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MC2109 Global Communications Robert Andrews

POBL YNET: WHAT HAPPENS TO WELSH NATIONAL IDENTITY IN THE N^W^.
GLOBAL MEDIA COMMUNITY? .

As if Welsh national identity, or identities, were not already a muddied, complex mindset, in
the current media age it is undergoing still more reappraisals. This essay explores the
relationship between whatever 'Welsh national identity' may be and the established media,
and looks to the new, many!to!many media ! which must here be acknowledged as valid
media ! to find the future for Welsh nationality in the era of global!scale communication,
asking what the implications are when Welsh media users can be drawn into new arenas of
inter!personal and mass communication.

Welshness assumes commonality amongst the inhabitants of the political consciousness
known as Wales. So what is this national identity? One argument is that nations are nothing
more than 'imagined communities,' that the identity derived from claiming membership is the /!* i h!
construction of mass!communicated ideologies and professional practices: L^eKfi^aA \^wftA :
OKJIA ^lia^U
"Each participant fin ritualistic mass!media use] is aware that the ceremony is being I . ,
replicated simultaneously by thousands of others of whose existent he is confident, yet ^^j/LtWtwL/
of whose identity he has not the slightest notion." <1) i / / ( / i S i f r \ A {r\

Indeed, it is impossible for a Welsh inhabitant to know every other citizen ! the relations (^(^(UVS t^\
between people in Wales, then, are mediated. This casts Welsh national identity as a state of ^ D \y
mind, and its culture would be merely the result of reinforced transmissions, rather than the (/fiC/ C^^'
content being transmitted. We see such broadcast of Welshness in S4C's idents, banal 1.1 i
representations of Welsh cultural imagery throughout the day as red, flame!spouting dragon •Q^ \QW\£M (4
metaphors abound in eveiyday appliances, illustrating the pervasive link between symbols of
national pride and national broadcaster.

It is further claimed that the boundaries of Welsh media are contributing factors in dictating
this commonality ! perhaps it is no coincidence that the boundaries of national identity exist at
the same extreme reaches of the broadcast spectrum and delivery capability. That would lead
us to believe that Welshness declines in spectrum cross!over territory at national borders. " » (
klMW\ W^
But the artificialist argument fails to address the "always already given" qualities of national u \
identity. <2) Media's relationships with nationality is nothing so conspiratorial as the creation fY^J(v( u/ (/l£M/
1 of identity, and none of tha( justifies the claim that media create 'imagined communities,' but \ \
! demonstrate how media organisations can hijack tlie existing identity of a nation, by J/ ',
association with recognised national symbols, in order to appeal to the audience within. ' !•
Content is then hoped to be identified with by anybody Welsh, because those symbols have
previously signified Welshness. This sense existed before mass media ! media products which
adopt them are seeking to win favour by mass identification, not necessarily the invention of
community. S4C did not create the Welsh language, but exists to serve its speakers.

While problematic, we can say that it may hold somewhat true in so far as continued reinforcal
of such values by media can result in partial definition of identity for each next generation.

But any such system of nationality being given by national media is now being challenged !
the media built on nationalised values by both remit to serve and by production capacity are
being toppled by globalism, audience fragmentation with an explosion of
culturally!nonspecific outlets, personalisation of content and reception, any!time consumption

Fri20/Nov/1998 1
MC2109 Global Communications

and, most interesting to this discussion, the ability of interactivity to allow participation in new
and extended communities not defined by location. •

With such media as the Internet ! perhaps the in vitro and nascent state of future interactive
media ! identity is no longer wholly geographically!determined. If "satellite footprints spill
over the former integrity of national territories," confusing nationality as they do along the
Wales!England divide, then many!to!many networked media make confusing seas over where
there were once boundaries. "The link between culture and territory becomes significantly \ W rtLuJw w!
broken. What is being created is a new electronic cultural space, a 'placeless' geography." oi \ n!
} W\
Indeed, cyberspace is both placeless and the creation of an ideal place, imagined and \^/C '
constructed far more than Anderson's geographical community. rtdhiT^ ^ I
l
Then, with nationality partly established through difference, which is primarily demarcated by (fJ^^^
geo!political boundaries and me media wliich inhabit them, Wales' only such » \/
l!
media!neighbour has been England, since mediated cultural exchange with her Celtic cousins
is prevented by the Irish Sea, where transmitters and newspapers tend to sink. Whilst "Wales is
commonly seen as a victim of its geography," these new media ignore such land!based identity
barriers, w Does Offa's Dyke, then, become useless for definition ofWelshness in the Internet
era? It would seem that we can say new media liberate the individual from the shackles of an
identity imposed by history, politics and the traditional targeting and limitations of media
products:

"Digital groups are scattered. They occupy a virtual space, but are very real. There is a
huge number of potential members, and the distance between them is irrelevant.
Involvement in local life doesn't require a computer, but you won't find as many people
sharing your interest, unless that interest is in the nation itself." <5'

That Welsh people can join in with like!minded individuals all around the world is enabled by
both the global infrastructure and, therefore, the 'population' of the Internet multiplying the
kinship and commonality felt by the individual.

Such people can then disconnect from Wales as it is known. The Welsh Internet user enters a
community in which each individual has mutually amputated nationality in favour of
discussing the subject on a new level. What, then, would become apparent, as more and more
of Wales becomes wired to the rest of the world, is that community engagement ! the
backbone of Welsh working!class life for so long ! is being externalised to a remarkable
degree, eroding the 'Welsh national identity' in parallel. "Space has vanished. We now live in
a global village... a simultaneous happening." (6) Where traditional media had made that
simultaneity national, many McLuhanisms now come true.

But it is far from true that the Welsh national identity is jettisoned when using and inhabiting
media like the Internet. Such media, at their best, are interactive, which allows for participation
with the media content, the producer or other users (tlie latter is what can create a community).
And when the user is transformed into the producer, certain cultural constituents may be
retained:

"Interacting through me telling of a tale is a natural Welsh instinct. That is how the
Mabinogion were created, with the storyteller interacting with his audience. (^ Film and
television drama narrative is an American convention; therefore, it is possible for creative
authors [the new, participatory audience] to use the revolution to jog the memory of a
nation and create a Welsh style." w

So, the ability of many!to!many media users to produce their own content, focusing on their
existing, physical community, means me identity of Wales will be neither constructed nor
MC2109 Global Communications

improperly mediated, but an open!ended representation of Welsh culture. The nation which
then consumes its own media content would become more familiar with itself again. And
interactivity would also make possible that distinctively Welsh programming, perhaps
enabling some competition for attention with American media, and again reminding Wales of
itself:

"Because of media exposure, most Welsh people probably know New York better than
they do our capital city. But because cheap new technology lets people tell their own
stories, they can tell everybody what the country is really like. It's a lot more
democratic, transmitting our history orally, like a new Mabinogion." (9)

Interactivity coupled with globalism, then, enables an annulment of James Donald's claim that
cultural apparatuses like the media produce the nation ! the two enter a relationship closer
resembling symbiosis.

And indeed, in the online world, in which identity, if it means anything, is difficult to define,
many users deliberately transport their Welshness in order to have a cultural touchstone...

When a debate on Welsh identity and the Net broke out on soc.culture.welsh (the newsgroup
for discussion of Welsh culture), it aroused a nationalism!versus!unionism argument in a will ^
to efficiency forthed^scussion system; Interestingly, the absence of a Welsh upper!hierarchy'
on Usenet and the requirement for discussion about Wales having to reside under the uk.* or
soc.culture.* groupings prompted the unfolding of a fascinating exchange about the make!up
of Welsh identity in cyberspace:

Wales exists, it has in the past and it will in the future. The
Government of the United Kingdom recognised Wales as a nation with the
Assembly referendum, and other initiatives. Why can't Usenet and why
can't you? I t ' s a demand for a recognition of Wales as a nation as it
stands now. t10)

There was then proposed the creation of over seventeen divisions of a 'wales.*' discussion
hierarchy, while others replied in support of the recommendation or in defence of the existing
structure, which resembles the unionist or globalist ideology. Some correspondents protested
that the new order would lead to "the ghettoisation of Welsh culture within the hierarchy, as
S4C has done with Welsh TV." <11) The different proposals echo the opt!in and opt!out
models already in existence in Welsh broadcasting.

And the argument is one reminiscent of the allegation that Wales seeks to internalise. The
reorganisation of the Usenet medium to account for all Wales!related discussion under one
umbrella would be a step ! both symbolic and practical ! toward reuniting the Welsh people
(or, at least, the wired Welsh) within their own national context. It soimds like another
declaration of identity independence, with an intention to draw back into Wales, those who
had wandered off! the memes then circulate only within and do not cross!pollinate.

So, the settlers of the new territory are building their walls using the boundaries 'always
already given' by both history and media, amounting to a remarkable replication of the
existing Welsh national identity in cyberspace. Perhaps this is a positive phenomenon for a
nation not entirely sure what it means to be Welsh in 'real' life. Though the move abhors
cultural dilution and multi!culturalism, there is strength, unity and some brotherhood in
numbers, which are subsequently increased ! the value of a network, says Metcalfe's Law,
whether it is the Welsh online or the Welsh in Wales, goes up in correlation to the population.
The bonus, then, is that both versions of nationality, including use of the Welsh language, are
strengthened. <12)
MC2109 Global Communications

What is made clear fi!om such a debate about Welsh culture in new!media communities is that
issues of national identity which have been present in national culture and its old!media for
some time resurface when the public finds itself in contact again in the digital discussion life.
It seems that while a migration into new!media territory can enable a disconnection from
nationality, many Welsh people are eager to transfer their cultural baggage.

It is true that new!media users can transcend national boundaries to enter a 'space' in which
their biology and social identity can be discarded, resulting in a throwing away of physical and
national make!up, so that they float in a metaphor ! "the final point of a virtual world is to
dissolve the constraints of the anchored world so that we can lift anchor." (13) But while many
surely do discard these cultural anchors for geography!independent relations, it is apparent that
considerable numbers want to hold on to them, mat they want to transfer and assert their
'real!life' identity in cyberspace. The reason may be future!shocked acclimatisation to the new
medium, national pride, a new declaration of Welsh settlership on!line, or a complex mixture
of any or neither.

In fact, national identity appears to be heightened in the Welsh quarters of networked media.
People are brought together in the medium by both their common interest in Welsli culture
and their geo!national citizenship, and revel in discussing aspects of Welsh life as one might
not if bumping into a fellow nation!dweller in the street; with hiraeth. But why is this
Welshness asserted only in the Welsh arenas? Well, Wales and Patagonia are the only places
in the world to speak Welsh, so when the individual wants to enter interest!based communities
using his native language, he reaches a barrier because the vast majority of the Internet
population does not speak Welsh at all. He therefore either continues in the arena of interest
and admits a negation of his nationality, or seeks solace in the local!focused arena, where he is
able to assert his nationality to the fullest but loses out on discussing his particular interest,
because me number of potential talkers is considerably reduced in the Welsh!culture
community.

If new!media enable users to participate in global!scale, true communities of interest, based on
trans!national! commonalties, men surely they can also reunite the sometimes disparate worlds
of north and south Wales. Though it is true, and perhaps sometimes even worrying, to argue
that, with these new media, Welsh citizens can, more than ever before, transcend and ignore
their nationhood, they could also make possible a new kind of cultural exchange within Wales.
If, as the old argument goes and is backed up by Mackay and Powell, the road links between
north and south are so bad that cultural exchange fails because of the lack of people exchange,
would transit on the information superhighway, where physical links are irrelevant, bridge the
gap? Well, this has not been the case on Usenet, where the creation of uk.local.south!wales
was soon followed by uk.local.north!wales. Ultra!geographical discussions men take place
within, and the national is splintered into the sub!national and the local.

Even so, Welsh is spoken in heartlands of both north and south, and the ability to speak it is
often central to debates over the construction of Welshness, because it is sometimes thought
tliat the unity of the nation depends on the ability to speak the common, native language.
Mackay and Powell find "the length of time for Welsh to become established has shortened
with each new medium." Couple with mis the rise in Welsh speaking and me primary
unification of the Welsh in the redefined communities, and part of the future for me language !
and, therefore, national identity ! would seem bright. But its life depends on the ability to
internalise; in the local nation, this has been easier due to the presence of Welsh speakers, but
in the global networked media most of the world is foreign. Cultural imperialism comes into
play.
MC2109 Global Communications

in the global networked media most of the world is foreign. Cultural imperialism comes into
play.

"m the group [soc.culture.welsh], there is a fine lingual balance between English and
Welsh. 'Either is welcome,' Dyfrig says. 'Netiquette dictates that if the first post on a
topic is made in English, I should reply in English. But if it was in Welsh, I will
normally respond in Welsli, often with an English translation.'" <14)

This demonstrates the genesis of another code for digital national identity, again remarkably
imitating physical!world bilingualist methodologies now employed both by courtesy and by
law.

So, in conclusion, what happens to Welsh national identity when played out in new media is a
balance between me composability of alternative identities and the already!received
nationality.

Both the integrity of the 'imagined communities' standpoint and its failure to acknowledge the
more subtle qualities of nationhood derived from non!mediated sources are important in
understanding the nature of national identity in such new arenas, because they both have in
common the 'old' idea of nationhood and are proved right by the simple existence of Welsh
culture within the Welsh pseudo!state's boundaries.

It is this amalgamated and conflicting derivation of national identity which is balanced against
the virtual disregard for nationality in new media. Transcendence of nation states was the
founding principle for the Internet in 1969, and global scope today delivers to the user a
participation in phenomena which we could argue are true communities, not a collection of
individuals thrown together by acts of politics and continental drift.

And the new, participatory consumers do disconnect from this to indulge in richer social
relations. But, as testified by the ubiquity of nationality and the desire to carry it over, it
becomes obvious that there is a duality' at work. Consumers want to retain their national
identity because they will return to geography from the cyberspatial existence, but they also
want to jump over it. Nationality is rarely continually the uppermost in mind when
experiencing media product. The juggling of priorities between personal interest and national
identity is what has always happened in Wales and beyond, with people going about their
business using nationality as an occasional touchstone, particularly when consuming
non!Welsh media programming.

Global networked media simultaneously offer more content ultra!fragmented to suit interest
and enable the benevolent reconstruction of national social relations.
MC2109 Global Communications

1)Andereon, Benedict (1983), 'Imagined Communities.' Verso. p35.
2) Griffiths, Alison (1991), 'National and Cultural Identity in Welsh!language Soap Opera,'
in Alien, Robert (ed, 1995), To 6e Continued: Soap Operas Around the World.' London: Roufledge. p81.
3) Morely, David & Robins, Kevin (1995), 'Spaces of Identity: global media, electronic landscapes and cultural
boundaries/London: Routledge. p112.
4) Mackay, Hugh & Powell, Tony, 'Connecting Wales: The Internet and National Identity,'
in Loader, Brian (ed, 1998), 'Cyberspace Divide/London: Routledge. p204.
5) Andrews, Robert (Thu 9 Oct, 1997), 'Internet: Feel the Community Spirit,' in the 'Llanelli Star.' Swansea:
South!West Wales Publications.
6) McLuhan, Marshall (1967), 'The Medium is the Massage.' p63.
7) Where the Mabinogion is a collection of tales from the 11 th to 13th centuries, the best!known product of early
Welsh literature.
8) Williams, Euryn Ogwen (4 Aug, 1998), 'Living in the Midst of a Revolution,' Bro Ogwr National Eisteddfod,
transcript: http://www.eisteddfod.org.uk/digitaHecture/lectureJntro!html [Euryn Ogwen Williams is S4C's Digital
Adviser, responsible for provision of digital and future interactive services to the Welsh audience].
9) Gower, Jon cited by Andrews, Robert (Thu 24 Sep, 1998), 'Interview: Culture Vulture Feeds on Wales,' in the
'Llanelli Star. Swansea: South!West Wales Publications. p34 [Jon Gower is a television and radio presenter, writer
and Welsh!culture commentator].
10) Greenrow, Adam (15 Oct, 1998), 'Re; Why uk*?' Post to soc.culture.welsh and uk.net.news.config.
11) Gracey, B.P. (15 Oct, 1998), 'Re; Why uk"?' Post to soc.culture.welsh, uk.net.news.config, soc.culture.scottish and
scot.general.
12) Schwartz, Evan (1997), 'Webonomics.' Penguin,
and Kelly, Kevin (Sep 1997), 'New Rules for the New Economy' in Wired 5.09.' San Francisco: Wired Magazine
Group.p142.
13) Heim, Michael (1993), 'The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality.' New York: Oxford University Press. p137.
Cited in Bromberg, Heather (1996), 'Are MUDs Communities? Identity, Belonging and Consciousness in Virtual
Worlds,'
in Shields, Rob (ed, 1996), 'Cultures of Internet.'London: Sage. p145.
14) Thomas, Dyfrig cited by Andrews, Robert (Thu 3 Sep, 1998), 'Internet: Dyfrig spreads the Welsh word on the
Internet' in the 'Llanelli Star.' Swansea: South!West Wales Publications, p34 [Dyfrig Thomas is the owner of Welsh
cultural chain Siop y Werin, senior member of the National Eisteddfod 2000 steering committee, and a regular
contributor to soc.culture.welsh].
SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM, MEDIA AND CULTURAL STUDIES

BA COURSEWORK ASSESSMENT

Module title: Global Communications

Semester and academic session: Autumn 1998!99

Student's name: ^.^l. .^ W^^.

Essay question no.: m& ^0^ WlTV( ^&

Comments:

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Second marker's comments (if applicable):

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MC3212 GLOBAL COMMUNICATiq)MS ROBERT ANDREWS

ffOBL Y NET: WELSH NATIONAL IDENTITY AND GLQBAL NEW!MEDIA
I I'' if' l_<.0""^»^*>»t!l'}!i

CULTURE!CREATING NATIONAL MEDIA vs CULTURE!IGNORANT ELECTRONIC MEDIA

INTRODUCTION
• Media outlets which are claimed to promote national identity are undergoing change...
• Discuss the media transformations.
• Fragmentation, Narrowcasting, Personalisation, Interaction, Audience power, ^iwar.an.vu
communities independent of physical distance created both by international content!trade economics
and online interaction, Explosion of channels.
• Negroponte's 'Daily Me.' The future will not be 500 channels, but one channel ! your channel.'
• Because the media which are claimed to promote Welsh nationhood are being drowned and
rejected, there is a re!think of Welsh 'national identity.'
• This essay examines how how Welsh national identity is produced or represented in the context of
old!media, the ways in which it and communities are undergoing transition, and, particularly, how it is
played out in global new!media like the Internet.

WHAT IS WELSH 'NATIONAL IDENTITY'?
A MEDIA CONSTRUCT?
HISTORICAL AND NATURAL SENSE?
• Discuss argument that nations are constructed, imagined communities. In a sense, perhaps they
realty are imagined ! a Welsh individual cannot know every other citizen of Wales, certainly not welt
enough to prove that they collectively form a community with so many things in common.
• So, individuals base their alleged belonging to a common body on the representations and
exaggerations of the existing culture.
• Notion of national community is strongly linked to geography. So perhaps it's no coincidence that,
while the scope of broadcasters and the press has been limited by production constraints like
available spectrum or delivery targets, the claimed national bonds exist along much the same
boundaries which define media scope.
• Does nationhood come about because of scheduling and simultaneous viewing, rather than the
content of programming in media? Scheduling affects the time we do things, which is quite
demanding. So... with the new empowerment, with scheduling disappearing, the sense of national
kinship disappears.
• But, disagree with James Donald [and Benedict Anderson?] that media produce nation ! too
simplistic...
• Idea of nations constructed by media as imagined communities ctoes not address the historical
context of from where the national media themselves came from ! the media come into existence to
serve already!existing cultures. Welsh language was not constructed by S4C, but S4C will use it.
• However, the common bond shared by individuals within a nation is aided by certain signs, such as
flags and other symbols, which are only subsequently rallied behind by those individuals.
• Address Demos claim: "satellite and digital will be the death knell for nations."

CHANGES
ETC
• Etc.

SEE LAST POST ON CULTURAL!CONTEXT ! I THINK THIS CAN BE APPLIED.

Draft'1 .wps
GOALS

Introduction

What is Welsh national identity?

How does the media construct it or not?
Bemal reaffirmations.
Impossible to be acquainted with everyone in the community.
Difference between geography! and interest!based community.
Boundaries of nationality are boundaries of broadcasting constraints.
'Simultaneous happening' is now global, as McLuhan says.

Address problems with this argument.
Does not address historical context of nation production.
Discounts 'always already given' sense.
S4C did not invent the Welsh language.

Changes in media, especially in opposition to above.
Turn away from community the result of twentieth!century society?
Migration to online community as flocking back to commonality? Versus fragmentation? Rheingold.
Electronic media are the eptiome of postmodern geographies? Morely, relate to McLuhan.

Internet, only truly global medium.
Content and population is global.
Plus, many!to!many, which means opportunity for community interaction.
Value of a network.
Not imagined communities but realised communities.
Give examples of types of community.
Interest!based community, rather than geographically!determined.
Go on to talk about Welsh electronic communities and the like, after principles.
Internet has the destruction of geography at its heart, defining principle.
So, even if culture is determined from history! and geography!based factors, what happens when there is
no geography to rely on?
Communities of common interest may divide groups which are united in the nation.
Welsh language declines in English!swamped medium?