Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth: Curwen Best

I was searching for Caribbean science fiction, which is frustrating because most of the first results are for Pirates of the Caribbean (ugh!), but anyway, I stumbled across Bajan scholar Curwen Best  and his analyses of the intersections between technology, the internet, social and other media, and Caribbean culture and identity. He has written a number of books and articles, including The Politics of Caribbean Cyberculture,  “Technology Constructing Culture: Tracking Soca’s First ‘Post-.'” and “Caribbean Cyberculture: Towards and Understanding of Gender, Sexuality and Identity within the Digital Culture Matrix.”

Below is a portion of O. O. Worrell’s review from a lecture Best did, “Strategic Space: 10 Things Our Youth Know (that we don’t) about Cyberspace, the Nation and the Future”

“Reading culture as containing multiple tracks of data”
“Digital culture and reading strategies”

“Multi-Format Caribbean Cyberculture”.
The rationale, presented by Prof Best, for proposing such a theory is both enlightening as well as incandescent. That is, the evorevolutionary spaces, which give rise to commercialized space-aged technologies, namely, the World Wide Web, makes it virtually impossible for emerging 21st century (metropolitan cultures) not to emit and mimic the efflorescence of digital cyberspace transmissions. A trivial example of one such matrix giving rise to another can be viewed in the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Televised (wireless sound-images from the moon) of Neil Armstrong, US astronaut, becoming the first man to set foot on the moon (July 20, 1969) may have given rise to the popularized Michael Jackson [1]moonwalk dance, mimicking the characteristic weightless motion of walking on the moon. In short, we have no choice but to go with the flow; tick with the tock; track with the trek! Wherever the technologists lead us, we must follow (even reluctantly so). It is a real-world phenomenon that the emerging, burgeoning digital culture is baptizing the ultra-orthodox, proselytized, barbarian, educated, differently educated, bond and free into the same murky river of multi-format cybercultures.

This led to more robust postulations from the goodly professor as he presented a holographic image of how our youth (a term which he and the United Nations’ councils have great difficulty defining) freely, ingeniously, dexterously and ignorantly navigate, infiltrate, violate, participate and situate themselves in cyberspace. Professor Best wondered how the rest of us navigate these cybernetic arenas (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp, etc.) In these holographic texts (software, hardware, chat rooms, video games, etc.) the question of reality colliding with make belief; the material world and the illusionary; human and digital interfaces come into sharp focus. To this end, Prof Best posits the need, by critics, theorists, academics, bus drivers, social commentators, embalmers; to consider “what or who is “real” and what is simulation?” Do we need to employ an FBI-type approach to investigating the possibility of “assumed identities” among our youth and their “projected” alter egos? Do our youth “stage their presence” before a live audience (parents, teachers, priests, peers, etc.)? If so, why and what are the immediate and long-term implications? Alternatively, is it simply an erstwhile but ongoing Anancy Web Project[tion]; embedding old world archetypes and prefigurations into New World methodologies, technologies and refigurations? Are we making much ado about nothing?

In the rest of the review, he writes about Best’s ideas of “thumb culture” (I wonder how he would connect that to J. Edward Mallot’s analysis of the opposition of the thumb preceding discourse), new Net/Cyber-lingo, reincarnations of self via the web, and contemporary representation of neo-colonialism.

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