Monday, October 1, 2012

Utopia and Dystopia, Homogeneity and Heterogeneity

Last week, I was intrigued by Thrift’s argument that networks and calculated worlds might create new forms of “human” rather than simply ever-increasing alienation. To me, this was a needed rebuttal the interpretation of the information revolution as simply a destructive force or homogenizing phenomenon (Terranova, 2). With that in mind, Terranova's opening shot in the introduction caught my eye: “I do not believe that such informational dynamics simply expresses the coming hegemony of the “immaterial” over the material. On the contrary, I believe that if there is an acceleration of history and an annihilation of distances within an informational milieu, it is a creative destruction, that is a productive movement that releases (rather than simply inhibits) social potentials for information” (2).

I found this passage well illustrated by her discussion of globalization and the mapping of the Internet in Chapter 2: “If a structural domination of the space of flows (the global) over that of places (the local) exists… it is one that does not deny the fluidity of places as such, their constitution of local reservoirs endowed with a productive capacity for difference” (49). This statement about the dual forces of homogeneity and heterogeneity was complimented by her description of the mapping of the Internet. Yes, Terranova says, there are the large continents that revolve around major corporate websites, but there are also smaller archipelagoes that operate more on their own terms.

I’m interested in further exploring this concept of the Internet as simultaneously local and global, subversive and homogenizing. How is it all of these things at once? Is it some more than others, and if so, why? I’m also trying to understand the political qualities of the Internet in relation to the idea of the Internet as a grid, which Terranova describes as simultaneously “both dystopian and utopian” (46). What are the similarities between the spatial and political aspects of the Internet?

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