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Digital Dilemmas

Digital Dilemmas: The State, the Individual, and Digital Media in Cuba

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 250
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  • Book Info
    Digital Dilemmas
    Book Description:

    The contentious debate in Cuba over Internet use and digital media primarily focuses on three issuesùmaximizing the potential for economic and cultural development, establishing stronger ties to the outside world, and changing the hierarchy of control. A growing number of users decry censorship and insist on personal freedom in accessing the web, while the centrally managed system benefits the government in circumventing U.S. sanctions against the country and in controlling what limited capacity exists.

    Digital Dilemmasviews Cuba from the Soviet Union's demise to the present, to assess how conflicts over media access play out in their both liberating and repressive potential. Drawing on extensive scholarship and interviews, Cristina Venegas questions myths of how Internet use necessarily fosters global democracy and reveals the impact of new technologies on the country's governance and culture. She includes film in the context of broader media history, as well as artistic practices such as digital art and networks of diasporic communities connected by the Web. This book is a model for understanding the geopolitic location of power relations in the age of digital information sharing.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4910-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. List of Acronyms
    (pp. xv-xvii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-34)

    Until 2001, the Russian government operated the largest radar base in the Western Hemisphere, located in the Cuban village of Lourdes, a few kilometers south of Havana. Set amid palm trees and tropical fields, the site at first glance appeared to be one of the island’s rural residential neighborhoods of anonymous, post-1959 high-rise apartment buildings. However, a military zone designation and an enormous dish antenna signaled that this was no typical communal housing sector. Rather, the base had been “Radio-Electronic Station/Cuba,” where Russians conducted telephone espionage monitoring U.S. military and commercial movements, and also communicated with Soviet nuclear submarines.¹ Established...

  7. 1 Inventing, Recycling, and Deploying Technologies
    (pp. 35-66)

    “We need magicians!” Arnaldo Coro, Cuban communication expert, radio host, and cofounder of Radio Habana Cuba,¹ knew what it took for early Cuban Internet users to eliminate distance. His frank admission in a personal interview applies in many parts of the Cuban “house,” where numerous obstacles block Internet connection, even as the officially sanctioned educational and technical areas flourish. Navigating through an uncertain infrastructure, experienced and new users alike can never forget that they live in an “underdeveloped country.”² Because access to technological gadgets is either unaffordable or unavailable, desire or the drive of necessity to acquire and master modern...

  8. 2 Media Technologies and “Cuban Democracy”
    (pp. 67-97)

    Search for “Cuban students” on YouTube, and you’ll find numerous versions of a public meeting held at UCI that turned into an international media story.¹ Six months prior to elections for the Cuban National Assembly in January 2008, Raúl Castro launched a national debate on Cuban society, inviting Cuban citizens to critique the state of the nation. The call appears to have prompted over a million written responses from a national population of just over eleven million. The open forum at UCI between students and Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, president of the National Assembly of Popular Power, was videotaped and...

  9. 3 Tourism and the Social Ramifications of Media Technologies
    (pp. 98-130)

    In 1995, the newly opened, Spanish-and-Cuban-financed Meliá-Cohiba Hotel in Havana placed a computer in the lobby. The screen featured a hypertext tour of the hotel’s services and sophisticated accommodations, built solely for the visitor from abroad. In this monolithic ocean-front hotel, where an ice cream even then cost US$6 and a room upward of US$200, the computer provided a new interface between the physical and the virtual world, its foreign origin and funding and its segregated use and users unintentionally highlighting the political, ideological, economic, and social contradictions of Cuba’s unique geopolitical space.

    The Meliá-Cohiba hotel itself stood as a...

  10. 4 Film Culture in the Digital Millennium
    (pp. 131-154)

    Working in his bedroom at his parents’ Havana home in 1996, Miguel Coyula, then eighteen years old, began crafting special effects for his personally created films on a 486 personal computer. The computer processor was eight times slower than the machines he would use twelve years later to render the effects forMemories of Development(2010), a sequel to the 1968 masterwork by Tomás G. Alea,Memories of Underdevelopment. In the time it then took to render a single, simple effect, today he can make complex and beautiful composite images. In Cuba in the 1990s, blackouts lasting up to eight...

  11. 5 Digital Communities and the Pleasures of Technology
    (pp. 155-182)

    A home television satellite dish, mounted on a makeshift skateboard, sits on the terrace of a home in the Nuevo Vedado district of Havana, ready for quick removal from the sight of thieves. This is not an illegal satellite antenna, as are so many throughout the city’s growing satellite television “market.” This home is licensed to receive the costly service as a benefit of the inhabitants’ work in the arts community. Not far from this location, however, a web of unruly cables links pirated satellite signals throughout the city, in an expanding private business that distributes satellite television into homes...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 183-188)

    In July 2007, Fidel Castro’s forty-eight-year presidency gave way to a “new” political administration—his brother Raul’s. Fidel’s public presence thereafter has become virtual, a pivotal juncture substantiated by his regular Web site postings, “Reflectiones,” televised images, or printed opinion pieces. That his presence still looms large in the consciousness of citizens was evident at Raúl Castro’s second 26th of July address to the Cuban people, gathered to commemorate the fifty-fifth anniversary of the attack on Moncada barracks, the event that launched the revolution. Standing before a huge and colorful image of Fidel, Raúl began by referencing one of Fidel’s...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 189-210)
    (pp. 211-220)
  15. Index
    (pp. 221-229)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 230-230)