This article is an analysis of the Mexican Bicentennial as presented on the web. Specifically, I look into the use of virtual social networking as a portal into national history, and the virtual images and other web presentations of the controversial and ultimately abandoned Torre Bicentenario project of the D.F. as revealing the gaps that divide global and local perspectives. In both cases, theweb represents Mexican history and development in ways that are expressive of post-national rhetorics of attention. In his book, The Economics of Attention: Style and Substance in the Age of Information (2006), Richard Lanham explains that the shift to an information economy has contributed to a shift in representation from “thing” to thought. In other words, echoing Alan Greenspan’scharacterization of the economy as increasingly rooted in ideas rather than “physical effort” (1996), Lanham contributes to a critical discourse associated with global economics which substitutes industrial-age things with weightless commodities such as services, lifestyles, thought, concepts and ideas. A comparative look at the Mexican Centennial celebrations of 1910 and the current Mexican Bicentennialcelebrations as presented on the web reveals a similar pattern. While the Centennial of 1910 marked the end of the Porfirian era of construction and industrial development, the Bicentennial as interpreted and transmitted through digital media allows us to consider the impact of weightlessness on ideological views of the nation that have traditionally been anchored in material things.
Anticipatingthe celebration: then and now
Between the years of 1907 and 1909, more than forty books were published in anticipation of the centennial celebrations of Argentina, Mexico, Ecuador and Bolivia. In Mexico specifically, newspaper coverage of the construction processes leading up to the inauguration of the great late 19th/early 20th-century national monuments such as the Ángel de laIndependencia (inaugurated in September in 1910) was prolific. One hundred years later, despite that the majority of the official Bicentennial festivities have not yet begun in Latin America, conference events, meetings, historic city tours, art expos and scholarly publications related to the much-anticipated events have started to appear. Notwithstanding the criticism that Mexican historian EnriqueKrauze directed toward UNAM professor Alicia Mayer’s 2007 anthology on the Mexican Bicentennial, in which he maintains that it would be “preferable to celebrate 2010 in 2010,” the appearance of anticipatory literature with respect to large-scale national celebrations of this type is not new. (“La UNAM”)
Even given the existence of this anticipatory literature a hundred years ago, however,it is the internet that has most profoundly affected the ways in which we anticipate, access and experience this type of event. The official commemorative websites of the Bicentennial offer a plethora of historic materials in digital format, host web forums and link visitors to current news and events related to the celebrations. In this context, far from prejudging the festivities in a way thatlimits their discursive potential, the reflections on the Bicentennial that have appeared in anticipation of the official commencement highlight a fundamental change in the way that we experience the trans/national event in the global era. Simply put, there has been a subtle shift in focus from thing to thought—a transition that becomes particularly ripe for analysis when applied to physical,material, in situ events such as the national commemoration. Building upon the argument proposed by Herbert Simon, Michael Goldhaber, and (more relevant to this study) Richard Lanham, in which the digital era entails a fundamental shift from a thing-oriented to an “attention economy,” I propose here that investigating the Mexican Bicentennial as a web phenomenon both illuminates approaches to the...
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