I have been heads down writing my thesis, thus my absence from the blogosphere lately. As part of my work, I wrote the following piece, which explores a bit more deeply the Baudrillard post I put up a couple of months ago. The article has been posted at the New Communications Review here, but I have pasted it below for you as well. I look forward to your comments, as always.
Characteristics of Authentic Online Participants
We must be cautious of the utopianism that can be found around the emerging global network, exemplified by statements such as John Perry Barlow's "Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace,":
"We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one,
so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty
itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building
to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us.
You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of
enforcement we have true reason to fear."
While it is seductive to think that distributed, many-to-many, loosely coupled web connections foreground a new political power to the people, it is certainly not that simple or straightforward. The dualism of command/control vs. distributed communications frameworks conceals the fact that both play the same game, just in a different way. Crucially, in both schemas, technology is used as a means to an end: power. Either in terms of concentration in the hands of a few (e.g., media conglomerates) or via collectivities of individuals that form around certain themes, the goal of both of these is to control the message -- or to put it another way, to seek to make someone take action against their will -- Weber's classic description of power. If we are really seeking alternatives to this type of politics of power, we must look outside this dualism. Or rather, look more closely at what is actually happening online and see if it does not present something different to us – a framework for authentic communications. To get there, we have to ask some questions. I'd like to focus on one here: What would the characteristics of the participants in this alternative framework have?