Introducing Hyperworld(s): Language, Culture, and History in the Latin American world(s)

Paul Allatson, Jeff Browitt


Abstract

This introduction to the January 2008 special edition of PORTAL engages with the processes by which, in the early 21st century—an information age of hypertechnology, post-nationalism, post-Fordism, and dominating transnational media—culture and economy have become fused, and globalizations tend towards the mercantilization, commodification, and privatization of human experience. We recognize that access to the technologies of globalizations is uneven. Although cyberspace and other hypertechnologies have become an integral part of workspaces, and of the domestic space in most households, across Western industrialized societies, and for the middle and upper-classes everywhere, this is not a reality for most people in the world, including the Latin American underclasses, the majority of the continent’s population. But we also agree with pundits who note how that limited access has not prevented a ‘techno-virtual spillover’ into the historical-material world. More and more people are increasingly touched by the techno-virtual realm and its logics, with a resultant transformation of global imaginaries in response to, for instance, the global spread of privatised entertainment and news via TV, satellites and the internet, and virtualized military operations (wars on terror, drugs, and rogue regimes). Under these hyperworldizing conditions, we asked, how might we talk about language, culture and history in Latin America, especially since language has an obvious, enduring importance as a tool for communication, and as the means to define culture and give narrative shape to our histories and power struggles?

Our central term ‘hyperworld(s)’ presents us with numerous conceptual and epistemological challenges, not least because, whether unintended or not, it evokes cyberspace, thus gesturing toward either the seamless integration of physical and virtual reality, or its converse, a false opposition between the material and the virtual. The term may also evoke unresolved contradictions between discourses of technophobia and technophilia and, by extension, lead to dichotomized readings of the age in terms of the limits to, and capacities for, political resistance. In our conception, however, hyperworld(s) is not contained by the term virtuality; it encompasses, exceeds, challenges, and devours it. The production of hyperworld(s), or hyperworldization, connotes acceleration and hyperactivity on social, economic and financial levels, the intensified commodification of human life, the time-space compression of communication and much cultural production, the re-ordering of social relations themselves over-determined by technology wedded to capitalist market values, and, as a result, the re-ordering of daily life, cultural expression, and political activism for individuals and communities across the planet. These processes and intensities mean that new modes of reading the interactive and contradictory discursive fragmentations of the current epoch are required. Thus, rather than regarding cyberspace simply as the technological hallmark or dominant trope of our epoch, we might make deeper sense of hyperworld(s)—the bracketed plural implying myriad intersecting worlds within ‘the’ world—by identifying interactive entry points into contemporary lived historical-material and imagined complexities in the Latin American world(s).

This article has been cited in the following:

Duarte Alonso, Abel, and Yi Liu. “Changing Visitor Perceptions of a Capital City: The Case of Wellington, New Zealand.” City Tourism: National Capital Perspectives, ed. Robert Maitland and Brent W. Richie. Wallingford, UK: CABI, 2010, 110-24.

Keywords

Allatson; Browitt; Hyperworldization; Hyperworld(s); Latin America; globalization

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