Keeping public cyberspace open: Lessons from the Pacific Islands
A number of empirical and conceptual lessons can be drawn from a closer look at atypical, non-western uses of the internet. Drawing on a study of two pioneering discussion forums, the Kava Bowl (KB) and the Kamehameha Roundtable (KR), maintained by diasporic Pacific Island communities, this article celebrates the existence of open, accessible cyberspaces in an increasingly privatised internet environment. The day to day operation of the KB/KR fora are argued to demonstrate the limitations of classical ‘public sphere’ thinking. In particular, the way in which power and influence is rendered in these online formations calls for a new conceptualisation of ‘public-ness’. Michel de Certeau’s concept of ‘everyday life’ is argued to provide a fertile link between Pacific Island internet practices and broader internet debates. In conclusion, it is argued that the way in which the ‘public’, the ‘private’, and ‘technology’ are construed in Western literatures, leaves non-western internet practices subsumed under ethnocentric and techno-determinist assumptions about the interrelationships between technology, culture and society.
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