Masthead CMC Magazine / February 1, 1996
 The Electronic Colonization of the Pacific, by Spennemann, Birckhead, Green, and Atkinson

Electronic Colonialism

"Traditional" colonialism has always seen a physical on-the-ground presence of a colonial power. Both political and economic imperialism had its occasional set backs in such circumstances. The termination of the Coca-Cola license in India in the l970s (since then reversed) is a case in point (Hirsch 1995). The technological development of the information age, however, allows full blown imperialism without the need for a physical presence in the country. Mass media such as television, for example, beamed in via satellite from a metropolitan country, or from elite centers within the same country, to peoples living in peripheral situations represent a massive penetration of dominant cultural and economic values. Thus, peoples living in remote rainforest settlements, in desert camps, or on tropical atolls can view twenty-four hour a day televised messages from the First World, or be further saturated by such cultural values via VCR format.

While considerable work has been done on "TV as cultural technology" (see O'Regan 1990, for example), much less work has been done on the newer computer-mediated communication technologies, Internet, World Wide Web, etc. Such communication modes, unlike TV with its central control and mass audience aspect, have been hailed as a democratizing communication breakthrough which greatly expands individual freedom and autonomy. As a recent Australian newspaper article confidently proclaimed, for instance, "the Internet may turn out to be a means of ensuring freedom of expression and access to information" (Cookes 1995). Yet, this attitude is completely at odds with many traditional theories of knowledge and points to a potential head-on clash of values between Western ideologies of open access and a more --traditional ethic of information restriction.

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