Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Internet vs. The State

"The ideology of communicational 'transparency,' which goes hand in hand with the commercialization of knowledge, will begin to perceive the State as a factor of opacity and 'noise.'" - Lyotard

Professor Mark Tribe made an interesting observation in a class I took with him last semester - in discussing the history of the development of the internet, he noted that the creators of the fundamentals of internet protocol, which emerged in the 1960s and 70s, lived in the Silicon Valley/San Fransisco area of California. They were hippies. Their opposition to allowing government control or censorship of the free flow of information was evident in the basic functioning of their coding, which has manifested itself on the highest levels of how the internet operates and effects modern society. Beyond the confrontation between State power and economic flows that Lyotard discusses, the flow of information has already had a powerful impact on the ability of the State to regulate what its citizens hear, say, and believe, and - based on the precedent of how economic integration and globalization has undermined State authority historically - it portends to have an even more massive influence on the future. Informational integration and globalization, perhaps aided by the paralogical language Lily predicts below, has the potential to dissolve the State even further. Yet I think Lyotard's response to this is lacking - his construction of networked knowledge as a commodity, in my opinion, is undermined by the Web 2.0 revolution. User-generated content produces knowledge freely, and that content is consumed freely (with the exception of SecondLife). This development could have an even more decisive effect on State legitimacy, as its production is even less susceptible to regulation and control (see the speed with which the execution of Saddam Hussein was posted on the internet, despite the U.S.'s efforts to keep it invisible) than the bits of information Lyotard discusses.

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