Over the reading week, I had the pleasure of travelling to Ixtapa, Mexico. Although my journey from Canada to Mexico relied on the overlapping of various transportation networks, I am interested in the ways in which my resort functioned as a network of its own.
The Azul Ixtapa Grand is an all inclusive island resort in Ixtapa Mexico. Upon arrival, each guest is ‘marked’ with a colored bracelet that signals their belonging to a specific resort, as well as their level of access within the defined networked space. The resort network functions similarly to Manuel Castell’s conception of ‘Networked Power,’ through the ways in which both the actors and the organization (Azul Grand) define who belongs in the network, and their place/powers within it. Each guest (actor) within the resort (network), was easily identifiable based on the color of their wrist band.
For example, international actors were given a bright orange wrist band. Children twelve and under were required to wear a green bracelet, and the Mexican residents within the resort were given bright yellow wrist bands. The staff members were also marked into distinct categories by uniforms belonging to distinct sector of employment within the resort. Although each actor had an individual identity and role within the network, Latour remind us of the contingent relationships between a network and its various parts.
It was easy to identify actors that didn’t belong within the network, as residents from the neighbouring resort were given blue wristbands. The networks identification system brings both affordances and limitations to its users, as they create access for some places, while denying access in others (such as the beautiful Club Med resort next door!).
This system of identification creates a power-freedom binary similar to those found within Benkler’s article, Networks of Power Degrees of Freedom. Guests enter into a contract with the resort, in which they are made to feel autonomous, when in fact they are under the complete control of the network. An actors threshold of both power and freedom depend on their resources (money), and position (level of guest vs. employee) in the network.
Similar to Gillespie’s discussion of platforms (YouTube), the resort acts as a platform in the ways in which it provides unique opportunities and experiences for its guests. My time at the resort afforded me the opportunity to shoot a riffle, bike through the mountains, kayak in the Pacific Ocean, and feed a crocodile, all things I couldn’t have done without the support of the resort.
However, my involvement within this network brought its own limitations. The resort, as an all encompassing network, is a glamorized version of the country in which I lived for the week. Due to the ways in which the network catered to the needs of the tourist, certain actors (the international traveler), was excluded from the real Mexican cultural network operating beyond the walls of the resort. This experience relates to the ways in which Latour problematizes the visualization of networks, as the resort and its amenities offered a limited, often inadequate sample of Mexican culture, that is in fact operating within, and often counter to larger cultural and economic network of the Ixtapan locals.