Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Connectivity and the Diffusion of Power
November 16, 2010 10:12 AM   Subscribe

Google’s Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen published this piece in the November/December 2010 issue of Foreign Affairs. It was a notable step up from the “Cyberspace and Democracy” article in the same issue. In any case, Eric and Jared address the same core questions I am writing my dissertation on so here’s my take on what they had to say.
posted by The Lady is a designer (18 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bugmenot might be convenient for accessing the first link.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:21 AM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mercy.
posted by boo_radley at 10:21 AM on November 16, 2010


This link has a video and audio. The article is behind a paywall. The writer linked is Patrick Meier co-founder of the International Network of Crisis Mappers.
posted by adamvasco at 10:36 AM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


The part about the role of the cassette tape in the Iranian Revolution is pretty cool.
posted by snofoam at 10:41 AM on November 16, 2010


Sorry, I didn't realize how it read till after it posted in between the other two FPPs on the blue and I could see parmanparman's italics. Thank you mods.
posted by The Lady is a designer at 11:07 AM on November 16, 2010


Can editors please ban the phrase "The Revolution Will be XXX" as trite? Damn, I am sick of that. You are not Gil Scott Heron, Mr. Schmidt.
posted by GuyZero at 11:14 AM on November 16, 2010


Here's the agenda:
The hardware and software created by private companies in free markets are proving more useful to citizens abroad than state-sponsored assistance or diplomacy.
Capitalism is liberating us.
posted by AlsoMike at 11:44 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Except they're not really free markets.
posted by GrooveJedi at 12:32 PM on November 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


The hardware and software created by private companies in free markets are proving more useful to citizens abroad than state-sponsored assistance or diplomacy.

You mean the internet which was invented in a top secret military research facility?
posted by empath at 1:16 PM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


[ ]will have to hold tightly to freedom and openness.

my cognate just dissonated
posted by The Lady is a designer at 1:25 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just in the first few paragraphs: Digital disruption, diffusion of power, vast amounts of information, twenty-first century, armed with virtually nothing but cell phones, challenge their authority, collaborative enterprise, citizen journalists....

This reads like a typical freshman piece about how web 2.0 will totally change the world you guys! Add some typical Google smugness from Schmidt, and I had to stop reading...
posted by dagny at 1:31 PM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


You are not Gil Scott Heron, Mr. Schmidt.

Ahem. Technically, if it's "will be x", I think it's a reference to Dweezil Zappa.
posted by lodurr at 2:16 PM on November 16, 2010


You mean the internet which was invented in a top secret military military-funded public research facility?

[fixed]

yes, I'm correction man for the moment. so sew me.

[sic]
posted by lodurr at 2:19 PM on November 16, 2010


Google is also claiming that Chinese (and other countries) censorship amounts to a trade war. And on the other hand they claim they are undermining authoritarian governments with their technology.

I've noticed a lot of self-serving BS rhetoric coming out of Google lately. It's kind of annoying.
posted by delmoi at 4:28 PM on November 16, 2010


While I don't disagree that that's self-serving BS rhetoric, I also don't see how those positions are contradictory. The standard ideological free-trader position is that free trade is subversive of authoritarian regimes; similarly, when the words we use are defined in a free trade framework, attempts to inhibit the free flow of information could be construed as trade war. So in free trade terms, I think it makes sense.
posted by lodurr at 11:29 PM on November 16, 2010


That "so here's my take on it" link is worth following, not for the main piece, but for the reply by a TimKarly posted below it. It's actually better than the main piece.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:11 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


The standard ideological free-trader position is that free trade is subversive of authoritarian regimes...

That's true, but isn't Google saying something different? They're not talking about free trade, they're talking specifically about internet technology products. Yes, they're still trying to legitimize themselves by talking about how they can topple authoritarian regimes, but what's different here is that capitalism is promoting it's ideology by relying on the ideas of cyberpunk activists of the early 90s that were originally used against capitalism (or at least, "corporatism"), so it has a kind of countercultural cache. The sleight of hand is breathtaking: capitalism has fully co-opted and neutralized the cyberpunk counterculture -- not very difficult, as it was only ever pseudo-subversive -- and the language of subversion by capitalism is used to create the appearance that this co-optation signals the opposite, the full arrival of the cyberpunk revolution. This is part of the broader rebranding of capitalism as already countercultural in itself, with the entrepreneur as the rebel outsider taking down the system. But here we should avoid opposing true countercultural social change vs. the fake capitalist version of the same, and instead realize that even the most authentic counterculture politics is caught in advance in the system that it opposes. The more it posits itself as radical, the more effectively it legitimizes capitalism when it's inevitably co-opted.
posted by AlsoMike at 1:08 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


AlsoMike: It's fascinated me for years that most people who love cyberpunk don't see how skin-deep its subversiveness is. First-wave cyberpunk even has that as one of its themes, but it disappears in the exploitation waves that followed. And it was never really acknowledged at all in the hanger-on transhumanism of the 70s-80s. (Personally I think discomfort with the lack of real revolutionary amplitude is why cyberpunk fans so often focused on easily marginalized prior influences like P. K. Dick and ignored really obvious stylistic and thematic antecedents like Bester, Tiptree & Delaney.)

Patrick Farley did a really poignant long-form webcomic piece on this some years back called "The Guy I Almost Was" (the part that's most relevant to what you're saying starts here.
posted by lodurr at 5:59 AM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


« Older How Low Can Your Logo? "We are testing your capaci...   |   "He was capable of composing e... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments