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Internet freedom and Digital Revolution? Grow up.

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Andrew Keen | 10:13 UK time, Monday, 17 August 2009

(Andrew Keen is an acclaimed author, commentator and speaker. Previously a pioneering internet entrepreneur, he is reknowned for his challenging critiques of Web 2.0, social media and modern internet culture. The following post is published with kind permission and represents Andrew's views; this does not necessarily reflect the views of the BBC or the Digital Revolution production.)

Developed by childish grown-ups for grown-up children, the Internet has encouraged a lot of child-like nonsense from the BBC Digital Revolution team about the withering away of power and of the state. That eternal adolescent, Bill Thompson, is so excited about the Internet's potential to revolutionize our political species-being, he says, supposedly seriously, that it "counts as one of the most important things we've managed to do as a species." While the irony is actually on an equally straightfaced Aleks Krotoski when she incorrectly argues that 'it's ironic that Internet technology was devised and developed to protect the state, but is now being used to dismantle it.'

What childish nonsense from the kids manning the ideological barricades of the digital revolution. Firstly, as Fred Turner shows so brilliantly in his seminal From Counterculture to Cyberculture, Internet technology was "devised" and 'developed' in the Sixties by a curious alliance of the American Cold War military-industrial 'state' and by libertarian west coast hippies represented by counter-cultural merry pranksters like 'Whole Earth Catalog' founder Stewart Brand. Think of the Internet like an ideological map of California - impossibly incorporating both the Reaganite south and its apparent antithesis, the left-liberal north.

So, like a supposedly innocent child, the Internet is actually more complicated that it first appears. It is simultaneously authoritarian and anti-authoritarian, both a representative of traditional state power and resistance to that power, both a representative of the dominant establishment and a revolutionary challenge to it, simultaneously elitist and anti-elitist. What Turner reveals is the origins of the same post-industrial cultural phenomenon identified by critics like Daniel Bell in the Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism and by Robert Frank in The Conquest of Cool.

In a media saturated culture which increasingly fetishizes the nonconformity and innocence of the child, power is resistance, authority is questioning authority, the state is against the state, the new brand is the anti brand, political activism (to quote the Open Society Institute's Evgeny Morozov) is the 'slactivism' of the social network. The Internet has, therefore, become both a medium for strengthening this new ideology of capitalism and commercial platform for selling its products and ideas. The weaker the formal state becomes, the more we question the authority of the police, the judiciary, the traditional political parties and ideological configurations, the more we build up the Internet as an anti-authoritarian source of authority.

And thus, in the West, the state is slowly but surely being replaced by the Internet, an abstractly distributed version of our old certainties about power and authority.

And now, too, in America, the Internet generation, those merry pranksters led by a BlackBerry addicted President brought to power on the back of the distributed crowd who claims to be 'beyond' ideology, have actually come to 'power'. Therein lies the ideologically seductive nature of the Internet in a West which simultaneously wants to celebrate and undermine itself (the celebration perhaps becoming the undermining). It supposed absence of confirms what we think we already know - that power lies in the dismantlement, that the revolution (finally) has arrived. And it's us, the great dismantlers.

Meanwhile, of course, nothing has actually changed. In America, financial, political and military power still resides in the same elites. They've simply learnt the new populist language of dismantlement. Take Obama, for example, whose brand epitomizes how power itself in the west has become a slick marketing concept. He came to power on the back of the distributed crowd, that supposedly wise thing created by the Internet to smash the incompetent old elites. But what does he do when he finally inherits power from the old regime? He appoints those very elites, the Ivy League educated meritocracy, that he was supposed to replace.

Outside the West, of course, the story is quite the opposite. Here the childishly libertarian argument about the Internet weakening the state is beyond irony - it's hideously wrong and BBC digital revolutionaries should be ashamed of themselves for perpetrating such self-evident rubbish. In China, Russia and Iran, the Internet has become a disturbingly effective set of technological tools for maintaining the power of the old elites. In Russia, for example, Putin's cronies just financed an online witch hunt against a single Georgian activist which was so effective that it brought down not only Twitter, but also Facebook. In Iran, the increasingly powerful regime now sponsors religious workshops in the holy city of Qom which offer courses for seminarians in how to blog about the Iranian revolution. In China, the regime pays 'distributed citizens' to 'engage in conversation' with dissidents on the Internet. Crowd-sourcing, hacking, blogging then, are all turned on their heads. Now they are chillingly effective tools to destroy political democracy, intellectual dissent and individual freedom.

Out of that unholy marriage of the American military industrial complex and its supposed antithesis, the hippy counterculture, we in the West have freely (an alternate definition of Chris Anderson's fetishization of FREE) given authoritarian regimes a series of technology tools (ie: the Internet) to maintain themselves in power. The only thing that the web has really dismantled is the childish dream of the end of history. The Internet is too serious a thing to left to revolutionary kids like Bill Thompson and Aleks Krotoski.


  • Comment number 1.

    That was pretty much the dictionary definition of a diatribe, and pretty much completely misses the point. Yes, plenty wax lyrical and spout hyperbole about the power of the Internet, and it itself isn't some world-changing entity. What it does, however, is allow people to communicate effortlessly—and, given sufficient need—anonymously and secretly, wherever on our globe they might reside.

    It’s certainly true that there’s a lot of state-sponsored stuff going on across the Internet, some of it good, some of it bad, and plenty of it just plain bureaucratic, but the point isn't what the Internet has “done”, but what it can make possible, and what it is—very gradually—making possible. A lot of it is rubbish. Facebook groups in protest at the price of milk in your local co-op are the thin end of the wedge. The potential of a global and global telecommunications system is enormous.

    Our intelligence agencies know this. They largely bank on most people neither knowing of the possibilities, nor needing to care, but they know it all the same. That’s why they’re terrified of what determined and technically-savvy terrorists could do: it's not about bringing down big chunks of the Internet (though the economic effects of this would naturally be not insignificant, traditional explosives are an easier means to be destructive in this regard); rather, it’s a matter of what the Bad Guys™ can do if able to communicate freely, unchecked, and without regard to physical location.

    This is a tool, and without resorting to rhetoric, the tool is in the technology and concepts, not the entity. As much as state-sponsored organisations make the entity possible, the technology is in public hands and inherently relocatable if necessary.

  • Comment number 2.

    It's good to see Andrew Keen getting out and about among the blogosphere. I especially enjoyed this comment he made on the Intelligent Life website...

    "The internet is the devil... Ask yourselves,why do we even need computers? You don't because it's too easy to just click on a machine and give your power over to it... No doubt the techno weened generation will take offense at my observation as they have no personal reference to life before home computers.

    Computers and the internet is a drug. A system designed to find out what's on your mind and to make it dull. It is also designed to mimic the ethers..."

    Well, it certainly sounds like him...

  • Comment number 3.

    Here's a reply from one of the Digital Revolution 'children'...

    Beyond the typically robust and entertaining rhetoric, Andrew Keen's key point here seesm to be that the internet changes nothing; that we are foolishly naïve to think technology can have a progressive effect in withering the nation state.

    But, just to be clear, Digital Revolution is no cheerleader for the internet. Our aim is to make four hours of television weighing up the net's complex impact. So just as it would be simplistic for us to claim the net changes everything, wouldn't it be as simplistic and misguided to say it has changed nothing? Iran and Twitter? Gaza? The Kenyan elections? The murky reality that the Digital Revolution project seeks to explore is that of a struggle for power as nation states grapple with a technology that connects millions and can harness attention, globally, instantly.

    This is where, as the series producer, I'd like to invite users and readers of this blog to really help us. Is Andrew Keen right? Or what, in your view or from your own experience, are the best examples of how the internet has impacted on the power of the state?

  • Comment number 4.

    The consistent theme within Andrew's piece that stikes me as the most old fashioned is this belief that The Internet is A Thing or An Institution. It might have been once - when only institutions effectively had a two-way (i.e. upload and download) access to it. But now that everyone can use it it has become a process - a point I have already illustrated here https://richardstacy.com/2009/06/05/andrew-keens-head-and-the-shift-from-institutions-to-processes/ - coincidentally enough using the contents of Andrew's head as a means of illustration.

    It is therefore not The Internet that will, or will not change society. In fact to call it a Digital Revolution is to miss the point. The Internet has been with us for 20 years, afterall. The revolution is being created through the processes inherent in social media. This is the new thing. See https://richardstacy.com/what-is-social-media/ for a short definition or this https://richardstacy.com/2008/11/20/gutenberg-and-the-social-media-revolution-an-investigation-of-the-world-where-it-costs-nothing-to-distribute-information/ for a really long definition.

  • Comment number 5.

    The internet has impacted upon every social, economic and legal function of society, business and government. Even if it is merely ease of access to information, an impact has been observed. As such, the nation state has certainly altered, but state power hasn't necessarily increased or decreased in relation to the individual. It has just changed. If a power balance had shifted, severe anarchy or severe control would have emerged. But it hasn't; people respect boundaries and there is limited power online due to limited control.

    I have previously argued that the user experiences perceived control differentials, but it is important to remind ourselves that the internet is merely another facet of communication which may - or may not - give the individual a megaphone. All revolutions eventually plateau into what is in reality a slow societal shift.

    However - two points to note. Firstly, the internet (or rather how users experience the internet) is a pretty westernised entity. State power may diminish where information is not 'free'. Secondly, it is arguable that these areas which are being explored are *internet* rather than the web. The web may be only a passing phase as we all learn to interact differently. For instance, I cannot remember the last time I used the twitter web interface; I, like many, use a tertiary application which connects to the twitter database via an API.

  • Comment number 6.

    @richardstacy - you raise some interesting points; if only you had a blog where I could find out more... :D (Sorry, couldn't resist).

    'Fortunately for Andrew [Keen], we don’t asses the value of his head according to an assessment of the worth of the individual pieces of information stored on his mental shelves. Rather we judge him according to how he connects this information to produce intelligence – we judge his head as a process.' (from Richardstacy.com)

    You make a good point both here and there about the tendency of many of us to consider the internet as something into which we may stick a pin and place under glass; a many splendid and colourful butterfly it may appear in snapshot, but really it is the beating of the butterfly's wings that is the true phenomenon (and all the chaos and theory that may provide).

    The internet; the web; these are the terms - the definite articles imply they are things rather than ongoing processes. And as such there is a real temptation to consider them as such - almost anthropomorphise them as living, thinking things - a Robin Hood; a scourge of nations...

    I suppose, inescapably, a documentary series will have to take chloroform to the subject and pin it beneath the glass of the television (or iPlayer) to make its presentation; but this is why we have made the process open to all who wish to join in - to gain as much information as possible to tell as true a tale as possible of the web at this moment - 20 years old - and very much a major force in our lives.

    The other beauty of this open and online process is that, being online, we will be able to present more than the pinned insect; there will be an interactive version of the documentary released for users to immerse themselves in the full research and discussion as they watch - opportunities to explore the wider, still active, still emerging content around the linear documentary's chapters and to interrogate source and surrounding information, including that information which users provided, linked to and shared during the open production process.

    We - and I include all who interact and share here - are in the process of creating something quite unique here. Hopefully the result won't seem too childish.

  • Comment number 7.

    @cyberissues A final paragraph of some weight!

    the internet (or rather how users experience the internet) is a pretty westernised entity.
    Very much a topic we're keen to explore. The subject of the use of english in code has come up on several occasions now, and how this may be perceived in cultures forced to adopt this language standard in order to interact with the technology. Can the spread of the web be considered a form of soft imperialism in its Western message? An imperialsm other cultures have every right to want to manage, contain or even repel?

    State power may diminish where information is not 'free'.
    Please clarify. Is this in the sense of the open government 'free' data? Or in a sense of state censorship / control? (Maybe these are the same...?)

    The web may be only a passing phase as we all learn to interact differently. For instance, I cannot remember the last time I used the twitter web interface; I, like many, use a tertiary application which connects to the twitter database via an API
    Very interesting indeed. I used to work on the BBC Food website many moons ago, and that has gradually been moving from being a food magazine online to seeing its central asset as the recipes database (of course!), which now has been made central and very much more like an application or tool.

    I wonder if we'll ever open up that API for third party applications. Unlikely in short term due to rights issues, but maybe a possible future iterations, if your prediction of the next phase of the internet is on the money...

  • Comment number 8.

    @nevali This is a tool, and without resorting to rhetoric, the tool is in the technology and concepts, not the entity. As much as state-sponsored organisations make the entity possible, the technology is in public hands and inherently relocatable if necessary.

    I'd tend to agree with that. As I've hopefully been saying before, it's easy to blur, idealise, demonise the internet / web in the process of considering it.

    I also agree with that 'inherently relocatable' aspect you describe. It reminds me of the Streisand Effect and John Gilmore's observation that 'the internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.'

  • Comment number 9.

    The internet as a western entity? People forced to use English in code?

    It's only westerners who believe that the internet is a western entity. In Asia it's part of the fabric of many people's lives, and anyone who's familiar with the Japanese mobile model would laugh at the idea that the west is leading or being culturally dominant.

    I teach English in Taiwan, a country that has a completely different approach to language both written and oral. Example: the most popular blogging platform is https://www.wretch.cc but if you ask people if they're on "wretch" they look at you blankly. The site has a Chinese name, and the URL has no meaning. It's equivalent to a Chinese ideogram, and has no inherent meaning to anybody. It's just a combination of keys you press to get to where you want. Similarly, the English in code is just squiggles, computer ideograms that represent instructions in Chinese. If you find that hard to understand, please realise that Chinese people process language in different parts of the brain from western people and something that sounds weird to you makes perfect sense to them.

    The fact that most computer code looks a bit like English doesn't matter a bit. I have students who can't string together a sentence but are fully capable of everything that London-based programmers are capable of. (There are issues with the education system that limit creativity, but not technical ability.)

    When I arrived here in 2002 you couldn't get dial-up access, everyone was already on ADSL. Consider the BBC article about a super-typhoon in Taiwan last year in which the author stated that there was no way to get weather information. He completely missed the 3G phone networks covering the island, and the wireless hotspots at all of the 5,000 7-11 stores. You can walk into any convenience store during a typhoon (they usually stay open) and look at the weather graphics on the display on the till, but your reporter failed to spot that. I'm not blowing Taiwan's trumpet, merely illustrating the point that the observer's pre-conceptions affected his understanding of the situation.

    Online gaming is huge in Asia, and many people spend the entire weekend in gaming lounges socialising in real life and online simultaneously. I don't see their language skills holding them back. Do lack of language skills prevent people circumventing the great firewall of China? Understanding the net architecture is one thing, but needing to speak English to do that is another and far less important.

    One interesting angle to pursue is the fact that people do have profoundly different expectations of how things should function. Taiwanese websites are ugly and dripping with googaws and baubles, at least by my standards. And navigating round them is a nightmare. But that's all down to differences in the way people process information. As someone else said, products need to be tailored to different cultures. The inability of western organisations to respect the fact that other people do things differently is no loss to Asia. It's a loss for companies wishing to do business here but failing. Most of the action is in Asia, but western companies don't notice that because they're busy pitying the poor foreigners who don't speak English.

    The BBC's Cindy Sui seems pretty bright. Maybe you could ask her to do a piece for your series on this?

  • Comment number 10.

    The Internet is changing how the electoral political game is played:

    It spreads news much faster and wider than before:

    It can also spread rumour and disinformation:

    It can help mobilise support for a cause, even of those opposed to ‘us’:

    So far the Web hasn’t solely been responsible for a regime change and it probably couldn’t be; any such event in the future would simply reflect a sea-change in public opinion.
    After all the velvet revolution (and many others) in Czechoslovakia happened without the Internet.

    But “have a progressive effect in withering the nation state”?

    I’m not sure I remember the debate that agreed it is desirable for nation states to wither away - and in favour of what?
    A world government? Warring communities of those separated by religion, politics, ethnicity etc? (It could be argued that Al Qaeda is leading the way here.) Peace, love and the Age of Aquarius?

    A vast amount of the Web is hidden away from ‘us’ in non-English languages. How much do we know of what they type about? They may even see the Web as a means of strengthening nationalism, religious hegemony or nation states.

    Technology might change, but human nature doesn’t seem to want to.

    TaiwanChallenges makes an excellent point that ‘we’ in the West see the Internet through ‘western’ eyes; the viewpoint from India, Korea, Japan, Taiwan or China now, or in 10 or 20 years time could be radically different.
    It may be ‘our’ western influence (and assumptions of cultural and technological superiority) they want to see wither away, not the nation state.

  • Comment number 11.

    Dan - I would very much hope that you don't have to pin the insect. Perhaps you should take some lessons from your friends in the BBC's natural history department. They don't have to kill the animals they make the subject of their documentaries!

  • Comment number 12.

    @Dan Biddle:

    "I also agree with that 'inherently relocatable' aspect you describe. It reminds me of the Streisand Effect and John Gilmore's observation that 'the internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.'"

    That’s pretty accurate, although not necessarily in the way that lots of people think it does. Although it's true that IP itself, given sufficient redundancy, can route around actual network problems, it’s not the case that the Internet is magically resilient to oppression. However, the technology is well-enough understood and in public hands that it can be implemented with little coordination outside of the context of the current Internet and its administrative bodies (e.g., ICANN, and its IANA function). This means that, if several disparate groups got together and created their own IP networks, they could connect them together in much the same way that ISPs peer with one another now, and much the same way as IP networks were connected together in the modern Internet’s early days.

    Similarly, the flexibility in protocols means that in order to prevent somebody determined and knowledgeable from transporting some content across the Internet, you have go to some significant lengths to ensure they really are prevented from doing it: this is straightforward on a small scale, but on a large scale you run into serious problems in that you also prevent lots of beneficial and legitimate use, too. This is the crux of the problem that western governments have with file-sharing: they can't really prevent it on anything but a temporary basis without imposing either a massive loss of liberty (in which case, we all start using something else), or preventing applications which are notably beneficial to the economy—such as e-commerce—from working at all.

  • Comment number 13.

    @TaiwanChallenges 'It's only westerners who believe that the internet is a western entity. In Asia it's part of the fabric of many people's lives, and anyone who's familiar with the Japanese mobile model would laugh at the idea that the west is leading or being culturally dominant.'

    Great comment - great reality check. We're feeling our way when it comes to the non-western web experience, and so appreciate any pointers provided.

    It's interesting though that we (not just Digital Revolution team, but commenters on the blog too) are dwelling upon this slightly introspective (arguably, then, narcissistic) issue of our language and culture as piggybacking invader via the web.

    So, this is simply not something we should be preoccupied with? The web adapts completely to its surrounds, its host culture? The code is a-cultural, the skin it wears is completely bespoke to the nation / culture it serves. So it begins as Tim Berners-Lee's ideal of a blank piece of paper - whether you fold it, write on it right to left, or fill it to bursting with tiny type and images is in the gift of the creator who knows his/her market...

  • Comment number 14.

    @shefftim - 'So far the Web hasn’t solely been responsible for a regime change Although you might playfully argue otherwise using America as recent example of the internet's power...

    Meeting your other points, you're right, I don't we've described or discussed the withering of the Nation State as a good (or bad) thing - rather as a possibility in the webbed-up world. It's certainly not a concrete theory - but an idea.

    If anything a site such as They Work For You could be pointed to as prime example of the strengthening of the Nation State by empowering an electorate, increasing their engagement with democratic process and holding their officials to account. It doesn't undermine government - it may annoy it - but it also reconnects it with its people.

    So (and I'm just running with an idea here) is there a possible third way - that the web might stand apart from other entities of power, community and influence? The (talked of) division of church and state may find another partner in divorce: Church and State and Internet?

    (Maybe I should lie down...)

  • Comment number 15.

    @nevali Your point is well made - I've made reference to that in the Cuban context in my comment on the next blog post.

  • Comment number 16.

    'The (talked of) division of church and state may find another partner in divorce: Church and State and Internet?'

    A 4th estate for the 21st century? (Particularly if the printed media do become an endangered species.)

    To think aloud: True, innovative use of communications is playing an increasingly important role in electoral politics, as the last US election showed: from ObamaGirl on YouTube, election blogs and the 1000's of comments they attract; the slightest slip-up on local TV becoming an instant national talking point via the web to the use of text messages to remind people to vote etc.

    But once every party has learnt to mine these seams to the full then the playing field becomes level again; and elections still require reasonably competent (I hope) candidates with a message that resonates with national mood, a few issues or policies and so on.
    The Web may also give advantage to those that are most videogenic and can play the media game best. (Think Gordon Brown on YouTube as an example of the opposite.)

    Its also true that the Web could encourage greater scrutiny of our elected representatives; politics and the reporting of it is no longer the sole preserve of the party hack or Fleet Street newshound; but then just because I know everyone has an opinion doesn't mean I want to read them. But would the same be true in China, encouraging greater scrutiny (criticism) of their non-elected representatives?

    Technology may encourage greater participation ('empowering an electorate, increasing their engagement with democratic process and holding their officials to account') - or encourage greater cynicism and apathy; but then it could also be argued that politicians are their own worst enemies (e.g. expenses scandal) and the media (whether old or new technology) is simply the messenger.

    The ease of voting on-line may also encourage the use of referenda more often. (Is this being done in any country?)

    The crunch question in a joined-up world would be: 'Could the Web bring about change in a repressive dictatorship?'
    If we think of Burma, Iran, Zimbabwe or Tibet as examples the answer could well be no; as long as dictators have the support of the troops on the ground (and don't mind international opinion) then they can maintain power.

    Away from the computer screen and on the streets, bullets are more powerful than bullet points.

  • Comment number 17.

    SheffTim, on the button again with this: A vast amount of the Web is hidden away from ‘us’ in non-English languages. How much do we know of what they type about? They may even see the Web as a means of strengthening nationalism, religious hegemony or nation states.

    Chinese nationalism is actively cultivated by the PRC. It's all very well to talk about social media functioning to challenge authority, but how do you think the anti-Japanese protests in China a while back were organised? There are huge tribes around the world using technology to organise themselves around whatever they feel is important. They could be the BNP or Al-quaeda, but they can just as easily be Obama's crowd or the communist party of China. Does anyone know of any churches that have substantial online activities that strengthen their communities? I know you can get your fortune told online, and there are temples in Taiwan offering 'convenient' online blessings, but how about western churches? Can you type your confession into catholicism.com and get downloadable forgiveness?

  • Comment number 18.

    The title shouldn't be "GROW UP." It should be "GET SMARTER."

    The Internet is a means by which to educate and increase global consciousness on major issues challenging human development, advancement and the world like economic equivalence, democracy. climate change etc.

    In Keen's argument, there seems to be some sort of de facto assumption about the very nature of children. That is that they're innocent, don't know what they're doing and are immature and need to "grow up". Actually kids are a lot more nuanced, perceptive and mature in their constructs than they're given credit for. There is everything to commend about anyone capable of retaining CHILD-LIKE wonder, optimism and velocity of synaptic connectivity as well as open tolerance towards others --- all whilst shaping they're their own and others' relationships and identities.

    The real question and challenge for the Internet is not about any sort of "Big Brother" dystopian nonsense so beloved of Netigensia. It is about what BOTTOMS UP tools we can practically develop (because the code exists or we have the imagination, innovation and commitment to realize it) to make the Internet smarter and a TRUE harvester of shared solutions for those global challenges. The top-down tools are already in play via various military and government-related entities so beyond the remit of Joe/Jane Public to control or substantially influence, so it's the BOTTOMS UP ones we need to focus on.

    As for the predominance of Western influences in code itself, I'm multi-lingual. I look at the way in which the Semantic Web frameworks attempt to pictorially represent certain links and knowledge items. See how nowadays on Facebook if you type out a link in your text box, the AJAX will automatically pull in the RDF and the images. I look at the way in which Western dictionaries work compared with the way Oriental languages ones work (alphanumeric compared with # of brush strokes or prefix/suffix radicals). I look at the way in which object-oriented languages vary in their approach --- please see AJAX compared with Squeak, for example.

    Conclusion: code has some way to go before it will move entirely away from its alphanumerical origins.

    Personally, I think it would be cool if coding was much more pictographic like the Chinese language. Perhaps a hieroglyphic/picture form of code would make the Internet even more democratizing. Something which hasn't been discussed here is the gender dimension. There would probably be more female coders if there was a pictographic-based code.

    Noticeably, there's also an absence of women on threads relating to the Internet and its future development.

    The Internet would only become smarter if it's encouraged to leverage the best of ALL perspectives --- whether that's the East/West nuances, the male+female marriage of contributions, the govt with ordinary people or the adult-child elements.

    Yeah and kids ROCK. They're the true democrats. They give everything and everyone a chance, and they go right ahead and explore the possibilities to discover what's what.

    They don't go around bandying words like "slactivism."

    As for whether or not the Internet could potentially re-orientate the powers of the state and/or corporations, Keen should go and study the ongoing SpinVox scenario. In years gone by, a company's management was answerable to its Board of Directors, its investors, the regulators in countries in which the company operated, international accounting standards and corporate codes of conduct. What the SpinVox case shows is certainly NOT "slactivism". It demonstrates how online participants seem to feel an ownership, a desire to shape strategic direction (who the management are, how the voice-to-text facilities are handled, etc.) and emotional associations with a company / brand even if they own no equity in that company or any legal ties.

    They may have no voting shares, yet their sustained commentary on the blogosphere is producing a level of scrutiny and corporate accountability of SpinVox not previously seen in traditional media (print press etc.) or even standard corporate due diligence .

    Might what's happening with SpinVox or any media company being commented on in the blogosphere/socnet/digitalspace also happen to democratically-elected governments, dictatorships and monopolies over time?

    Let's be children about this. Children think and do in terms of wonder and possibilities. Let's all..............GET SMARTER.


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