Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Communism 2.0.

I could see it happening at some point. So many of the technologies that we believe – on balance – promote freedom rather than control, could be turned against us as individuals, presumably for the sake of the greater common good.
Our world is becoming transparent, on record, searchable. Typically what we we’re getting is greater freedom, but greater responsibility and accountability, too. At the moment we don’t really have to think too much about the responsibility part – not in a fundamental sense, like in terms of water, energy or food.
Rather often, though, when you look ahead, the prognosis looks like major crunch. Getting through a period of true crisis could change the technological balance dramatically. If things get tight, it would seem very easy to slip in the directions of a lot more control and disciplin. Not necessarily enforced from above as such, rather a general feeling that everyone should pitch in, that we can’t tolerate hogging ressources or behaving in a blatantly anti-social way. Central planning and common standards could be enforced like never before. Hitting the wall in terms of ressources we would face an installed instrument of pervasive control. It might even work – but I’d rather that we find ways to maintain some slack in time.

1 comment:

Christian Tønnesen said...

Stating that "Our world is becoming transparent, on record, searchable" is problematic, especially without further elaboration on the notions of "our" and "world."

Transparency tends to be conceived of as a rather straightforward phenomenon. I believe it is not.

A growing field of literature suggests that when talking about issues of transparency we must necessarily bear in mind questions of what, by what means and to whom. Furthermore, in contrast to the assumption that transparency equals increasing visibility, it can be argued that rendering things visible necessarily involves making others invisible.

Acknowledging that any form of transparency is always a specific form of transparency, an upshot of conflicting assumptions and practices, we may start to consider it an achievement rather than something given by nature. As Marilyn Strathern puts it, “there is nothing innocent about making the invisible visible.”

Sorry about my obsession with detail, but it happens to be what I am devoting most of my time studying at the moment.

Interesting writings on this issue would be:

Strathern, M. (ed) (2000): Audit Cultures: Anthropological studies in accountability, ethics and the academy, London Routledge.

Strathern, M. (2000): "The Tyranny of Transparency" in British Educational Research Journal Vol. 26 (3), pp. 309-321.

Neyland, D. and Woolgar, S. (2002): "Accountability in action?: the case of a database purchasing decision" in British Journal of Sociology Vol. 53 (2), pp. 259-274.