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Postmodern Virtualities


Poster Mark


(This essay appears as Chapter 2 in the book The Second Media Age (Blackwell 1995)

On the eve of the twenty first century there have been two innovative discussions about the general conditions of life: one concerns a possible "postmodern" culture and even society; the other concerns broad, massive changes in communications systems. Postmodern culture is often presented as an alternative to existing society which is pictured as structurally limited or funda mentally flawed. New communications systems are often presented as a hopeful key to a better life and a more equitable society. The discussion of postmodern culture focuses to a great extent on an emerging new individual identity or subject position, one that abandons what may in retrospect be the narrow scope of the modern individual with its claims to rationality and autonomy. The discourse surrounding the new communications systems attends more to the imminent technical increase in information exchange and the ways this advantage will redound to already existing individuals and already existing institutions. My purpose in this essay is to bring these two discussions together, to enact a confrontation between them so that the advantages of each may redo und to the other, while the limitations of each may be revealed and discarded. My contention is that a critical understanding of the new communications systems requires an evaluation of the type of subject it encourages, while a viable articulation of postmodernity must include an elaboration of its relation to new technologies of communication. Finally I shall turn to the issue of multiculturalism in relation to the postmodern subject in the age of the mode of information.

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