Network Society course (VIII). Andrew Rasiej: Communication in the Network Society (II)

Notes from the course Network Society: Social Changes, Organizations and Citizens, Barcelona, 15-17 October, 2008.

Communication in the Network Society (II)
Andrew Rasiej, Personal Democracy Forum

In 2001, the response of US senators about the impact of the Internet on politics was:

  • Until we do not get rid off pornography, senators will avoid the Internet
  • I’m getting 10,000 e-mails a day: how can I stop it?

What has since changed?

Howard Dean was created on and from the Internet… even if he knew nothing about the Internet. He just let people act on their own.

Blogs are very important, but they are just a part of the puzzle. The Internet brought Howard Dean community, but it did not fetched him with money. So he lost the election.

In 2006, the Internet did neither elect any candidate, but it did actually defeated candidates and put them out of the race, by spreading bad news (footage, content, etc.) through the Internet that compromised some candidates.

In 2008, the Internet has become (more or less) pervasive, everyone blogs or tapes, but, most important, friends are on the Net, and they sent, on a friendship/trust basis, political content and messages. And conversations take place, even easier than ever: My father would have never picked up the phone and commented a piece of news or a video about Obama with any of his friend, but he does send the piece of news itself to a friend… or to 50 of them. That video has been now seen by more than 7,000,000 people, even if it’s more than 7 minutes long.

Digital identity and content creation

A lot of content now found on the Internet is created by politicians or their partisans, and more important, it points not to the mainstream media, but the their own web pages, thus closing the circle.

If politicians claim being willing to engage in a conversation, with the citizenry, with their electors, and there is no blog, no website, no fora… no anything, people, voters, get disappointed. People detect ethos, dynamics, authenticity.


The Net is merciless on what it detects is fake, as the the blogs were going crazy quote on the (last) video, something a 25 y.o. would never say.

The good and bad thing of working closely with the Internet is that it creates a community, a community that might support, but also might complain and even ask for answers on specific actions of his leader. The good new is that this feedback from the leader can now come too, so that a conversation is actually created.

Politics and technology

Two schools

  • To exert more top-down control on the agenda, the message… people, were people do what they’re told, delegating their decisions to others (e.g. MoveOn)
  • To engage in more and better participation (e.g. Tom Steinberg‘s)

Data will still grow exponentially and search functions will be improved, being the result of it all transparency.

Digital literacy is not only the ability to understand digital media messages, but the ability to create them: videracy as the ability to be “video literate” both as a receiver and as a creator and broadcaster/emitter. Geotagging, uploading, etc. is the wave of times.

In the age of the end of the economy of scarcity, and turning over the age of the economy of abundance, it makes no more sense to present candidates that can take decisions in 60 seconds. We want politicians that can take their time, to document themselves, to ask for advice, to benefit from the abundant data, information, knowledge that is at (anybody’s) reach.

In this landscape of abundance, where the possibility to create is so huge, where’s the need for organizations? [see below, Shirky]

Civic action is different from politics, and is now enhanced by technology. We should understand civic action to understand the potential impact that’s about to come.


Ricard Ruiz de Querol: is there really such a need for digital literacy? Why not “network literacy”? A: We cannot, nowadays, imagine a world without text? It is quite safe to picture a future where video will be omnipresent. But, of course, same with networks. Hopefully, the resolution of fear (of networks) will sooner or later come.

Enrique Dans: What’s the real importance of political networks? A: People feel some sense of ownership on these networks (e.g. We do not know the positive effect and, most important, how to leverage their power. But we do know what negative impacts are if you don’t take into account such networks and virtual communities.

Ismael Peña-López: Is (new) content the currency of the Net? Is creating new content the price we have to pay to be someone on the Net? A: As content becomes more complex, the issue of the digital divide becomes more relevant. What’s happening on digital training or digital capacity building? On one hand, we have 24×7 online services that serve ubiquituously on any kind of platform; on the other hand, the educational system only works 15% of the time of the year, on a specific place. So, we have to rebuilt some things from scratch, and not only at the digital level, but an a very basic level. Indeed, we’re very likely not to be understanding at all what’s happening, what all this content creation possibilities will bring, what all this connectivity will cause. So we’d better start as soon as possible to try and understand it, to put it in everybody’s hands, to let people participate in democracy.

Antoni Gutiérrez-Rubi: If you build it they will come? If content is good, no need to foster its diffusion? A: Best ideas will spread amongst nodes, and will get appropriate support. Actually, the wisdom of the crowds not necessarily will become the tyranny of the crowds.

Marc López: What’s the future of politicians in this landscape? A: The politician that does not connect to the network, in the language of the network, in an authentic way, will wither and die.

More info

Clay Shirky (2008) Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations


Network Society: Social Changes, Organizations and Citizens (2008)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2008) “Network Society course (VIII). Andrew Rasiej: Communication in the Network Society (II)” In ICTlogy, #61, October 2008. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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4 Comments to “Network Society course (VIII). Andrew Rasiej: Communication in the Network Society (II)” »

  1. I would phrase my question in a slightly different way as recorded by Ismael:

    Josu Jon Imaz suggested that networks come first, and then Internet is an instrument. If someone has got what it takes to form a network, then Internet is the logical, uselful, ‘you-can’t-do-without’ tool. If you form part of this network, or want to form part of this network, and you don’t enough the Internet, you’ll learn; you’ll do whatever you need to do to learn.

    I feel it does not feel the other way around. You might know a lot about the Internet, but don’t care at all about working on a network. At least, not in a network like the ones described this morning. In fact, a lot of people do so.

    Is this a typical ‘chicken and egg’ situation? Or, quite to the contrary, in this case the chicken (the network) precedes the egg (the network on the Internet). And then, as you haver more eggs …

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