With the decline of Kulturhistorie in German sociocultural anthropology diachronic approaches to culture and society somehow went out of fashion, sometimes even got ostracised, and synchronical approaches started to reign supremely—became tacitly paradigmatic, became fashion. Speaking in a bold and simple style. But I learned that there is no modern sociocultural anthropology without a historical component. In other words: There is hardly any sensible approach to society and culture which completely neglects the diachronic dimension. This is true for all kinds of cultures, e.g for cyberculture, and for academical cultures.
The cultures of sociocultural anthropology—that is what anthropologists did and do, thought and think—can be categorized differently. ↑Alan Barnard for instance proposes the following divisions: a) by diachronic, synchronic, and interactive perspectives (↵Barnard 2000:9) b) by perspectives on society and on culture (11). But, when trying to get an overview of anthropology more often than not one falls back on a diachronical order. Barnard’s book is organized in exactly that fashion.
I started to talk about diachronical accounts of academical cultures because academical discourse is inseparably intertwined with both cyberculture and the rise of ‘modern ICTs’. Cyberculture and ICTs in turn are intertwined, too. ↑Jakub Macek‘s Defining Cyberculture (v. 2) (↵Macek 2005) does justice to this circumstance and historically divides cyberculture into early and contemporary cyberculture. The former—upon which the essay’s focus lies—is subdivided into four historical periods. Having established this, Macek focusses on cybercultural narratives which he senses to be “the key defining characteristics and the most important symbolic inheritance of the mainstream from cyberculture.”:
While reading and reviewing broadly scoped essays and articles on cyberculture and analogous issues it struck me that in most cases a diachronical approach is at least one of the essential pillars of interpretation and/or analysis. Building upon his essay Lessons from the history of the Internet (↵Castells 2001a) ↑Manuel Castells in The culture of the Internet (↵Castells 2001b) identifies and describes “four layers of the culture that, together, produced and shaped the Internet.” (60) This layers can, or better: have to be understood both diachronically and synchronically. That means that with the emergence and development of ‘modern ICTs’ they came into being one after another. But in my understanding one historical layer did not replace its predecessor. Rather all layers remained and from a certain point on exist side-by-side. Albeit not in there ‘original’ form. The layers are: the techno-meritocratic culture, the hacker culture, the online communes, and the Internet entrepreneurs. Castells sums it up like this:
↑Christine Hine‘s diachronic review of the academic approaches to the Internet is divided into two parts. She strives to clarify her argument of the Internet as culture and cultural artefact and hence at first reviews the approaches that have established the Internet as a culture. Then she reviews the approaches which take the Internet to be socially shaped in production and use. (↵Hine 2000:14-40)
But also articles which ‘only’ review academical approaches to cyberculture follow the historically oriented pattern. For example ↑David Silver‘s Looking backwards, looking forward: Cyberculture studies 1990-2000 (↵Silver 2000), which was written as an introduction to Web.studies: Rewiring media studies for the digital age (↵Gauntlett 2000):
In my view the five texts briefly discussed above (↵Macek 2005, ↵Castells 2001b, ↵Hine 2000:14-40, ↵Gauntlett 2000, ↵Wilson & Peterson 2002) mutually complement each other and are obligatory reads for everybody who wants to academically belabour cyberculture, the Internet, and related issues—particularly obligatory for ‘cyberanthropologists’.