From Srivijaya to Cyberjaya:Thoughts on the Cultural Impact of Computer-Mediated Technologies on Schooling in Malaysia, Preliminary Propositions for a Theory of "Cybernating Nations"
by Azly Rahman
Columbia University, New York City
In the following passages, structured as a reflective essay, I will discuss the following ideas:
a) prologue; being on the relationship between culture and technology
b) the relationship between historical-materialism and literacy
c) operational definition of "Cyberspace"
d) relationship between the concept of schooling in Malaysia's Cyberjaya
e) some propositions concerning the development of "cybernation" nation-states
The relationship and interplay between culture and technology has been and continue to be a paradoxical one; on the one hand culture as it is taken to be a system of variegated meanings which coerce and chaotize peoples, and technology, on the other which rationalize and open up new horizons of more systematization of cultural psyche are both mirror images of materiality and ideology. Embalmed within this proposed set of relationships is the classic proposition in modern-day capitalist thought that the fruits of technological and material advancement will "trickle-down" to the masses .
I believe we are to rigorously explore these that interplay for us to arrive at an understanding of not only the political-economic, but also the post-structurality of the phenomena of technological change in transcultural settings. By "political economic" I mean the close relationship between the forces of decision making with the forces of material production and by "post-structurality" I mean the complexity of phenomena can analyze beyond the Structural-Functionalist or the neo-Marxist paradigms.
We begin with these questions: At what point does culture cease to become imaginative and become a system of control in its entirety?, And when does technology cease to be shackles of human consciousness and become horizons of the possible, or to inhabit the futuristic meadows of cultural creation? These are paradoxical questions with inherent contradictions when we speak of the aesthetics of technology and the virtuality or even the spirituality of machines when we frame the question of looking at technology from the lens of materiality as well as imaginative virtualities. The discussions which follow is not an attempt to be a fully structured essay as I feel that this will be rather limiting in terms of addressing some of my thoughts on the interplay between technology ,culture, and education from post-Industrial development bringing in Malaysia as a case in point.
True to the spirit of it as being reflective moments which somewhat will capture some of my cumulative thoughts concerning the development of nation-states, I have thus loosely structure it. I have attempted to treat it as a piece of writing in the tradition of James Joyce's stream of consciousness which address primarily the question of how the definition of literacy is taking a technological dimension and one in which I am exploring from the perspective proposed by McDermott and Varenne (1995) in which they wrote that " the concept of culture has always had a utility to those with a sense for patterns in the work people do in organizing their lives together" (p.344).
Though the authors' analysis primarily focus on the culture of literacy and schooling in the United States, contextualized in the discussion of "culture as disability' in general, I believe the analysis is relevant at the international perspective. I read the proposition above as one which can be appropriately applied to any discussion on technological culture as defined by current trends in cybernetics as they are, as further defined as "new literacies", as a disabling factor on a grander scale. By this I mean the way computer literacy is defined as the literacy of the Information Age and how this consciousness (superstructure, ideology, whatever one may call it) is a juxtaposition of the material development and infrastructural arrangement of the culture in question.
My example of Malaysia as a "cybernating nation" as I call it and how its historical-materialistic development is a case in point of how the new meaning of literacy is extended even to the transformation of the entire nation based on computer-mediated communication technologies.
Marx writes about the idea of humans making their own history under existing circumstances based upon the material life they live. By producing their means of subsistence, they are indirectly producing their actual material life, goes the Marxist conception of historical materialism. And later Gramsci wrote of the "common sensical" aspect of the adoption of the ideas of the ruling class by those ruled, when a particular innovation in technology becomes "hegemonic". Hence the idea of technological/digital literacy in this age of computer-mediated communication technologies, becomes a "hegemonized" idea non-conspiratorially produced by those who owns the means of production.
Historical-materialism and Literacy
Pure historical materialists might argue that human beings produce their actual material life by producing their means of subsistence. Ideology emerge as a natural progression of the need to maintain the class distinction and hence to rationalize and to order society into one emblematic of the capitalist formation and formulation. And at every epoch, according to this Hegelian view of social movement and transformation, the ruling class maintains their control over productive forces via the control of the means of intellectual production. There are limitations to this analysis nonetheless.
If intellectual means of production can be equated with the idea of literacy, then at every epoch and historical march of Capital --- at every notch carved by the logic of capitalism --- the idea of literacy is shaped by the notion of how this definition "disables" culture. By this I mean, the notion of control exercised by those who owns the means to produce Oral, Print, and next, Digital definitions of literacy so much so that at every juncture of historical materialistic progress those who are enabled are the ones who are in "deep play" with the notion of literacy and those disabled are those who are outside of the pre-defined system of literacy.
McDermott and Varenne (1995) writes about the disabling tendency of culture in which definitions and conceptions of what it means to be cultural, be it from the Oral, Print, and Cybernetic traditions might also mean to be included and excluded from the democratic lives. I read this notion of culture as disability as a radical way of looking at what it means to be literate in this so-called Age of Information and primarily from the point of view of schooling in a technological society, this dimension of disability can be extended as an analysis if we look at education as a means to define the level of development of a particular society as defined by those who owns the means of global production.
My interest in this inquiry particularly is to look at and to describe how nations "cybernate". In the process of moving towards a definition of a "cybernating nation" following the road most taken by those which have historically developed and via the philology, ideology, and semanticity of how these nations define "development", how might technological advancement become enabling or disabling? How are the productive forces of the society organized with regard to schooling as mass reproduction and as a means of harnessing human capital? Cui bono? Or who benefits? And what gets enculturalized for what purpose?
These are essentially the questions, framed from the perspective of Critical Theory, which interest me and of which I find appropriate as a framework of inquiry into the impact of new technologies on peoples, societies, nations, etc. In this inquiry, I am taking Malaysia as an example of a nation-state and as a unit of analysis of how the evolution of literacy accentuate the question of base and superstructure of the culture and society and how, next, the notion of radical cultural reengineering is shaped as agenda instead as shaped by historical-materialistic forces.
For this notion of literacy, instructive are Conklin's (1949) work on the poetics of literacy, termed as "bamboo literacy" of the Mindoro and of those in Southeast Asia as exemplified by the complexity and aesthetics and systematicity of the writings systems of the people of the region (Kupers & McDermott, 1996.) These findings point to the idea of the primacy of the Print tradition in defining the intellectual tradition of pre-cybernetic societies. I am looking at the nation-state of Malaysia from the historical-materialistic perspective in which I view the development of the nation as one passing from pre-Capitalist, Colonialist, Independent, and post-Colonialist stages.
The starting point is the ancient Hindu-Buddhist kingdom of Srivijaya as a context of governance in which ideology is maintained via a systematic manner albeit religio-mythical in character and will end in an elaborated discussion on the establishment of a new and "post-modern" kingdom with cybernetics as the nucleus of control and a means to control the minds of those governed. My focus, nonetheless in the discussion of this cybernetic kingdom of Cyberjaya is on the means by which schooling is used as a means of social reproduction in which the productive forces of Malaysia is harnessed, under the name of development and rhetoricized under the banner of anti-Western hegemony, to participate in this global production house of materials and ideology and cultural industry.
Hence this reflection paper "From Srivijaya to Cyberjaya" to contextualize the inquiry into one which will focus on the development of the notion of culture in pre-Capitalist stage in which ideology is one evolved from religio-mythical sources to the notion of culture in a cybernetic era in which ideology is ritualized and disseminated via broadband and terabytes per second. I will first provide a brief history of Malaysia particularly with emphasis on its British colonial history.
Brief Concept of Cyberspace
Because the overarching and most central theme as well as most used terminology in this essay is that of "Cyberjaya", the following brief discussion is necessary for the purpose clarity: Central to the concept of Cyberjaya as embalmed in the concept of Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor is the idea of "cyberspace" which has become a catchphrase for many a popular writing on technology, as well as a leitmotif of a new from of postmodernist conception of a "digital self". And since in this reflection paper, I will utilize extensively the pre-fix "cyber", it is necessary to look at some of its operational definitions.
One of the definitions of "cyberspace" states it as a "metaphor for describing the non-physical terrain created by computer systems." Online systems, for example, create a cyberspace within which people can communicate with one another (via email), do research, watch videos, listen to music, or simply engage in the act of virtual shopping. Like physical space, cyberspace contains objects (files, mail messages, graphics, etc.) and different modes of transportation and delivery. Unlike real space, though, exploring cyberspace does not require any physical movement other than pressing keys on a keyboard or moving a mouse.
This definition however can be further enriched by looking at it from several categories of definition. We look at the nominal, denotative, and connotative definitions of "cyberspace" For nominal definition, we will say that cyberspace mean the environment in which we interact as beings in a digital context. This would allow us to assume that the words surrounding --- words such as "environment", "interact", "beings" and "digital" --- will be primitive terms understood by those in this postmodernist era.
For denotative definition, it could be crafted as such: "Cyberspace can mean either of the following; a digital space where text, audio, video and graphic intermingles, or a space wherein human interaction depends on the use of 'clickstream' technology as well as well as the creation, destruction, or recreation of data" And the list of terms which denotatively refer to cyberspace can be extended as it would allow for empirical import as well as fertility because of the availability of primitive terms in it.
For connotative definition which lives and breathes on a combination of primitive and denotative definitions and one which allows especially for the fertility of the concept and attempt to arrive at precise communication so that empirical import can be build in, I would craft the term as such:
"Cyberspace is an abstracted area in which the human self participates in the exchange of social messages in an environment characterized by the complex communicative system in which information in digital form and character is encoded, coded and decoded for a particular purpose".
Having looked at the operational definition of the word "cyberspace", we now proceed to looking at the unit of analysis by first understanding what Malaysia's project is and how it has evolved historically in response to a range of phenomena such as colonialism, Independence, and national visioning on a grand scale.
Malaysia before Cyberjaya and “Multimedia Super Corridor”
It is useful to look at a brief historical aspect of Malaysia, particularly as a former British colony, as we attempt to situate the development of The Multimedia Super Corridor. Arguably the history of modern Malaysia began with the kingdom of Melaka (Malacca), Islam was the religion of the traditional rulers of the kingdom and the feudal system was the feature of statecraft. Historical records state the founding of Melaka as in the early 1400; the Malay kingdom established by a Javanese prince in exile from a power struggle in Palembang, Sumatra.
The kingdom of Melaka was short-lived in that the navigational and gun power of the Portugese was more superior to those of the Melakkans. The kingdom fell to Portugese rule in 1511. The date became the earliest of a series of colonialism which "ended " with the granting of Independence on August 31, 1957 by the British. Melaka, after the Portugese, was taken over by the Dutch who saw the entire region of Southeast Asia as an economic region rich in spices.
The superior sea power of the British Empire as well as its sophistication in gunnery, coupled with the slogan of "Guns, Guts, and Glory" led Malaya to be taken over from the Dutch. British rule was the longest; having its impact on the historical-materialistic and ideological aspect of the once considered glorious Malay kingdom. British colonization of Malaya, much like that of the Dutch in Indonesia, the French in Indochina, the Spaniards in Philippines left a lasting economic impact on the peoples of this nation-state.
Whilst it is not the intention of this introductory section to dwell into the details of it, suffice it is to state that the part of the history of modern Malaysia is about, among others, learning how to built a multi-racial foundation of national identity based on the advanced applications of science and technology. History perhaps taught this nation-state that technology is an extension of the "body of this nation-state" and that those who owns the means of (advanced) technological control will survive different forms of colonialism. In the following paragraph we look at the historical background leading to the granting of Independence in Malaya.
Malaysia was officially and peacefully granted independence on August 31st, 1957. It was in September of 1963 that the Federated and non-Federated states of Malaya, Sarawak, Sabah, and initially Singapore united to form what is now known as Malaysia. In 1965 however the busy port of Singapore ceased to be a member of the Malaysian federation and became an independent city-state.
There were several reasons why the British gave Malaysia its independence. One is that it is costly for the Britain to maintain the states because Malaysia's population was growing, and the ailing British Empire saw that it was no longer profitable to maintain colonies. Another reason was that trend of self-determinism was gaining momentum especially in the form of nationalist struggles, armed or un-armed, all over the world.
In Malaysia, education in various forms was beginning to produce people within each of the ethnic communities not content to leaving their future entirely in British hands. Anti-colonialist attitudes were stirring in the 1930's, heralding strong Malay political organization later . Another reason independence was granted was because the native has been given enough skills and training in the style of British colonialism, to govern the country. Many from the aristocratic class went through the process of education for social and political enculturalization through the British education system.
In Malaya itself, English-type schools proliferated in all the states paving way for a systematic form of education for social reproduction and for the continuation of Imperialist ideology. The structuring of hegemony, at the level of education of the nations was a feature of the strategy of colonialism. Of importance as a result of this form of mental colonization was the creation of a class of administrative elite among the "sons of the soil": or the Bumiputras out of the sons of the Malay Sultans.
Malaysia's first Prime Minister, Tengku Abdul Rahman Putra Alhaj, was educated in Britain. So, naturally he would govern more like the British, with British idealism, because of his training. Malaysia's second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak, and the third Prime Minister, Tun Hussein Onn, was also British-educated. Malaysia's fourth and current Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, is the only Malaysian Prime Minister that was not British-educated. The education of Mahathir Mohamad and the system he evolved through, has contributed much to the manner the nation-state's development policies were engineered.
His fondness of "Looking East" and "Buying British Last" and his suggestions of creating an "East Asia Economic Caucus" are among the slogans and proposals used to create a sense of identity for in the few decades after Independence.It is against this backdrop of the character of this nation-state's fourth Prime Minister and the his administration's coming back to "Asian values" whilst at the same time seeing the power of Information Technology that the Multimedia Super Corridor was created. In the following paragraphs I shall detail the development of The Multimedia Super Corridor.The medical doctor turned politician has been the Prime Minister of Malaysia for almost 20 years and Malaysia has been independent for 44 years.
Cyberjaya and Malaysia’s MSC (Multimedia Super Corridor) Project
Malaysia, under the rule of its Prime Minister of 20-years, Mahathir Mohamad has of late embarked upon the creation of a cyber-society run from an administrative capital called CyberJaya within the techno-cultural context of so-called a “Multi-Media Super Corridor” (MSC). The MSC is a built on several hundred square kilometers of area in which “seven flagship applications” will be its feature. It mimics California’s Silicon Valley and Singapore’s cybercity concepts among others of which Malaysia will be moved to a new paradigm of living based upon the “humane application of high technology” manifested in the sub concepts of electronic government, tele-medicine, electronic banking, electronic commerce, and pertinent to our analysis, the smart schools.
The biggest airport in Asia, the Kuala Lumpur International Airport was recently opened to facilitate the development of CyberJaya. From the “wired-up” capital city as the initial program of mega-structural change, the Malaysian government planned to create cyber-principalities out of the thirteen states constituting the federation. It is envisioned that by the metaphorical year of 2020 the country will have achieved the status of an advanced fully-industrialized nation able to compete with other advanced industrialized economies namely the United States of America, Europe, Japan and Singapore. Accordingly, the notion of such an advancement would however be based upon a strong foundation of religious and moral values.
Thus, through its “smart schools” of which the prototype will be operating on January 1, 1999, future generation of this nation will be able to fully and democratically participate in the Information Age grounded in a strong sense of nationalism. The country now has specialized universities among them moving towards the total implementation of the Internet as a mode of delivery. One that was recently established itself as the first “virtual university” in the country prides itself in its total absence of physical interaction between the student and the instructor.
Discourse on Developmentalism
In the rhetoric of change embedded in the discourse concerning Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Corridor, one finds such cluster of words to be more developed, couched in even neutral and positively appealing terms, signifying the nation’s unbridled faith in quantum leaping into the era of cybernetics. Words like “world class”, “world’s first”, “leading edge”, “high powered”, “top quality”, “bold initiative”, and other “magnificio”-resounding ones are employed in the discourse. Illustrative of the use of these is in the vision statement of the Multimedia Super Corridor; a blend of aesthetics of technology and the drive to be technologically competitive in a borderless world.
In describing Cyberjaya (Malay for "Cyber City") the Prime Minister eulogizes:
Cyberjaya is envisaged to be the model multimedia haven for leading, innovative multimedia companies from all over the world to spin a ‘web’ that will mutually enrich all those involved with it. Especially created as the first MSC designated cybercity, it enables world-class companies to take full advantage of the unique package Malaysia offers to create an environment that is fully conducive towards exacerbating the growth of information technology and multimedia industries. It offers a high capacity global and logistics infrastructure, backed by a ‘soft’ infrastructure, which includes financial incentives and competitive telecoms tariffs, as well as a set of new cyberlaws that will form a legal framework to facilitate the growth of electronic commerce. (p.1)
And his rhetoric on the importance of accepting the futuristic idea of the MSC is summed as such: …
it will enable Malaysia to leapfrog into the Information Age. The establishment of the Multimedia Super Corridor, of which Cyberjaya is the nucleus, is an evolving step towards embracing the future. It’s long-term objective is to catalyze the development of a highly competitive cluster of Malaysia multimedia and IT companies that will eventually become world class. (p.1)
And thus, Smart Schools (“wired” schools) is designed to become the means of social reproduction to live with the nation’s fantasy of becoming technologically aggressive and competitive and one in which the MSC will become, as the Prime Minister’s technocrats say “Malaysia’s gift to the world”. The setting up of the Smart Schools within the Malaysian government’s project to establish Cyberjaya and Putrajaya as two of the world’s first intelligent cities, is a technological deterministic step towards further linking the nation to the world’s financial capital.
And within the perspective of schools as a means of social, economic, political, cultural, and technological reproduction, Smart Schools are aimed at producing citizens able to function effectively in the Information Age.
Discourse on Malaysia’s Smart Schools
The idea of the “wiring up” of the Malaysian schools can be summarized by a communiqué from the Ministry of Education (1997) which read: By the year 2010, all approximately ten thousand schools will be Smart Schools. In these schools, learning will be self-directed, individually- paced, continuous and reflective. This will be made possible through the provision of multimedia technology and worldwide networking. (p.1)
The plan for such a purposeful change was thus to utilize computer-mediated learning technologies particularly the Internet and World Wide Web so that the national agenda of creating a “cyber society” will be realized by a targeted metaphorical date of year 2020. Echoing Sarason (1996) on the need to look at changes in the school system as derived from inside and outside of the schools (p.12), the case of the initiated “smart school” concept can be said to be derived not only out of “first order analysis, but particularly apparent and dominant out of “second order “ dictates – out of political-economic perception of what constitutes progress and how education must be made to respond to them.
As the “smart school” concept relates to this second order changes, the Ministry of Education (1997) notes that:
Malaysia needs to make the critical transition from an industrial economy to a leader in the Information Age. In order to make this vision a reality, Malaysia needs to make a fundamental shift towards a more technologically literate, thinking workforce, able to perform in a global environment and use the tools available in the Information Age. To make this shift, the education system must undergo a radical transformation (p.1)
The Minister of Education announced that the first Smart School is being built with a cost of Malaysian Ringgit 144.5 million of which, aside from it being “wired”, “will also be equipped with a hostel for 800 students, an Olympic-size swimming pool, a hockey pitch, a hall, and other facilities” (Business Times, 1996, p.3). It was also said that the school would start operating in January 1999 and eventually all Malaysian schools will be operating based upon this concept.
Within the rhetoric embedded in the discourse on Smart Schools, what is the issue in the larger context of the meaning of “development” for a nation mimicking advanced capitalist countries? Whether the control of high technological production in the hands of the few in the techno-industrialized West and whether nations such as Malaysia plunging itself into this long term program of uncertainty and in the wheel of the international capitalist machine – all these are not issues in the educational and social reform.
The idea and implementation of such a controlled paradigm of “progress” and “development”, once institutionalized may carry consequences anathema to the idea of reform based upon the use of “available technology and appropriate resources” constructed within a paradigm celebrating grassroots, bottom-up, and humanistic initiatives with philosophies “closer to the people”. In what way is Malaysia attempting to realize its fantasy of cybernating its society entire?
In realizing this dream, this post-colonial cybernating nation has invited a panel of advisors more impressive than those who sat on the advisory board of the National Council of Educational Excellence (NCEE) of the United States of America whose report “A Nation At Risk” evoked a national debate on the “rising tide of educational mediocrity”. In the case of the Malaysia’s project those in the panel, among other are Chief Executive Officers/Presidents of the following corporations: Acer Incorporated, Alcatel Alsthom, Microsoft Corporation, Bechtel Group Incorporated, British Telecom, Cisco Systems, Compaq Computers Corporation, DHL, Ericsson, Fujitsu Limited, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Motorola Corporation, Netscape Communications, Reuters, Motion Picture Association of America, Twentieth Century Fox, and tens of others of global giants in the telematics and media-related industries. Professors of Business and Public Policy from Silicon Valley’s Stanford University are among those guiding the development of Malaysia’s cyber initiatives.
Malaysian subsidiaries of these giants in the world of multi-billion dollar club transnational corporations have been set up for such a project. The multi-billion dollar airport recently opened thus is an important infrastructure to help these companies land quickly and safely on the Multimedia Super Corridor. What do all the interlocking directorates and picture of controlling interest have got to do with the discourse on “development”?
Discourse on development: Further questions
The shibboleth of developmentalism embraced as discourse of technological progress by Independent nation-states quantum leaping into the Era of Informatics most often mask the ideology, power relations, and human agents involved in the production of the discourse itself. As it concerns dependency, is the involvement of major Silicon Valley corporations signifying what Latin American dependendistas would call an era of Center-Periphery pan- and virtual capitalist formation, or in what Frederick Jameson would call, a cybernetic era of late capitalist formation?
Whilst Marcuse (1941) may see the progressive dimension in modern technology as it may shape social relations, in the case of cybernating Malaysia, will the technological deterministic and hypist mentality embraced become yet another tool for social control and as a cybernetic extension of patriarchal “Big Brotherish” brand of Asian Machiavellian political machinery much needed to be dismantled? And as it relates to learning, as Turkel (1997) put forth in her critique of computer-mediated learning technologies, will the rapid, massive, unavoidable, irreversible deployment of computers in all Malaysian schools bring schooling closer in meaning to education and liberation – or will it be another means to coerce Malaysian children to help realize and carry forth the agenda of computer hardware and software giants fighting their unending battle over global domination?
And finally, in relating to Bakhtin’s (1981) notion of heteroglossia, is the term “development via technological progress superficially analyzed by technocrats of the MSC such that much of the “pollutants” which has glossed over a more liberating meaning of the term, are taken ass aura itself? In other words, who defines what the meaning of technological progress mean and in what ways do that definition get embraced uncritically and contextualized and next be turned into policies in a megastructural scale as such as in the case of the MSC?
In this brief paper I have discovered more questions on the issue surrounding Malaysia’s technological fantasy. Paradigmed from the Critical Theory perspective in looking at power and ideology embedded in the transfer of discourse, I have looked at Malaysia’s strategic plan, the Multimedia Super Corridor as a text to illustrate the nature of change and the notion of interplay between culture and technology. The contradictions inherent in the development of pan- and virtual capitalism (see also Kroker & Weinsten, 1998) is alluded to in the discussions on the tension between this nation-state’s wanting to be free from the economic label of “underdeveloped and developing”.
And there are inherent contradictions too in its effort to leap into a more sophisticated world of globalism into a "borderless world"; the world of virtual and post-post-industrial capitalism, beyond the classic Rostowian definition of "mass consumption" as the highest stage of capitalism.
Some afterthoughts and propositions yielded
But is this analysis adequate when looked at from the point of view of culture, communication, and imagination as we meditate into the meaning of the interplay between culture and technology? What would the notion of possibilities mean as a form of utopianism we can derived from this brief survey of Malaysia as a nation experimenting with national development? In deriving patterns and translating them into propositions which will contribute to a possibly new "Theory of Cybernating Nations" what can we uncover?
Having briefly analyzed the context of change and situate the discussion within a Critical Theory perspective and anchoring it with the idea of "technological culture as disability", what might also be the poststructural dimension to this character of Malaysia as "cybernating nation"? It may seem peculiar that this reflection paper does not end with a conclusion but instead go in a different tangent in the direction of looking at the aesthetics of technology and offering a proposition that Cyberjaya, Malaysian Multimedia Super Corridor, and The Malaysian Smart Schools Projects may indeed be seen from the point of view of technologizing the nation so that the creative dimensions of living can be realized.
In short, cybernetic culture can promise to be a means to communicate and cultivate the imaginative aspect of civilization, somewhat in the context of technology as "exteriorized imagination" and the tools of mind expansion? Can Cyberjaya also be seen as a form of bricolage by the powerbrokers and policy-implementers in which the deep play of culture is operating at a sophisticated and hegemonic level? To elaborate this further, I would propose that Malaysia as a nation-state is not only attempting to harness the power of digital technologies to transform and communicate a newer form of civilization in order for the older structures --- pre-traditional, Sultanate, colonial, etc --- to be dismantled. It is a form of cultural bricolage when the ideas of development and progress as well as the religious dimensions of it are weaved into the program of "technological determinism" (or "cultural engineering"?) and a newer scenario of progress is created.
These, I believe are some of the post-structural questions I wish to further explore as a continuation of the inquiry concerning Cyberjaya. I would like to close these moments of reflection by reporting on some of the propositions I generated out a pilot study conducted in May 2000. Using a some aspects of The Grounded Theory Methods of generating concepts from documents related to Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor Project, I generated the following propositions to be further developed.
Thirteen Propositions on "Cybernating" Nations
1. In a globalized post-industrialist world, the development of a cybernating nation will continue to follow, to a degree or another the Center-Periphery perspective of development.,
2 .Pure historical materialist conception of change cannot fully explain why nations cybernate; the more a nation gets "wired" the more complex the interplay between nationalism and internationalism will be.
3. The more a nation transforms itself cybernetically, the more extensive the enculturalization of the word "cybernetics" will be.
4. The extent of the enculturalization of the concept of "cybernetics" will determine the speed by which a nation will be fully integrated into the global production-house of telematics.
5. The stronger the authority of the regime the greater the control and magnitude of the cybernating process. In a cybernating nation, authority can reside in the political will of a single individual or a strong political entity.
6. The advent of the Internet in a developing nation signifies the genesis of the erosion of the power of government-controlled print media. Universal access to the Internet will determine the total erosion of government-produced print media.
7. Creative consciousness of the peoples of the cybernating nation will be centralized in the area of business and the arts, modeled after successful global corporations.
8. Critical consciousness of the people of the cybernating nation will be centralized in the area of political mobilization and personal freedom of expression, modeled after successful Internet-based political mobilization groups.
9. At the macro-level of the development of a nation-state, the contestation of power is between the nation cybernating versus the nations fully cybernated, whereas at the micro level, power is contested between the contending political parties/groups.
10. The more the government suppresses voices of political dissent, the more the Internet is used to affect political transformations.
11. The fundamental character of a nation will be significantly altered with the institutionalization of the Internet as a tool of cybernating change. The source of change will however be ideologically governed by external influences, which will ultimately threaten the sovereignty of the nation-state.
12. Discourse of change, as evident in the phenomena of cybernation, is embedded in language. The more a foreign concept is introduced, adopted, assimilated, and enculturalized, the more the nation will loose its indigenous character built via schooling and other means of citizenship enculturalization process.
13. Postmodernist perspectives of social change, rather than those of Structural-Functionalists, Marxist, or neo-Marxist, can best explain the structure and consequences of cybernetic changes.
These thirteen propositions most obviously need to be refined in order for us to look at the phenomena of transcultural impact of computer-mediated communications from perspectives beyond ones characterized as pure Structural -Functionalists or neo-Marxists. I have mentioned this idea at the beginning of this reflective paper. I end this reflection paper with the suggestion that technological development as it impacts Independent nation-states must be looked at from the perspective of "interplays and deep plays" and then to look at how these two notions relate to the transformations of social relations.
These fertile areas of research are even more interesting for us to engage in precisely because the transplantation of dominant concepts can have both hegemonizing as well as enculturalizing effects with long term-consequences.
Bakhtin, M. M. (1981). "Discourse on the novel," in The dialogical imagination: four essays. Holquist, M. ed. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press
Conklin, H. (1949). "Bamboo literacy on mindoro" In Pacific Discovery, 2, 4-11
Fullan, M. & Steigelbauer, S. (1991) The new meaning of educational change, 2d. Ed.. New York: Teachers College Press.
Kroker, A. & Weinstein, M. (1998) "The political economy of virtual reality: pan capitalism". Available:http://www.ctheory.com/com/apolitical_economy.html.
Kupers, J.C., and McDermott, R. (1996). "Insular Southeast Asian scripts,"In P.T. Daniels and W. Bright. The world's writing systems, 474-484. New York: Oxford University Press.
Marcuse, H. (1941). "Some social implications of modern technology" in Studies in philosophy and social sciences, Vol. IX McDermott, R., & Varenne, H. (1995).
Culture as disability. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 26, 324-348.
Ministry of Education Malaysia Communique (1997) "Implementation of smart schools" Available: http://eprd.kpm.my/imp smart.html.
Ministry of Education Malaysia Communiqué (1997) "Smart schools in Malaysia: A quantum leap" Available: http://eprd.kpm.my/prosmart.html
Multimedia Development Corporation (1998) "Overview" in What is the MSC? Available: http://www.mdc.com.my/msc/index.html
Sarason, S.B. (1996). Revisiting the culture of school and the problem of change. New York: Teachers College Press
"Smart schools will start in January ’99: Najib," Business Times, September 23, 1996. Available: http://www.cmsb.com.my/subsil/ubg/smart99.htm
Terkel, S. (1997) "Seeing through computers: education in a culture of simulation" The American Prospect no. 31 (March-April 1997)