Space and Place in Another Village

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October  2010                                                                    24:15

    I spent my youth out across the farmlands of the midwest.  I spent my professional life upon the ocean-edges of Boston.  Much of my Cultural Farming experimentation, however,  has happened here in the Blackfeet foothills of southern Alberta, Canada... amongst endless fields, coulees, hoodoos, logpole, moraines, steel, glass and ice.  It is a strange concoction of dinosaurs and oil, fat cattle and shiny technologies, First Nations and White Man.

   In another time and place, one hundred years ago, media theorist Marshall McLuhan was born just up the road from here in Edmonton, Alberta.   To honor McLuhan’s centennial celebration (2011),  I felt compelled to comment on two of McLuhan’s  reoccurring themes: Space and Place.... and to do so auto-ethnographically. 

    Of course, despite the preponderance of U.S. TV projects in Cultural Farming, I do watch Canadian TV.  It too is inescapable, but I rarely comment on it.  And so, this video project offered an opportunity to express what I have witnessed over the last five years throughout the Canadian broadcast spectrum.  In short, there is very little, if any, difference in media production, content and meaning.  Is it because of Canada’s proximity to the U.S.?  Is it because similar technologies “condition” similarly?  Is it because U.S. TV is the docent to all global media production?   Of course, as McLuhan would posit... it is all three.

click image to view video

    In this video a few things stand out.  First is my introductory usage of a City of Calgary promotional video.  I procured it during my brief involvement in the 2007 city council elections.  It is an excellent example of institutional video production.  The look, feel, and sound is immediately recognizable as “institutional media,” as is its urgency to situate Calgary as a “global village.”  This promotional video tells itself without even mentioning the word “media”.

    Second is my usage of the song I’m Afraid of Americans, co-written by David Bowie and Brian Eno.  Bowie describes his feeling behind the song this way:

        It's not as truly hostile about Americans as say "Born in the U.S.A." 

        It's merely sardonic. I was traveling in Java when [its] first McDonald's

        went up: it was like, "for fuck's sake."  The invasion by any homogenised

        culture is so depressing, the erection of another Disney World in, say,

        Umbria, Italy, more so.  It strangles the indigenous culture and narrows

        expression of life.

    For me, the song’s significance is slightly different and springs from a complex smug-insecurity Canadians rightly feel towards the United States.  For instance, Canadians are quick to correct the usage of the noun “American”, reminding that “America” extends well beyond the U.S. to all peoples of North (and South) America.  And there’s the rub. 

I AM AFRAID OF AMERICANS -- and for that matter, I am afraid of any “people” wielding their camera-guns unreflexively.  Indeed, all three North American nations embody various kinds of media/drug “narco-states”.  And so, I simply collated here a few representative examples of  this frequent Canadian “indigenous-homogenous media discourse”.  (FDR’s comment rings true that the U.S. will help defend Canada against any OTHER empire.)

    Third, is my rare use of personal video -- as contrapuntal lament.  My deep and abiding love for Alberta’s vast and varied landscapes runs deeply inside me.   I have found a home here unlike any other.  I include this constructed auto-ethnography twice in classical montage collision.  Both portions remain intensely personal for me. 

    Fourth, is the six minute news segment called “Section Six” aired on local Calgary TV.  It is but one small example of how our (media) technologies dominate all (media) communication, and thus our (media) lives.  Of Fire and Electricity.... of nature and the nature of technology.  There are few Canadian stories that escape the reach of technology’s conditioning.   This ethnographic video is a story about that story... for Dr. McLuhan.





An American

resident of Canada, experimenting with new forms of critical media ethnography in Cultural Farming.