad understanding, let us say, of the zeitgeist and a more particular and specific understanding of grassroots forms of dissent.

The challenge is to combine a macro-view with a micro-view in a manner that does justice to both sides and at the same time elucidates the importance of both strategies. Of course, all of this is also dependent on the definitions and expectations that one has for dissent and for its impact. A macro-view can make many different claims, among the most important being that social change will not happen unless large numbers of people are involved and unless the changes have a transformative effect on the social whole. This is the democratic paradigm and is why our society continues to believe in a 19th century model of political parties. Inevitably, the macro-view runs into problems when the outcomes to an election for example, point toward a highly fragmented set of constituencies, more lack of knowledge than actual erudition in the choices that are made, and a clear lack of respect by the political parties for the kind of public discourse that would actually lead to new ideas and some measured growth in the learning process.

To be continued.....