User:ThomasW/Notes The Internet Revolution

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for the 20-something students who I teach at the University of Westminster, the Net has always been there. They find it difficult to comprehend how their parents’ generation could have ever socialised, worked, shopped or agitated without the aid of PCs, laptops, tablets and mobile phones. Not surprisingly, their sense of self is constructed through a digital identity. They fall in love – and tell everyone by updating their Facebook status. page6

the Californian Ideology promiscuously combines the free-wheeling spirit of the hippies and the entrepreneurial zeal of the yuppies. page 12

these technophiliacs thought that the convergence of media, computing and telecommunications would inevitably create the electronic angora virtual place where everyone would be able to express their opinions without fear of censorship. page 14

According to their guru, Howard Rheingold, the values of the counter-culture baby boomers are shaping the development of new information technologies. As a consequence, community activists will be able to use new media to replace corporate capitalism and big government with a hi-tech gift economy. page 16

In this version of the Californian Ideology, each member of the virtual class is promised the opportunity to become a successful hi-tech entrepreneur. Information technologies, so the argument goes, empower the individual, enhance personal freedom, and radically reduce the power of the nation-state. Existing social, political and legal power structures will wither away to be replaced by unfettered interactions between autonomous individuals and their software. These restyled McLuhanists vigorously argue that big government should stay off the backs of resourceful entrepreneurs who are the only people cool and courageous enough to take risks. page 17

The Difference Engine – was designed and built by private companies, but its development was only made possible through a British Government grant of £17,470, which was a small fortune in 1834. From Colossus to EDVAC, from flight simulators to virtual reality, the development of computing has depended at key moments on public research handouts or fat contracts with public agencies. The IBM corporation only built the first programmable digital computer after it was requested to do so by the US Defence Department during the Korean War. page18

the West Coast hi-tech industrial complex has been feasting off the fattest pork barrel in history for decades. The US government has poured billions of tax dollars into buying planes, missiles, electronics and nuclear bombs from Californian companies. For those not blinded by free market dogmas, it was obvious that the Americans have always had state planning: only they call it the defence budget. page 19

When Japanese companies threatened to take over the American microchip market, the libertarian computer capitalists of California had no ideological qualms about joining a state-sponsored cartel organised to fight off the invaders from the East. page 19

Thomas Jefferson was the man who wrote the inspiring call for democracy and liberty in the American Declaration of Independence and – at the same time – owned nearly 200 human beings as slaves. page 21

If only some people have access to the new information technologies, Jeffersonian democracy can become a hi-tech version of the plantation economy of the Old South. Reflecting its deep ambiguity, the Californian Ideology’s technological determinism is not simply optimistic and emancipatory. It is simultaneously a deeply pessimistic and repressive vision of the future. page 24

During the boom years of Fordism, the new ruling class was supposedly being formed by the managers and other professionals from large corporations and government departments.However, when the economy went into crisis in the early-1970s, right-wing intellectuals were forced to look for supporters amongst other sections of the intermediate layer. Inspired by Marshall McLuhan, they soon discovered the growing number of people developing new information technologies.For almost three decades, conservative gurus have been predicting that the new ruling class would be composed of venture capitalists, innovative scientists, hacker geniuses, media stars and neoliberal ideologues: the digerati. page 30

In common with many of their peers, most digital artisans suffer from the insecurity of contract employment. However, they also are better paid and have greater autonomy over their work. As in the past, this ambiguous social position can encourage gullibility towards reactionary modernism. Chasing the American dream, many hi-tech workers hope to make millions from founding their own company. Instead of identifying with their fellow employees, they aspire to join the digerati: the new technocracy of the Net. 67 Unlike in earlier forms of conservatism, this desire for domination over others is no longer openly expressed in the Californian Ideology. Instead, its gurus claim that the rule of the digerati will benefit everyone. For they are the inventors of sophisticated machines and the improvers of production methods. They are pioneering the hi-tech services which will eventually be enjoyed by the whole population. Over time, the digerati will transform the restrictions of Fordism into the freedoms of the information society. The compromises of representative democracy will be replaced by personal participation within the ‘electronic town hall’. The limits on personal creativity in the existing media will be overcome by interactive forms of aesthetic expression. Even the physical confines of the body will be transcended within cyberspace. In the Californian Ideology, the autocracy of the few in the short-term is necessary for the liberation of the many in the long-term. page 31

Ever since the late-19th century, science fiction novelists have fantasised about a small group of scientists and philosophers inventing the technological fix for the problems of society. page 31