File spoon-archives/aut-op-sy.archive/aut-op-sy_1997/aut-op-sy.9704, message 96


Date: Tue, 13 May 1997 18:00:36 +0100
Subject: Technocratic Dreamtime in Malaysia: Cyber-Colonialism


Folks,

I'd be tempted to characterise Malaysia as a 'semi-feudal and
cyber-imperialist' land after reading a little of the plans for
hi-technology capitalism and the future in Kuala Lumpur earlier this
year. PM Mahathir is now planning another overseas jaunt (late May) to
seek support for his schemes. I've included here the first four or five
paragraphs of a 5000+ word text on his plan. Anyone who wants the whole
thing should email me and I can send it (rather than clutter people's
boxes with this draft - its 74kb). I'd welcome any comments to help me
with the rewrite...

John
Manchester

******************************************************

*Technocratic Dreamtime in Malaysia: Cyber-Colonialism*

by John Hutnyk
(Social Anthropology, University of Manchester)

Technopolis, Science Park, Technology City. If you haven't had any
contact with the myriad carbuncle growths that have begun to fester
alongside urban living spaces and so many universities world-wide, and
Malaysia seems far away, maybe now is the time to be concerned about
hi-tech imperialism, compradore elites and dodgy overseas partnerships.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad is travelling to the UK to
sell the future, and in Kuala Lumpur a very close future it seems to be.
Indeed, the ‘Multimedia Super Corridor™’ is only a construction contract
away. Mahathir is visiting London to drum up support and meet the newly
elected visionaries at number 10. It might be worth considering some
background…

It has always been an international project. In January of this year a
cabal of the ‘great minds’ (New Straits Times 18.1.1997) met with Prime
Minister Mahathir in a specially convened ‘Advisory Panel’ in Los
Angeles, USA, to flesh out the flashy proposals that may transform Kuala
Lumpur’s skyline, and construction industry cash flows, once again. The
great minds included CEOs and Directors of multinational corporations
such as Seimens, Netscape, Motorola, Sony, Compaq, Sun, IBM and more.
The Chancellor’s Professor of UCLA was there, and Bill Gates was invited
(though couldn’t make it in the end). The discussion no doubt was
convivial.

What was under consideration at this talk fest for which the PM and his
offsiders had come to LA, was an integrated hi-tech development project
designed to make Kuala Lumpur and surrounds - a fifteen by fifty
kilometre zone south from the city - the information hub of South East
Asia. Trumpet headlines announced the future in the Times, the Star and
the Sun. PM’s speeches and supporting echoes from Ministers announced
that the MSC project would ‘harmonise our entire country with the global
forces shaping the information age’ (PM Mahathir’s speech in LA
14.1.1997 - from the specially set up web page to advertise the project
- http://www.mdc.com.my/). Such harmonisation with the orchestration of
the multinational info-corps makes for singing praises in the press. The
headlines scream: ‘Global Bridge to the Information Age’, ‘MSC immensely
powerful, unique’ and ‘PM’s Visit to US Triggers Excitement’. Big dreams
indeed.

But what exactly is to be in this Multimedia Super Corridor, and what
are the serious prospects for its success, and by what criteria should
it be assessed? The promotional material, as can be expected, does not
spare the hype:

‘Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) is a bold initiative ­ a
regional launch site for companies developing or using leading
multimedia technologies. Aiming to revolutionise how the world does
business, the MSC will unlock multimedia's full potential by integrating
ground-breaking cyberlaws and outstanding information infrastructure in
an attractive physical environment.’ (Webpage)

The key parts of the proposal include a series of research and
development ‘clusters’, basically science labs and info-technology
factories, located near a new airport and a ‘cyber-city’ including state
of the art condos, shopping complexes and transportation facilities, in
a secure (everyone must carry an electronic ‘National Multipurpose
identity Card) and ‘attractive’ garden city. Telemedicine, Electronic
Government, full internet connectivity, and specified regulatory implant
cybernetic personalities are also touted. All this overseen by the twin
Advisory bodies of the Multimedia Development Corporation - they put up
the web site - and the Advisory Panel of the ‘great minds’.

[.....the subsequent paragraphs consider the likely impacts, the
politics of such tekno dreamscapes, the role of r&D in capitalist
development, a connsideration of Castells and Hall's book on technopoles
(a largely pro sci-parks screed from them!?) and some scattered thoughts
on the reasons why such hi-tek development is suited or not to
semi-fuedal-cyber-imperialist countries like Malaysia... email me to get
the entire text, but its a draft yeh, comments very welcome...JH]

********************************************
John Hutnyk
John.Hutnyk-AT-man.ac.uk
http://les.man.ac.uk/~msrdsjh/index.htm
mail: Dept Social Anthropology
University of Manchester
M13 9PL, UK
tel: +44 (0)161 248 8967



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