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<nettime> Ippolita Collective: in the Face Book Aquarium, Part One secti
Patrice Riemens on Wed, 12 Feb 2014 02:03:37 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Ippolita Collective: in the Face Book Aquarium, Part One section 2,

NB, I am now in Casa Nostra! With view of the Sempione/Simplon!

Part One, section 2 The era of democratic attention-distraction, last part.

Evgeny Morozov is among those rare authors to have warned against the
(dirty) tricks of the Net, as well as against technology-worship and
Internet-centrism. The Byelorussian author reminds us that the essence of
technology is not technological, but can (only) be analyzed in terms of
sociology,  economics, political science, psychology or anthropology. It
is therefore absurd to think the Internet as an independent, solely
technological object, that would absorb and (re)transmit all other
discourses. More an Aristotelian propriety than a Kantian category,
technology has morphed into a conceptual and discursive omnibus of sorts,
as the technological object appears to be gifted with a virtuous
propriety, 'technologicity', which is the concrete manifestation of a
technological ideal. And this ideal finds it natural environment in the
hi-tech object. It is a propriety entirely devoid of concrete meaning,
just as if 'hippicity' was the property unique to horses and humanity the
same to human beings. We need to really go into the issue without hiding
behind foggy pronouncements.

On the other hand, one should also avoid the the opposite extreme

[lengthy Morozov quote here]. (will be inserted from original later)
gist: it's absurd to think that some technologies are, given a favorable
context, sui generis better than others at producing good political &
social outcomes] [4].

It is often argued that it's all about the use that is made of a
technology, since in itself, a technology is neither good nor bad, but
neutral. This is a fallacy. Technology is everything but neutral. Every
tool has specific characteristics that need to be analysed. But it is also
useful to look at the issue in its general context. Technology goes
together with power, and the usage of technological instruments implies a
competence, which is the outcome of (a form of) knowledge. This puts the
user in a dynamic of power: 'in relation to'. Applying a technology is not
a commitment-free activity, because it alters the identity of its user. A
plumber derives his identity as a plumber from his mastering of plumbing,
that is his knowledge, and the ability to apply it. It is essential to
understand that the use of social communication toold not only alters the
identity of the users, but also of the collective identity (of the
collectivity/community as a whole). The use of (communication) technology
is a social context is a source of social power, 'socio-power'. Under this
term we undertand:

"(...) the conditioning forces which shape the relations between
individuals and collectivities Thses forces express themselves in the
'devices' (**) which operate through the everyday socialisation processes,
meaning all those moments when subjectivity is put into rapport with
common sense, norms of behaviousr, judgemental criteria, notions of
belonging and exclusion, as well as with the concept of deviance. (...)
Power activates the mechanisms (i.e. sanctions) and certain classes of
outcomes (i.e. the production of a particular behaviour) which are
analogous to those produced by the socialisation process. Their
differences stem from the 'devices' being used: whereas power is usually
visualized in specific moments, socio-power is (much more) holistic,
invasive, and ubiquitous. It is operative in the organisation of knowledge
and the regulation of practices, Socio-power hence should not be
exclusively seen as the power to alter someone else's behaviour by force.
It is rather a much more subtle, and rather imperceptible ability to shape
a given course of action and to make it more or less desirable, and to
coax and encourage certian dispositions." [5]

Seen in this perspective, we have distanced ourselves noticeably from
Morozov's position, who, as befits a good and sincere democrat, really
believes that Western governments are on a mission to export democracy the
world over. Now given the fact that socio-power is so invasive, it becomes
necessary to abandon the analysis of large, oppressive systems
(governments, big business, international politics) in order to
concentrate on the small gaps and shifts and little deviancies, thanks to
which the contours of escape opportunities opening up in everyday practice
become visible. So let us not limit ourselves to am mere critique of the
meddling of social media with today's sociality, as if it was Facebook's
fault that people now only communicate through virtual channels. One need
to dig deeper, was it only because the users them selves are clamoring for
this interference and are making it possible at the same time. Our
analysis keeps its distance from those large, oppressive actors who appear
to be dominant and representative of the Zeitgeist of the knowledge
society. Let us refrain from thinking that each and every new
technological gadget is potentially a tool of emencipation (empowerment)
and democracy. Let us remind ourselves that it always will be a formidable
tool of oppression as well. Therefore, we will try to shed light, a bit
like an archeologist would, on the historic, political, and economic
rationale behind Facebook's assertive contention that sharing is the
panacea which will cure all society's ills. Yet we will take Morozov's
sharp analyses into account, where he has shown how gleefully dictatorial
regimes have embraced the philosophy of Web 2.0 in order to better
exercise control oevr their populations. It is a proven fact: new
modalities of relationship between individuals are emerging and they call
for a specific analytical approach. So let us now go into the details of
what we do not like about Web 2.0, and about Facebook in particular.

[4] Evgeny Morozov, The Net Delusion. The Dark Side of Internet Freedom,
New York, Public Affairs, 2011, p283.
(**) Ever since Foucault ... : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dispositif
(esp. the part on 'translation (in English) ;-)
[5] Stefano Boni, Cuture e Poteri (Culture and Power), Milano, Eleuthera
2011, p29-33.

Translated by Patrice Riemens
This translation project is supported and facilitated by:
The Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences
The Antenna Foundation, Nijmegen
(http://www.antenna.nl - Dutch site)
(http://www.antenna.nl/indexeng.html - english site under construction)
Casa Nostra, Vogogna-Ossola, Italy

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