Miller & Slater have elaborated four cross-cutting, non-exhaustive "dimensions" or "dynamics" that mark the Trinidadian Internet, and perhaps the Internet everywhere. Choose one of the four dynamics introduced in chapter 1 (Objectification, Mediation, Normative Freedom, Positioning) or a sub-concept within one of the dynamics (expansive realization, expansive potential). Analyze how the dynamic manifests in the ethnographic material presented in chapter 3 (Relationships) or chapter 4 (Being Trini). You might consider: What does the dynamic mean? How is the dynamic analytically useful? How is it applied? How is its use related to the method employed here, or the assumptions?
I have to say I was one of the people who were ignorant about Trinidad as a country. When I first read this word in this book as well as when I heard it mentioned in class, I had thought it was some kind of rhetorical place and not a real place… :-(
In the first chapter of the book, authors gave the conclusion of the whole book, which is good and helps me to better understand what they planned to do and what they got. In this short comment, I would like to focus on Objectification, one of the four dynamics they introduced in Chapter 1. As explained in Page 9, “dynamics” direct us to “look for both the driving forces as well as the emergent patterns of change”. And the problem of “Dynamics of objectification” was defined in the book as “how do people engage with the Internet as an instance of material culture through which they are caught up in processes of identification”. So, Objectification is actually the Trinidadian’s self-identification process during using of Internet. This identification can be either realization of what they really are (expansive realization) or what they could be (expansive potential).
In Chapter 3 dynamics of objectification were used to understand the Internet’s impact on Trinidadian’s everyday life. One of the examples was the kinships in families. As Trinidad is a country with vast amount of international or distant relationships, many families in Trinidad have relatives who live abroad or far away. Emails, e-cards and other Internet-based communication methods enabled the family members to keep in touch with each other on a frequent basis or even daily basis. As an example mentioned in the book that impressed me most, there was an old widow, who relied on Internet to communicate with other relatives after her husband’s death. These communications were described as “a new lease of life”. In my understanding, through the Internet communication applications, those Trinidad recreated their identity as members of their families, sent their cars and felt been cared by other family members, which became very important and part of their “real” life. Authors also mentioned the use of online chat and ICQ in Chapter 3. This communication method was considered by the author more like “expansive potential” than “expansive realization” (Page 62). Unlike the use of emails, the online chatting happened mostly between non-relatives. Many Trinidadian considered it a new method to know more friends or even develop new relationships. Research results showed that some marriages did begin with the random online chatting. As mentioned in the book, most conversations happened between opposite sexes to flirt with each other. But we also need to notice the case described in Page 65 about online chatting that realized sharing of mundane life. Some Trinidadians considered it as part of their everyday life and create serious friendship with other chatters. The chatting group or online community was also identified as part of “real” life instead of “virtual” chats. I agree with the authors that studying the dynamics of identification is very important for researchers to understand the development of Internet in that area.