December 2, 2006
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One of the key sculptors of culture – particularly in this Age of Information in which we live – just happens to be technology.
Popular culture across the world has been virtually revolutionised by the internet sub-cultures, from Internet pornography, to weblogs, to sites offering individuals the option of posting their profiles online on several pages.
Of the latter, the profile pages have proven to be the most popular and versatile. The most popular, MySpace.com serves to establish online representations of anyone from the average American teenager to the globally recognised pop phenom.
In Guyana, and indeed the CARICOM Caribbean, the equivalent of MySpace.com is Hi5.com. There is hardly a person between the ages of 15 and 30 living in Guyana who has an e-mail address and does not have a profile on Hi5.
With technology becoming cheaper and more user-friendly, the techno-culture is becoming increasingly able to deliver greater levels of interactivity and power into the hands of the user.
Whereas a decade ago, simple chat messages formed the zenith of real-time communication between two Internet users, today people can use their online chat programmes ("messengers") to virtually meet online, using voice transfer technology and web-cams.
There is no other techno-culture more committed or indeed more submerged in technology, however, than the online video-game culture.
Users pay millions of dollars annually to log on to various websites where they get to play as various characters or avatars – medieval warriors, futuristic scientists, or fantastic alien creatures, depending on the setting of the game or world.
According to a BBC report on the popularity of the online gaming industry, "The thought of shelling out around £10 per month, on top of the £30 already paid for the game should turn people away from such adventures. But clearly the compulsion to play as a virtual character in a virtual world, full of other people's virtual characters is enough of a draw. World of Warcraft alone now has more than 3.5 million subscribers across the world."
Recently, with the parent company of online gaming world, Ryzom about to go into receivership, the users of the site have decided to band together to purchase the 'world', i.e., buy the source code for the game and distribute it free so that they could play unhindered.
Of course, the global techno-culture also has its downsides, the biggest of which is too much commitment, particularly in the area of online gaming.
In China, for example, a country whose huge population has made it a key target for online game developers, there is an Internet Addiction Centre where online-gamers and other internet addicts can go to get treatment.
And recently, in America, MySpace.com was featured in a number of cases where older men used the extensive personal details posted by underage girls to lure them into sexual relations.
Dangers aside, however, the global techno-culture constitutes an increasingly significant strand in the tapestry of sub-cultures which makes up the fabric of Guyanese society.
For the young, and the young at heart, there is indeed a brave new world out there.