Avatar: A Whole New World?

Among the infinite number of meanings, observations, theories, and conclusions that can be drawn from the world around us there is a constant age of convergence and effort to make further advancements in technology and understanding of cultures. This technology and observation allows us to learn more, putting pieces of different puzzles together around the world. International communications is more important than ever – it brings a different point of view from individuals all around the world. Furthermore this communication and hybridity between countries is only beneficial when one country knows what it needs from the integration of culture with another. It’s almost like the movie Avatar, which, if you haven’t seen it, includes members of Earth attempting to use another world for its resources when it is wholesomely unaware of most of it’s inhabitants.

Until we explore these new “worlds” present in our own planet, they will remain foreign; not in a physical sense, but in a cultural sense. (Trailer to Avatar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PSNL1qE6VY)

From the readings I have gathered three things I think are important to recognize: Infinite information, understanding of cultural identity, and the power of our own fame are three factors I believe to be the most imperative when it comes to interconnectedness of the world and causes of societal tension.

Privileged countries are used to having an infinite amount of information because of the media and internet. Internet has changed the way the world works. Most things can be tracked, sent, received, looked up, and scene through the invention of the Internet. It’s like the human brain. There’s millions, billions, trillions of connections internationally to technology and foreign places around the world. We should keep in mind that most of Earth’s population isn’t even privy to basic phones or telecommunications services. It’s a privilege to be so globally connected and in tune with any “thing” or current event. Similarly in Avatar their world was one big ball of interconnected messages:

(From Avatar)

Dr. Grace Augustine: What we think we know – is that there’s some kind of electrochemical communication between the roots of the trees. Like the synapses between neurons. Each tree has ten to the fourth connections to the trees around it, and there are ten to the twelfth trees on Pandora…

Selfridge: That’s a lot, I’m guessing.

Dr. Grace Augustine: That’s more connections than the human brain. You get it? It’s a network – a global network. And the Na’vi can access it – they can upload and download data – memories – at sites like the one you just destroyed.”

Next, understanding (or lack thereof) of a country’s cultural identity can be quite detrimental. Without fully understanding the concepts of another country’s culture leaves a weakness and possible liability for political and cultural domination. In today’s world, in order to excel, one government must make somewhat of an effort to understand the other, and know what type of influence they hold. For example, in the readings, polyglot tv and media was mentioned. Within media we integrate different languages and cultures, but in a way, it can be filtered to a certain way to view another country or society. “The fact that we proiect ‘ourselves’ into these cultural identities, at the same time internalizing their meanings and values, making them ‘part of us,’ helps to align our subjective feelings with the objective places we occupy in the social and cultural world” (Hall).

Furthermore, “In the modern world, the national cultures into which we are born are one of the principal sources of cultural identity. In defining ourselves we sometimes say we are English or welsh or Indian or Jamaican. of course, this is to speak metaphorically. These identities are not literally imprinted in our genes. However, we do think of them as if they are part of our essential natures… We only know what it is to be, “English” because of the way “Englishness” has come ‘to be represented, as a set of meanings, by English national culture’ It follows that a nation is not only a political entity but something which: produces meanings – a system of cultural representation” (Hall). In essence, we label ourselves and separate ourselves because of traditions and norms within our allocated habitats around the world. If you understand others’ traditions and habitats, you will have a better chance at communicating with them and lessening any current/possible tension. This example links to the movie Avatar, because Earthlings made little attempt to find the meanings and traditions of the natives of Pandora. The people of Pandora did not have much opportunity to know much more than what we made ourselves look like – barbarians with big machines in the movie. It took an Earthling (Jake Sully) in order to communicate between the two since he integrated himself into the Avatar’s world. He was then able to communicate, looking past stereotypes and other cultural barriers, taking tension away from the relationship between the two groups for a while.

Lastly, power of our own fame is something I thought of when reading Fagerjord, when he talks about, “Remix of Power: Who gets the Podium?” With infinite information and understanding culture, many individuals figure out what people want and how to manipulate that want with what is posted on the Internet. Many medias have converged into one, so that anyone around the world can watch the phenomenon of Youtube, or posts on Facebook. Fagerjord says, “Convergence as a development must logically end at some point either because media cease to converge, or because all media have converged into one, or have reached a limit where further convergence is impossible.” I do not think that this limit has been reached, but I do think that it has been so combined that we can pretty much create most things we desire online. Which leads to our own fame. Everyone is somebody. It’s a matter of attention. Anyone can create a “movie,” do the cover of a song, be Tumblr famous, or the next worldly renowned photographer or model. So, basically, has it has taught us that attention is power? If we are only famous by the attention we receive online from the content we know to post (because we have infinite possibilities and understand the culture of our audiences) then doesn’t the power of our own fame interconnect us? In the movie Avatar, the Earthlings had all the means to understand the people of Pandora, but failed to do so. With utilizing infinite information, understanding cultural identity, and then using the power of their own fame to appeal to what the people of Pandora wanted, could they have manipulated their audience completely?

With these three factors discovered from the readings, globalization, interconnectedness, and relief of societal tension between parties may/may not be achieved in a positive way. But, with the right motives, globalization can be looked upon as a way of learning, and a way of broadening the world’s knowledge, possibly taking us to a higher understanding that we are unable to comprehend in today’s society.