This article examines how contemporary media art and popular culture, vernacular cultural practices, and digital technologies express and actualize aspirations for global mobility. This task is propelled by the need to question the limited scope of how we envision globalization. Here I explore how people use forms of visual media to “perform the global” through mediated experiences of mobility. I propose the concept of “virtual cosmopolitans” to describe those who participate in the experience of global citizenship through their use of photography, film, and digital media. Although they do not have access to conventional forms of cosmopolitan mobility, these virtual cosmopolitans find ways to envision or simulate cosmopolitan experiences by inserting themselves into the global imaginary via mediated networks of images. This article discusses how these virtual cosmopolitans participate in the discourse and experience of globalization, and considers ways to manifest and actualize cosmopolitan desires through vernacular forms of media. I focus on two documentary films that engage with the photographic medium to consider diverse forms of mediated mobility: Born into Brothels (Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski, 2004) and City of Photos (Nishtha Jain, 2005). Although both films illustrate how disadvantaged subjects in contemporary Indian society negotiate their desires of mobility, they propose different ways to assert their identity as a cosmopolitan, deploying varying levels of imagination. This discussion illustrates how marginalized subjects engage with global forces in local spaces by cultivating media literacy and demonstrating creative uses of visual media.
Chung, Hye Jean.
"Performing the Global: The Mediated Mobility of Virtual Cosmopolitans."
CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture
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