Notes from the course Network Society: Social Changes, Organizations and Citizens, Barcelona, 15-17 October, 2008.
Some reflections about the Information Society
Josu Jon Imaz, Petronor (and, before, PNV)
Growingly, we see that the network is the new paradigm of civilization, abandoning the traditional radial model. And inside networks, we find meshes that weave densest networks: the international trade, the academy, civic communities… The Internet just instrumented former existing networks.
After the French-Prussian and the two World Wars, Europe gets reconfigured, borders blur, and the territory reshapes into network-like structures. Just like this, higher level problems can be faced through innovative solutions, e.g. the creation of the European Union.
Of course, the concept of identity is put at stake, and some people and communities react against these changes. There is a need to reconcile the idea of the state with that of the network, the center vs. the network, the individual and the collective vs. the network, etc.
Increasingly, cross-border spaces arise that defy both the idea of borders and the concept of the centre. The “centre”, more an more, can be pictured wherever by whoever and still make sense.
Indeed, uncertainty seems to be the paradigm, the framework, we will be living in.
In this always reshaping and recombining world, we’re moving into a new dimension where we might discover that we do not (or not only) belong to a predefined community (e.g. a nation) but to several “territories”. E.g. two cones, living in the same plane (2D), can look (cut by the plane) one as a circle and the other one as a parabola, hence different things. But if moved to a 3D world (a new dimension) they might well find that they were both equal: a cone.
And like “territories” and “identities” have changed, so have discourses, the way we communicate, the way we broadcast. Creating content is becoming an important part of the communication process. Not just sharing information, but the part of the creativity behind. Transmission of content must be accompanied by an added value, which might be adding new content to the one that was meant to be transmitted.
Politics, politicians and political communication in the Network Society
Miquel Iceta, PSC
Why being on the Net: to be the first one to say something. Better to say things, and engage in a dialogue, than to remain silent and be not part of the conversation.
Politics 2.0: not enough having a web site, you need to go beyond the mere presence on the Net. Each channel has its rules. Nixon won in the radio, Kennedy won in the TV: politicians need to dominate the dominant media.
But in these times of uncertainty, nothing is sure: even reputation is questioned and not always the same people necessarily have always to be right. Empowerment takes place and power gets democratized.
The Internet stimulates participation, creativity, communication, community building. The Net suggests taking the path of participative democracy and deliberative democracy.
The Internet as a “digital federation” where agreements are taken freely, ad hoc, shaping a federation.
Antoni Gutiérrez-Rubí: Is it possible to have multiple identities? Imaz: not only possible, but a good thing, as it is the multiple nodes you’re connected with the ones that define you.
Antoni Gutiérrez-Rubí: Is it possible to do politics, to have political institutions, in the Network Society? Iceta: it is true that one of the consequences of globalization is less power for local/national institutions (even international), but it is not less untrue that just because of this, there is a huge need for strong leadership and command, which can only be achieved by strong political institutions.
Javier Vázquez: How can dialogue be shifted from persons to institutions (the actual model) towards persons to persons (the model that enables the Internet)?
Q: Can the Internet put flexibility into the public election system, and be able to vote or choose ideas instead of blocks of ideas and manifestos?
Iceta: There is no evidence that political parties are going to change and reshape them into network-like structures or architectures. So, it still is difficult to contact the person (not the party) or some idea (and not the party’s discipline). Hence, we have to focus on the notion of the party and try and change it, so that the communication and interaction with the citizenry can evolve towards more open scenarios. Dogma, rite and hierarchy, the fundamentals of the party, have to be broken down so that change can happen. Nevertheless, we should not put all the eggs of participation in the basket of the Internet: people offline, for the sake of democratic legitimacy, should be included in the decision-taking processes.
Imaz: While agreeing with Iceta, there is already a e.g. political blogosphere within parties’ members and partisans that is having some influence and even some measurable impact.
Q: How can direct participation in a decision take place? Iceta: The problem is not only in taking part in the last stage of a decision process, but how to identify all the alternatives and, hence, all the individuals that are affected or interested by such decision.
Q: How to guarantee reputation in people and quality in content? Iceta: The network itself has to be the filter: the Net creates the problem, the Net has to find the solution. Digital literacy being a must towards this goal. Imaz: we tend to ask the Internet things that we do not dare ask the “reality”. Fake reputation or fool content happens everyday. Not saying that we shouldn’t be concerned about it, but just demanding enforcement at all levels. On the other hand, we have to enhance freedom before control, and empower the weak before the strong.
Levine, F., Locke, C., Searls, D. & Weinberger, D. (1999). The Cluetrain Manifesto. The End of Business as Usual. New York: Cluetrain.