Cybercolonialism in the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia: Does it Matter?
Morbey Mary Leigh
Associate Professor, Culture and Technology,Faculty of Graduate Studies
Adress: N825 Ross Building, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario MSJ 1P3, Canada
How are ideological influences, cultural pressures, and structural constraints of American and Japanese computing ideologies giving shape to theoretical, cultural, educational, and applied computing developments in the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC? This comparative study focusing on the notion of cybercolonialism, that is the colonizing of cultures by a diverse range of computing ideologies both overt and more subtle, examines computing ideologies shaping developments in the Third World setting of the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg and the First World context of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Particular developments investigated on-site at the Hermitage Museum in May 2001 and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in May 2002 include: 1) the employment of the World Wide Web in a global representation of the museum, and
2) considerations of computing in art historical research, curatorial endeavors, and museum visual arts education. The paper will elaborate the findings and ongoing questions brought forward in the comparative study.
In general, little work has been done on the role of cybercolonialism and world musea. There exists a growing body of research and literature on the concept of cybercolonialism, or technocolonialism (Chesher, 1998; Ebo, 2001; Fernandez, 1999; Marchant, 1998; Morbey, 1998, 2000; Sardar & Ravetz, 1996). This body of literature emerges from the concept of Discourse Analysis of Colonialism, first developed in Edward Said’s salient 1978 work Orientalism. There Said argues that the “orient” is constructed by Western discourses. These discourses sustain colonial relations in that the “other” which is constructed is relegated to primitive representation dependent upon First World expertise and in need of being controlled; analogous to this understanding is the domination of computing expertise globally, even in First World contexts. Following in the conceptual strand of Said, a noted shift to an awareness of cybercolonial ideological influences, cultural pressures, and structural constraints is brought forward through my ethnographic observations and qualitative open question interviews and discussions with information and communications technologies personnel at the Hermitage Museum and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, pointing to a more global presence of cybercolonial shapings in world class musea.
The paper, delineating findings thus far in the comparative study, will examine ideas underlying the ways in which the Hermitage < http://www.hermitage.ru > and the National Gallery of Art < http://www.nga.gov > choose to represent themselves on the World Wide Web. Further, the paper will explore some of the relationships at work between the Hermitage and website sponsor IBM, and contemporary business management models and computing employments at the National Gallery of Art. The paper will conclude with a discussion of the implications and importance of these representations and relationships in terms of reciprocity and cybercolonialization.
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