Voice and Geography in Cyberspace

Ananda Mitra


There has been a significant amount of research on the issue of geographic location and how that location offers the power to have a voice in the global arena of ideas. Much of the research, particularly in intercultural communication, has demonstrated that geographic location, particularly in the South and East, has significantly affected the say that specific groups of people have had. In other words, information typically tended to flow in a way where the people of the East and South were often portrayed from the perspective of the more powerful people of the West and North. This is evident in the way in which the dominant media of the West has spoken for and created the faces of the Asian, Latin American, and Arab. In this paper, I argue that the balance of power is beginning to alter as the new digital technologies are allowing many of the traditionally powerless people to “leap frog” over the less-efficient technologies and graduate to the more efficient use of new technologies such as those of the Internet and the Web. Using these technologies the traditionally powerless and dispossessed are able to find a voice in cyberspace. This voice is no longer tied to, or restricted by, geographic location, but is dependant more on the eloquence of the speaking person. Therefore, the metaphor of voice becomes particularly powerful in re-thinking the questions of power in cyberspace. Using the work of Bakhtin and the subaltern scholars, I propose that the idea of voice offers the opportunity to explore the new challenges to traditional geographically embedded power as the heretofore “voiceless” are able to call into question the bastions of power by articulating the marginal in cyberspace. Using examples drawn primarily from the voices of India and Indians on the Web, I would ultimately argue that these voices eventually offer a face of the people in cyberspace which is far different from the way the marginalized have been spoken for and shown forth within the signifying practices of the dominant.

The paper would utilize examples drawn from the numerous Web pages that are constantly being produced and circulated by Indians across the globe. Additionally, I draw on the postings to the many message boards that are used by Indians as they speak for themselves in cyberspace. Given the increasing availability of the Internet in India and since on the Web, geography disappears, I make the argument that the signifying practices used by the Indians speak directly about their location and ideologies in the global arena. Specific methodologies of semiotic, textual and narrative analysis is used to explore the way in which the Web discourse produced by Indians serve as a voice of the Indians ultimately challenging the voice of the dominant who have traditionally constructed the identity of Indians. In the end, it is possible to demonstrate that the face of Indians as constructed by the dominant in the West, remains in opposition to the face that is constructed by Indians in cyberspace. It is this combination of voice and face that ultimately produces the identity of Indians in cyberspace and eventually impact the way in which Indians are negotiated with in the increasingly globalized world.