What’s Up in the World? - Weekly Digest 6/05/2016 Written by Harriet Lane-Tobin

Culture, authenticity, life, death and the misrepresented. This week's digest comes at these issues from multiple angles, showing the positives and negatives of being able to be perceived and understood in different ways. 

In Edward Wyckoff Williams' Vice article he details the significance of language. In particular what he describes as ‘code switching’. Williams defines this as “wh[en] an individual modulates how they speak depending on with whom they are speaking” (Williams 2016). Williams exemplifies this by use of Barack Obama and his ability to interchange between ‘clean’ speak and language more familiar to his cultural background.  What is important here is how this switching is empowering not repressive. “The point is that you're supposed to be able to manipulate language to your own ends, not be trapped by it” (Williams, 2016). Identity can be expanded by the language one chooses to use.

"Obama Out"- Oliver Douliery/ Getty Images.

"Obama Out"- Oliver Douliery/ Getty Images.

However this is not to say that the ability to switch out parts of your culture is always seen as a positive thing. Ansh Patel's article in the New Inquiry details exactly that. Patel argues that the images of Indians projected outward to the western world is disempowering as it acts as a commodification of their culture. Furthermore this raises issues around the idea of the ‘authentic’ self. Patel argues here the negative cultural implications this has, and the issues that should be considered as an outsider entering in. “By promoting India almost exclusively to white tourists, Indians have lost ownership of the images of their culture and their country” (Patel, 2016), making people feel out of place somewhere they should belong.

In Brandon Ambrosino's BBC article he writes about how social media is changing the ways we die and are remembered. Ambrosino discusses the idea of digital afterlife, a cyber self that outlives our physical one. Furthermore how these new afterlives alter the way those living in the realm of social media can remember, mourn, or engage with loved ones who have passed on. Whilst a machine in a hospital decides on whether you continue, paradoxically, “another machine, meanwhile, was keeping [you] alive: some distant computer server that holds [your] thoughts, memories and relationships” (Ambrosino, 2016). Moreover I would argue that these shifts in our relationship to death are also important in understanding our relationship to life, even if it is just our cyber one.

Anne Perkins' Guardian article considers inequality and air travel. Perkins grounds her piece in relation to research done by academics at Princeton University. “The researchers at Princeton analysed air rage incidents because they were interested in whether it’s possible to shape the physical environment so that bad behaviour is designed out of it” (Perkins, 2016). However we must consider that segregation exists everywhere and that it is important to observe how people respond to it, in order to see how damaging it can be.    

Alanna Vagianos' Huffington Post article deals with the relationship between pop culture and what she calls “trendy feminism”.  Vagianos tackles this issue by interviewing author Andi Zeisler. Whilst both argue that pop culture is important as means of getting messages across in an accessible manner, it often obscures or does not convey their ‘true’ point. Which raises questions of whether it is better to have something act as a buzzword, or not at all? One cannot pick and choose parts of an ideology that appeal to them and ignore the rest. In order for a movement to be ‘successful’ it needs to be represented in its entirety.