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Cyberspace as Meta-Nation: The Net Effects of Online E-Publicanism.

Timothy W. Luke [*]

This analysis reexamines the fundamental changes sweeping through social, economic, and cultural activity as forms of life go online. Because it reexamines what might be called infopolitics, this analysis cannot avoid discussing the new chronopolitical and geopolitical implications of cybernetic time and space. There is more to world politics today than international relations, and much of it relates to global informatic systems. Consequently, this reappraisal of contemporary world politics reevaluates global changes that are being caused by a technological transformation in what "the world" is.

In another time, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, some among the rising bourgeoisie as well as a few entrepreneurial aristocrats in Europe touted the merits of republican government to resist centralizing monarchical authorities who were intent upon using the new wealth and power being made available by capitalist exchange for their own purposes. Until the French Revolution, republican ideologies rarely cashed out in the creation of successful republics, except for a few smaller European experiments and what was to become the United States. Nonetheless, republican ideas were quite important in the evolution of the modern nation-state, popular democratic rule, and mass civic activism. [1] Ironically, at the start of the twenty-first century, many believe that these traditional republican ideas and institutions are becoming a fetter upon the new ways of life being brought online by informatic technologies. Markets rather than governments seem to be the real driving force behind most contemporary cultural, political, and social developments, and new, looser modes of quasi-private regulation seem preferable to strictly enforced regimes of public power invested in states. [2] Moreover, these informatic networks are creating systems of rapid communication, fast exchange, and quick production in virtual domains of interaction beyond the constraints of the material manifestations at specific geophysical locations on solar time, which promises to sublate a "civil society" rooted in territoriality in the forms of an emergent "cyberian society" connected to telematic networks. [3] While they are still inarticulate and inchoate, certain "e-public" credos are emerging in many discourses and practices connected to the global networks of cyberian society. This study rethinks some of the origins and varieties of this "e-publican" thinking, at the same time reconsidering a few of the political agendas expressed in such e-publican ideologies and interests.

Much of this discussion centers on the United States of America and the globally distributed networks that its informatic economy is constructing. This focus is unavoidable inasmuch as this nation-state created the Internet, constitutes most of the Internet economy's daily turnover, and remains at the leading edge of Internet innovation on many technological, organizational, and cultural fronts. If the United States is a "hyperpower" at this point in its history, then a great deal of this political clout can be tied to its dominance of global cyberspace. More than half of all homes in the United States have computers, compared with only one-third in Japan, 10 percent in Malaysia, 1 percent in China, and .3 percent in India. [4] Worldwide, approximately 200 million people use the Internet regularly, and more than 100 million of them are in the United States, while only about 9 million are in China. [5]

Of course, in the future, this, too, will change. Of the 250 top-level Internet domains, 238 are allocated to nations and other sovereign entities, and of those, fewer than thirty countries, for example, have no messages in Usenet postings. [6] Many other nations are working rapidly to integrate the Net into their economic and social life. Nonetheless, most of the coming changes in international Internet use will occur inside of informatic environments mostly created by US companies for US users, even though the US state largely has forsaken its ownership and control of the Internet.

In fact, the legal authority and administrative effectiveness of various national and international bodies now nominally in charge of the Net, like the IAB (Internet Architecture Board), IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force), ICANN (International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), and the Internet Society (ISOC) itself, are quite uncertain. As a Federal Communications Commission policy brief from 1997 observed:

Most of the underlying architecture of the Internet was developed under the auspices, directly or indirectly, of the United States Government. The government has not, however, defined whether it retains authority over Internet management functions, or whether these responsibilities have been delegated to the private sector. The degree to which any existing body can lay claim to representing "the Internet community" is also unclear. [7]

In this power vacuum, which largely has been created and maintained by private interests opposed to government regulation, fresh voices from new publics are pushing their own unique ideologies and interests.

These observations are only preliminary remarks about what obviously is a time of incompletion, disjunction, and abjection. What e-publics might be right now is open. Are they Japanese homemakers buying clothing and housewares online from L. L. Bean or Williams Sonoma to beat their country's economic constraints? Are they the mostly young, idealistic entrepreneurs of the Net-based New Economy from Intel, Microsoft, or Cisco TV ads? Frantic e-trading retirees trying to hit it big on Instinet trading, or free-floating blocs of older, more cynical survivors from fragmented, depoliticized, and disoriented off-line publics just now tying into America Online in search of renewal and redirection from the Net's bitstream? Quite clearly, e-publics are all of these forces, and much more. Persons not of the same race, gender, class, nationality or locality all can interact online through interfaces that typically reduce their identities to strings of text, synthesized speech, or stylized graphics. Once out on the Net, they seek to leverage cyberspace to serve various off-line agendas; however, their efforts to operate together and alone in the digital domain also are creating e-public commonalities that now are being pitched against their off-line interests.

Cyberspace is essentially a meta-territorial domain, and its political possibilities for the digerati, who tout its benefits, are meta-national in quality and quantity. For example, one recent study found the United States to be the most common domain source of Usenet messages in the 1990s, but "anonymous," or no territorial region of origin, was the fifteenth most common source in Usenet messages. [8] The e-trades, e-structures, and e-agents made possible by cyberspace all help constitute e-publics; yet, these online meta-national characteristics of global networks can simultaneously become tangled with, and free from, more local off-line national properties, making such informational systems, once again, engines of transformative disintegration. [9] The meta-nation of cyberspace is inside of each nation, but also outside of it; for each nation, but also not for it; by each nation, but also not of it. As a "meta" factor, informatic networks share actions and structures in common with territorial nation-stat es, but the online operations of this meta-nation is a deterritorialized domain of domains, which as a regime of cybertechnics is always already behind, beyond, or beside the nation-state system, in subpolitical spaces dominated by corporations and technical experts. [10] As a "nation," it is natio: a site of beginnings, and a means of being reborn (e), only now as bits in a profusion of data fields that always are everywhere, nowhere, and somewhere in the territorial regime of nation-states. [11]

Moving much, if not all, of many people's daily business and personal life into telematic networks--especially into the relatively insecure, open, and free domains of the meta-national Internet-- transforms many things rapidly, and perhaps dangerously, by deterritorializing, dematerializing, and depersonalizing how everyday social production, reproduction, circulation, and exchange occurs. Barely stabilizing after the industrial revolution, the human/machine "interface" again radically changes with informationalization, creating a new, or "second modernity." [12] Face-to-face interactions between persons become online events with digital beings; material systems with well-proven redundancies, proven safeguards, and fixed practices for the forms of everyday life are supplanted by unstable corrals of code in fragile networked environments; locatable sites in real space under identifiable, albeit perhaps not effective, governmental control are displaced by interactions at cyberspatial addresses under very littl e or no governmental oversight. [13] Today the Internet, and all of the other more closed networks of networks that work beside, behind, or beneath it, constitute elaborate e-structures whose e-haviors--particularly in the proliferating possibilities of e-commerce--are acquiring sui generis meta-national quiddity. Their operational venues right now mainly supplement off-line practices, but some will supplant older face-to-face practices with online alternatives. Eventually, networks will entirely displace many off-line practices with e-structures and e-haviors that need very little territorial legitimation or personal authentication off-line. It is in these quadrants of change that e-publican ideologies and movements develop. And these are the unexpected conjunctures and unintended disjunctions that this article reexamines.

A Network Society

In his wide-ranging analysis of the "network society," Manuel Castells marches through three volumes of The Information Age: Economy,

Society and Culture, pulling together a single account of everything and everyone he believes to be shaping today's global telematic networks. He claims "a new world is taking shape" out of synergistic (con)fusions arising from

the historical coincidence, around the late 1960s and mid-1970s, of three independent processes: the information technology revolution; the economic crisis of both capitalism and statism, and their subsequent restructuring; and the blooming of cultural social movements, such as libertarianism, human rights, feminism, and environmentalism. The interaction between these processes, and the reactions they triggered, brought into being a new dominant social structure, the network society; a new economy, the informational/global economy; and a new culture, the culture of real virtuality. [14]

This new world, at the same time, brings much of its content from older existing worlds, which contour the shape and substance of the new to accord with capitalist exchange, nationalistic governance, and urbanized community. Not everything in this society follows directly from informatics, but all societies with connectivity are increasingly subject to the operational constraints. Castells, however, tends to overemphasize the extraordinary aspects of these cultures of "real virtuality" in a fairly chronocentric fashion. After all, "the Victorian Internet" of global telegraphy created "the mother of all networks" in the 1850s and 1860s, and in the enthusiasm for telegraphy of those days one can find the same breathless celebrations of time-space compression caused by cybernetics in the 1990s. Nonetheless, the density, intensity, and rapidity of computer-mediated communications in the 1990s is causing subtle shifts in the conduct of ordinary life. In fact, the proliferation of informatic networks becomes Gastel l's background explanation of how "real virtualities" now preoccupy the popular imagination in a cybernetic society:

On the one hand, dominant functions and values in society are organized in simultaneity without contiguity; that is, in flows of information that escape from the experience embodied in any locale. On the other hand, dominant values and interests are constructed without reference to either past or future, in the timeless landscape of computer networks and electronic media, where all expressions are either instantaneous, or without predictable sequencing. All expressions from all times and from all spaces are mixed in the same hypertext, constantly rearranged, and communicated at any time, anywhere, depending on the interests of senders and the moods of receivers. [15]

This dizzy celebration of social relations in the grip of telematics captures the ebullient mood shared by many in network society, but how exactly are the dominant functions and values of governance organized on the bitscapes of cybernetic connectivity?

To the extent that individuals and groups now choose--or are coerced--to work or play in the digital domain, these operational venues turn into the e-public settings for conducting any human's life. [16] Such online functionalities are fresh "mediatizations" of human action, and they can define the range of human needs in off-line forms of life as well as the types of conduct most appropriate for satisfying these needs. [17] Cyberspace, on one level, is clusters of code experienced as audio, graphics, text, or video out on the network, but, on another level, these digital objects constitute portals into the experience of new types of community, work, identity, sex, utility, knowledge, or power in e-public forms of life. Wilson Dizard characterizes these networks of networks as "the Meganet," a powerful but enigmatic engine of change, the biggest and most complex machine in human history. Its effects are paradoxically universal and parochial, uniting and dividing, constructive and destructive. It will create a new communications culture, overlaid on old ethnic, economic, religious, and national patterns and attitudes. An electronic environment is evolving in which old guideposts are submerged in a stream of bits and bytes exchanging a bewildering variety of messages among billions of individuals. [18]

Unlike many celebrations of cyberspace, this view celebrates the machinic infrastructure of boxes and wires, cables and satellites, servers and relays that anchor the built networks, which, in turn, generate such new, hyperreal electronic environments. Who controls whom in these environments, and how control is managed through such networks, is the key political question facing today's emergent e-publics as they somehow reimagine parts of their collective life as "e-havior" within such "e-structures."

For all of the talk about cyberspace as an egalitarian realm of free and easy access, there are very rough realities in the materiality of cyberspace. [19] Bits still travel over material systems in wired and wireless networks. Their routers, pipes, and conduits are owned by a few, but sold, leased, or rented to the many. Getting into cyberspace costs money and time; inequalities of wealth and differences in status off-line are reflected directly in the real inequities of some groups compared with many others in the online environment. These digital divides represent a clear disparity in computer use and Internet access, which can be easily documented in comparisons both of different social groups within the United States and between various other nation-states and the United States. While some believe that there are no "haves" and "have-nots" in cyberspace, and that the real distinction should be made only between the "have-nows" and "have-laters," it appears, in fact, that not having computers and Net conn ections closely parallels not having other types of power, status, and wealth. Just as those who do not have many other highly valued material goods now are unlikely to get them later, it is plausible that the unwired, too, will not get any more computers or connectivity at some unspecified later time.

In exploring the effects of informatic networks on the economy, politics, and society, one must resist the naive instrumentalism in which most studies of this topic typically are wrapped; that is, the Internet is simply a tool like any other, and it is used consciously, fairly, and rationally by autonomous human agents to serve the instrumental ends of its users. For those holding such views, economies, democracies, and societies online basically will be not unlike those off-line except that their members will send email, build a Web page, and/or engage in online chat. Even though we know complex societies with newspapers, televisions, and telephones are not like those without them, the naive instrumentalism embedded at the core of too many contemporary analyses of the Net rehash reality in this unproductive fashion because the new mediated technocultures such informatic technics create are neither well-identified nor fully understood. [20] By reevaluating how all technologies carry their own "anonymous hist ories" that shape space, temper time, and package performance apart from any conscious intention of their users, critical explorations of computer-mediated communications over information networks must ask how individual and collective subjectivity changes in digital environments as new agents and structures make telematic history. [21] In more fundamental ways than many now realize, digital networks do create meta-national domains for economic exchange, political control, and social interaction that work far beyond the scope and method of where the territorial nation-state operates today. [22]

The proponents of digitalization among the digerati, like Nicholas Negroponte, have overdone most of the positive aspects of telematic life, while they underplay how many already existing negative social and economic tendencies will continue in the online environs of cyberspace. Negroponte is obsessed with "being digital," which might be seen as the most basic e-public state of being. Most significantly, new e-haviors in e-structures are moving those with the connectivity to a place where making, moving, and managing "bits" will replace many embodied forms of interaction conducted face-to-face with, by, as, and through "atoms." For Negroponte, "the change from atoms to bits is irrevocable and unstoppable," and digitalization ultimately means this sort of dematerialization. [23] To underscore this important turning point in human history, he asserts "computing is not about computers any more. It is about living." [24]

Digitalization, then, does far more than simply replace "the manipulation of atoms" with "the management of bits." Manipulating atoms actually is one operating system with its own unique user interfaces, wide area networks, peripheral components, intelligent agents, and killer applications. While many forms of atom manipulation will not disappear, their workings will be displaced, disrupted, and disintegrated by the management of bits. And, this collision of new online and old off-line machinic regimes will have, and indeed is already having, tremendous implications for individual subjectivity and collective solidarity. Some celebrate this borderless world, others see it as a creative chaos, and still others fear its inhumane/unfair/antiegalitarian qualities. [25] Most importantly, the older embedded public identities of territorial nationality at physical sites are being tested by newer e-public identities tied to telemetrical nodality generated for, by, and of the e-haviors made possible at digital sites. So while we may not stand at the end of history, we perhaps are experiencing the beginning of virtuality.

In many respects, the ideas of "netizenship" out on the Net may well be quite different from the practices of "e-citizenship" inside any given country, because the Net as a deterritorializing technic is far more local and global than many industrial technologies used in any single city, polis, or state. [26] At the same time, some qualities of online e-havior closely will parallel off-line behavior in many social and economic contexts. As Network Solutions, the post-IPO Internet address retailer, suggests in its cable television ads, the Net's bitscapes are today's equivalent of the Wild West--a telematic terra nullis in which anyone can snatch up their "dot coms" to maybe get rich. This commercialization of cyberspace transforms its ones and zeros into a new type of hyperreal estate. In turn, the old interface values of disembodied subjectivity, distributed community, and cybernetic play celebrated by early adopters during the first days of the Net in the 1970s and 1980s are being buried by more familiar in equalities in wealth, knowledge, and power as the worlds of real virtuality proliferate wildly.

Slipping online, this plurality of worlds allegedly assures each person that he or she will be remade by globalizing/networking/computing practices. The e-public rhetorics of everyday life online promise netizens a modernized mode of living beyond ordinary politics:

Welcome to the 21st century. You are a netizen, or a Net Citizen, and you exist as a citizen of the world thanks to the global connectivity that the Net makes possible. You consider everyone as your compatriot. You physically live in one country but you are in contact with much of the world via the global computer network. . . . We are seeing a revitalization of society. The frameworks are being redesigned from the bottom up. A new more democratic world is becoming possible. [27]

Such meta-national visions of a more authentic autonomy on the Net are precisely what most e-publican advocates celebrate: citizens of the world, not single nations; everyone is a compatriot, nobody is a foe; physical residents of one place, virtual fraternity in all places; not cultural paralysis, social revitalization everywhere; more democracy becomes possible, new tyranny is unlikely.

A netizen is a citizen of some state and society, only now he or she can establish significant ties through electronic connectivity to many other states and societies, which pulls these netizens into transnational exchange or politics in this meta-national space. Moreover, such meta-national roles are often being reimagined in less statal and social terms: the netizen is the clever professional operator who recognizes these profound shifts, leverages every potential for greater political power, and imagines how netizenship can result in economic profit. [28] The online bourgeois of digital bits increasingly appears to have interests in cyberian society, which appear antithetical to those commonly held by off-line citoyens in the civil society of material cities. Indeed, the variable geometries of indefinite boundaries, open architectures, and unfixed locations of publics in the vast meta-national netropolis of "virtual life" online starkly contradicts the fixed grids of definite boundaries, closed communitie s, and inflexible locations off-line in every national metropolis out in "real life." [29]

From Civil to Cyberian Society

As Castells indicates, the scope of change in contemporary economies and societies today can be attributed to the ever-shifting technics of networked computing. At the same time, the remediation of cultural identity and political power through human/computer interactions on networks as a virtual life still is imagined quite conventionally by the digerati in spatial terms. Rushkoff, for example, typifies the millenarian reading of computer-mediated communication as a new ontological project for humanity:

Welcome to Cyberia. Time seems to be speeding up. New ideas and technologies have accelerated our culture into an almost unrecognizable reality, and those on the frontier tell us that this is only the beginning. . . . Now that PCs are linked through networks that cover the globe and beyond, many people spend real time out there in "cyberspace"--the territory of digital information. This apparently boundless universe of data breaks all of the rules of physical reality. People can interact regardless of time and location. They can fax "paper" over phone lines, conduct twenty-party video-telephone conversations with participants in different countries, and even "touch" one another from thousands of miles away through new technologies such as virtual reality. All of this and more can happen in cyberspace. [30]

Cyberspace in this rhetoric is far more than mere technical effects. As "living," it mutates into a new cultural reality with its own rules of postmodern embodiment, extraterritorial engagement, and hyperreal enlightenment. Everything allegedly changes in cyberian society, including the old rules of cultural, economic, and political interaction, so new types of human being with their own special forms of meta-national society also are believed to be emerging in both individual and collective practice along the interface. Rushkoff declares savvy cybernetic individuals are cyberia's inhabitants, "the cyberians, who are characterized primarily by faith in their ability to consciously rechoose their own reality--to design their experience of life." [31]

Governance of the Internet and its cyberians, however, is an emergent process. Furthermore, the reconstitution of authority relations in its functionalities online has not stepped very far beyond the juridical assumptions of off-line sovereignty exercised over living bodies occupying physical territories. What little regulation there is now centers mostly on distributing assigned domain names and numbers. Otherwise, who rules whom, what is ruled how, and where rules begin and end are all open questions at this time in cyberspace. Much of the Net was made to operate in an a-statist environment, meta-nationally, or non-organizationally, without a powerful ruler, and to work beyond continual rulings, once the basic TCP/IP rules of packet switching are accepted. This openness, distributedness, decentralization, and interactivity creates unique meta-national environments bounded by connectivity, interoperability, and autonomy. The fundamental "netiquettes" of online cultures draw some boundary conditions for oper ation, but these are very weak means for governing collective activities. Nonetheless, the proponents of Internet life, like Rushkoff, believe they are more than enough. In cyberian society, the machinics of computer-mediated communication are simultaneously technological and political mechanisms, and they are quite suitable for redirecting individual and collective behavior in "man's leap out of history altogether and into the timeless dimension of Cyberia." [32] The cybertopes of cyberian living are also becoming sites where the material certainties of ordinary reality, as millions have come to know it, no longer will hold true, because they allegedly will be eclipsed by the open, multitasked flexible operations of the digital domain. [33]

Bill Gates, in The Road Ahead (1996), looks down the cyberian road and finds us arriving at "friction-free" meta-national marketplaces. In fact, this moment might be "the realization of Adam Smith's perfect market, at last." [34] When he sights this perfected "friction-free capitalism" of Adam Smith out on the Net, it is celebrated in quite exultant terms:

The global information market will be huge and will combine all the various ways human goods, services and ideas are exchanged. On a practical level, this will give you broader choices about most things, including how you earn and invest, what you buy and how much you pay for it, who your friends are and how you spend your time with them, and where and how securely you and your family live. Your workplace and your idea of what it means to be "educated" will be transformed, perhaps almost beyond recognition. Your identity, of who you are and where you belong, may open up considerably. In short, just about everything will be done differently. [35]

Under this horizon, Gates asks everyone to go online to find and then fulfill their needs (as Rushkoff predicts they will). Gates openly admits that there are "equity issues that will have to be addressed." [36] On the other hand, he also asserts "one of the wonderful things about the information highway is that virtual equity is far easier to achieve than real-world equity." [37] And, in his state of wonder, Gates makes a remarkable claim: "We are all created equal in the virtual world, and we can use this equality to help address some of the sociological problems that society has yet to solve in the physical world. The network will not eliminate barriers of prejudice or inequality, but it will be a powerful force in that direction." [38]

While many believe a common good is created out of public projects in the territorial polis of most nation-states, different meta-national agendas are tied to private profit and professional power in cyberian society. These agendas sustain what might be called the "informatic subpolis," which lies uncomfortably somewhere between politics and nonpolitics. As Ulrich Beck might suggest, informatic systems, like cybernetic networks, telecommunications grids, or computer applications, become a third entity, acquiring the precarious hybrid status of a subpolitics, in which the scope of social changes precipitated varies inversely with their legitimization. ... The direction of development and results of technological transformation become fit for discourse and subject to legitimization. Thus business and techno-scientific action acquire a new political and moral dimension that had previously seemed alien to techno-economic activity. ... now the potential for structuring society migrates from the political system i nto the sub-political system of scientific, technological, and economic modernization. The political becomes non-political and the non-political political. ... A revolution under the cloak of normality occurs, which escapes from possibilities of intervention, but must all the same be justified and enforced against a public becoming critical. ... The political institutions become the administrators of a development they neither have planned for nor are able to structure, but must nevertheless somehow justify. ... Lacking a place to appear, the decisions that change society become tongue-tied and anonymous. ... What we do not see and do not want is changing the world more and more obviously and threateningly. [39]

Gates and thousands of anonymous computer people are conducting a meta-national revolution in governance from their desktops simply by designing new subpolitical spaces for cyberian society. Of course, the Web, the Wintel operating system, or the ASCII code, were neither foreseen nor wanted before their advent; but decisions made by technicians and traders to structure this emergent cyberian society around such "subpolitical systems of scientific, technological, and economic modernization" are changing the world on a meta-national scale without much, if any, political planning, state structure, or civic legitimization. [40]

As this meta-national informatic subpolis grows, the role and stature of the traditional polis in many nation-states could well erode even further. While most currently remain caught within some type of face-to-face political system, their civic abilities to exercise certain practices of rule making, rule applying, and rule adjudication off-line may not map over to the subpolitical domains of online technics. In turn, democracy off-line may become only an engine of collective inaction or, worse, the audience for endless spectacles of quasi-theatrical scandal. The decisive revolutions will be made in cyberian society, and, as Beck maintains, "under the cloak of normality," thanks to agents like Microsoft and Gates. [41] Indeed, as Microsoft's corporate goals essentially become basic legislation for PC users, Gates's e-publican narratives of informatic transformation illustrate how online governmentality now operates meta-nationally through subpolitical conduits. [42] "In contemporary discussions," as Beck sug gests, "the 'alternative society' is no longer expected to come from parliamentary debates on new laws, but rather from the application of microelectronics, genetic technology, and information media." [43]

To the degree that culture can be viewed as the acts and artifacts shared communicatively by particular human groups, cyberia now provides new e-public groups with alternative modes of action and types of artifacts to organize their social interactions, institutionalize new political movements, and advance fresh economic demands on a deterritorialized meta-national basis in 24/7 time frames. The Web's many diverse sites are operational venues whose assignment, sale, and use generate a new governance challenge: how to create, border, police, and use virtual spaces. Some e-public interests now realize those meta-national spaces, and hence the legal jurisdictions, strategic alliances, cultural norms, and communal rituals that will prevail in them, are up for grabs. Yet cyberspace, as its widespread cyberwarfare and hacktivist cultures indicate, will also always be contested meta-national space insofar as the operational effects of informatics can be simultaneously resisted from everywhere and nowhere. [44] If t he governmentality problematic is, as Foucault claims, the challenge of conveniently arranging things and people to organize the conduct of conduct, then the Net poses tremendous new meta-national challenges for governance, especially who or what governs whom, where, when, and how in cyberian society. [45]

To survive in the fast capitalist world of the beginning of the twenty-first century, it is not enough for territorial states merely to maintain legal jurisdiction off-line over their allegedly sovereign territories. The Net is a governmentality engine, whose subpolitical assemblies of informatic artifacts do create new collective subjectivities and collections of subjects beyond the territorial polis in the flows of meta-national exchange. There is no reason why a few states could not nationalize quadrants of cyberspace for e-governance and cyberianize aspects of their civil society. From Singapore to South Dakota, one finds small affluent states moving in these directions. The workings of such online disciplinary practices by states can, in turn, be reevaluated as "the element in which are articulated, the effects of a certain type of power and the reference of a certain type of knowledge, the machinery by which the power relations give rise to a possible corpus of knowledge, and knowledge extends and rein forces the effects of this power." [46] For online governmentality, the disciplinary articulations of software packages and hardware functionalities then will also center upon enforcing "the right disposition of things" between humans who are conducting more of their interactions as bits in cybernetic environments as e-publics. Moreover, this new bit-based governmentality is meant to guide "the controlled insertion of bodies into the machinery of production and the adjustment of the phenomena of population to economic processes." [47] An effective digital politics, which is reticulated through telematic hardware, software, content, and connectivity providers, reshapes the nature of governmentality in meta-national registers, as packets of bits remediate "the methods of power capable of optimizing forces, aptitudes, and life in general without at the same time making them more difficult to govern." [48]

Those who invent and then control the technologies of the Net are building a meta-national subpolis, and their special rule is exerted through, within, and because of the networked technics comprising this subpolis. Perhaps no one better represents the e-publican telecrat to off-line publics at this point than Bill Gates, and no private enterprise captures many of the qualities in this e-public power more fully than Microsoft. A conflict of one nation with a territorial polis over the control of certain technology markets also is a struggle for the meta-national spaces in a deterritorialized subpolis. The meta-national quiddity of cyberspace lies at the heart of the ongoing US Department of Justice proceedings against Microsoft for allegedly committing serious antitrust violations in its software design and sales strategies. Telecrats whose powers can be separated and balanced, as the open-source movement of Linux promise, might be more palatable than those whose technical authority is undisputed and proprie tary power remains concentrated, like Microsoft. Nonetheless, Gates's business has been very adept at consolidating functions and bundling capabilities to constrain users to behave in certain Microsoft-approved ways online, from the boot-up screen to the shut-down command. Because Gates's "road ahead" is one that Microsoft still wants to own and control, the issue of how it might rule over and through bits assumes considerable importance. The US Department of Justice antitrust suit against Gates and his corporation recognizes this fact in its wideranging finding of many monopolistic practices in the ways that the Washington-based firm has packaged and sold its Windows software package. Microsoft has enjoyed a virtual fifteen-year monopoly in the Wintel/PC operating-system markets, which is worth billions of dollars of income every year. Despite the best efforts of Apple, ATT/Lucent, DEC, Oracle, and Sun, Microsoft's software applications still dominate the world's PCs, occupying more than 90 percent of all de sktops.

Even Gates recognizes, however, that the rudimentary terrain of cyberian society no longer has as much objective necessity as it did a decade ago. Instead, it brims with many new open choices, and its current rules are leading toward a new distributed pluralism tied to continuous technical revisions of past innovations. Inasmuch as all users of informatic networks collaborate with Microsoft, IBM, Cisco, and others to build, maintain, and then rebuild the multilayered digital domains of the computer-mediated subpolis, network connectivity oddly becomes "your passport into 'a new, mediated way of life'." [49] Like cities in civilization, networks increasingly form the larger parts and pieces of where we live, and we cannot leave them behind. More than an object, not quite yet a subject, computer connectivity simultaneously provides one with a pass, a port, a presence, and a place for entering into this meta-national space with its new e-public ways of being.

Meta-national Subpolitics and National Politics

At this point, e-public experiments are caught up within different existing systems of corporate, organizational or territorial order for governing time, space, and action. It is now possible in the United States to vote online in some shareholder elections, a few professional societies, and a handful of governmental jurisdictions. [50] The cost savings of such e-citizenship practices are moving many netizens to tout the virtues of electronic campaigning, fundraising, polling, and petitioning under their current electoral laws. [51] Similarly, some law-makers in the United States, the United Kingdom, and other liberal democracies are engaged in Internet-mediated discussions with constituents and colleagues in ways that call into question the institutional practices, architectural spaces; and personal expectations that now carry representative governments on their daily routines of governance. [52] In this spirit, some states are "reinventing government," integrating services at one physical site, creating new private-sector partnerships, building citizen self-service systems, outsourcing more services from corporations, not-for-profits, and universities, organizing 24/7 means of access, and seeking greater public feedback, participation, and coproduction. [53] These institutional moves will make it more feasible for states to operate transnationally with informatic tools for mobile clients, constituents, and citizens.

All of these innovations, which are quite fascinating, do little more than informationalize existing state structures by giving online tools to human agents to perform hitherto off-line tasks. Recourse to digital domains as a place for discrete group activities online, of and for itself, has not been made as often, but a few groups are realizing that sharing connectivity, interests, access, and goals can create new meta-national e-publics. In open-source computing movements, they are devoted to breaking apart the closed proprietary-source regime of operating systems, software codes, and hardware designs. In environmental movements, they are mobilizing transnationally to resist locally experienced, but globally suffered, ecological damage. In national liberation movements, they are raising funds, circulating information, and organizing supporters internationally to overthrow or undercut some oppressive national regimes, as with the Zapatistas in Chiapas, the anti-Saud opposition in Saudi Arabia, the Falun Gon g in mainland China, and the Chechen fighters in Russia. All of these groups are experimenting with e-public participation by organizing, fundraising, propagandizing, and institutionalizing supporters online through telematic means to share interests, goals, and values because of their access to, and use of, cyberian sites. [54] Other openly e-publican organizations, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), espouse the principles of off-line human rights for the online settlement and improvement of cyberspace as e-public space. While EFF seeks to leverage off-line state authorities to protect online freedoms, its image of the "electronic frontier" is essentially meta-national. Indeed, it wants "to make [the electronic frontier] truly useful and beneficial not just to a technical elite, but to everyone." [55] Similarly, the Global Internet Liberty Campaign also pushes e-publican ideas, claiming "there are no borders in cyberspace" and joining with its multinational membership "to protect and promote fund amental human rights such as freedom of speech and the right of privacy on the Net for users everywhere." [56]

Still, these visions of netizenship from the digerati are essentially naive instrumentalist ones that imagine connectivity alone creates some sort of universal project out of common interests, shared goals, or communal values. This assumption is rarely made about all of the residents in any given city, except for the fact that they enjoy urban life in that particular setting, so one should not make this universalizing assumption about netizens. Everyone on the Net wants connectivity, and connectivity to something, but sharing access to, and the use of, a set of telematic tools does not automatically create a universal fraternity through meta-national interactivity. Outside of the enthusiasts of cyberian society, the meta-national spaces of the Net are fairly undertheorized as an imagined community. [57] In fact, there are many different varieties of netizens and netizenship that get entangled in the everchanging dictates of the online interface and the expectations of the off-line user. The Net is not one sy stem with a single set of functionalities; it is instead a collective of many things, diverse sites, and varying capabilities that promises multiple possibilities for both online and off-line communities.

Inasmuch as the online environment frames operational venues for e-haviors in cyberian society wherein the one and the many might define and satisfy material needs and ethical ideals, then we should perhaps recognize the meta-national realities of "e-publics." Here a res publica of "things with ourness" mutates into e-public domains in which, through which, by which electronic communication, commerce, and community can govern the conduct of conduct--both online and off-line. This sense of shared goals and interests is still in many ways inchoate and incomplete because the typical sources of its definition--a common economic life in shared markets or a common political life under a single sovereign authority to realize material security and physical safety--are not yet widely recognized outside of territorialized state structures. For all of the dot coms' bluster since the mid-1990s, only 1.2 percent of all retail sales in the United States occur over the Net. [58] This tiny fraction of the nation's GNP still attracts a lot of mischief making, but even the most sustained cybervandal attacks between February 7 and 12 in 2000 on the big names in Web portal and e-commerce provision disrupted service only for a few hours in most cases. [59]

Nonetheless, these episodes should not be dismissed as more telematic tomfoolery by black-hat hackers. When one's financial life is mostly nested with something like E*Trade, one's commercial survival tied to eBay, one's mass media consumption is dependent upon Yahoo, one's family ties are maintained through AOL, and one's business affairs are conducted through Commerce, then an e-public foundation exists for a discrete, diverse, and divided e-publican politics to develop meta-nationally in opposition to off-line political interests in nation-states as well as in conflict with other online political forces.

Meta-national space in the nets, then, imply new security interests. Attacks on bits can open up, as well as close out, a nation-state to disruptive denials of service. [60] Hacks against e-commerce, telematically managed power grids, online civic infrastructure, or informatic military command-and-control systems are the form that bitskrieg will take by disrupting e-haviors or destroying e-structures. Moreover, this bitskrieg will come to nations in rapid surprise assaults through the meta-national realms of networks. Cybercriminals and infovandals now recognize these realities, but major foreign powers also may exploit the telematic terrains of online meta-national space in state-on-state, state-on-organization, or state-on-individual cyberstrikes. Bordering software and hardware exist; but digital secession from the global meta-nation, or even digital boundary enforcement, degrades the value-added qualities of completely open digital space. And e-publican pressure groups are continually pushing the Interne t's governance structures and national governments to never condone digital boundary building. [61]

At this time, most e-publican social movements are captured within existing territorial divisions and political jurisdictions. Consequently, a few Net-ready states are responding to cyberian society by putting up Web sites for their citizens to research government documents, renew existing state-provided licenses, and contact elected officials. Such dot gov domains, however, are still essentially territorial entities whose old social formations are entirely embedded in drawing, defining, and defending boundaries offline. The political parties, pressure groups, and partisan candidates of off-line democracies are going online to recruit members, popularize their message, and raise funds. These "territorial service providers" are simply exploiting the capabilities presented by "Internet service providers" (ISPs) to digitalize their functions; yet there are fewer and fewer barriers standing in the way of deterritorialized service providers using the Net's ISPs to organize metanational e-publican entities to part ially displace, or perhaps even largely replace, many smaller, weaker national states as online service providers to off-line territorial locations. [62]

The nascent powers of such e-publican interests are recognized materially in the US Internet Tax Freedom Act of 1998. While the United States is arguably the world's strongest surviving nation-state, this hyperpower status has not rendered it immune from interests on the overdeveloped side of the digital divide, in the states of California, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, winning a three-year moratorium on federal taxation for sales over the Net that directly harms other interests on the underdeveloped side of the nation's digital divide. Many politicians celebrate this decision as shrewd antitax, antigovernment, antibureaucratic conservatism, but this suspension of national sovereignty over e-commerce coupled with free speech libertarianism with regard to regulating Internet content perhaps lays the groundwork for a new political rupture: an e-public identity and community online that first resents and then will resist off-line governmental efforts to tax, regulate, or rule its members.

Most existing systems of territorial governance are stationary engines for regulation, taxation, and administration. Their rules and structures rely upon location--where people live, where companies operate, where income is earned, where money is spent, where investment is made, where property is positioned--to function. Yet, the nets of the Internet are simultaneously everywhere, nowhere, and somewhere else. Servers, network conduits, and access hardware must be located in particular physical locations, but they might be purposely positioned in low-tax or no-tax jurisdictions with an additional promise of low or no regulation. So sales taxes on e-commerce, income taxes on e-lancing Web workers, property taxes on virtual corporate entities, and inheritance taxes on online stock portfolios all begin to pose problems for off-line regimes witnessing the byte flight of taxable transactions from locatable face-to-face markets, properties, and individuals off-line into less locatable online e-structures and e-havi ors that cover themselves with off-line regulatory alibis in odd offshore venues. [63]

Here the Net's evolution parallels the troubling "secession of the successful," recognized as a plus by Robert Reich in 1991 and condemned as a minus by Martin and Schumann in 1998. [64] The Net can operate as a heterotopian anarchy whose allure and excitement is available 24/7 anywhere to anybody, but it also can operate an all-plutopian preserve for the prosperous who have special access to much more closed domains out on the bitscape. Compared with the 5.98 billion people still disconnected off-line, the world's 200-plus million netizens are a very small and privileged digital class. And there are smaller cliques of even more powerful and prosperous persons in this small cadre of digital beings; their access, for information and services, to smaller, upscale intranets is truly real-time--no lag, totally top-level, with no constraints, and complete in scope.

As meta-national realities, e-publican interests are often transnational in vision, multinational in operation, and postnational in loyalty. Hence, they are beginning to push governments to think far less like classical states--or extractive/redistributive entities--and much more like contemporary dot coms, or attractive/productive enterprises. Consequently, governments are being re-rated in terms of their service provisions, tax efficiencies, and material benefits for citizens as consumers rather than as great powers ranked by military power or territorial expanse for their subjects. [65] Government as a dot com, then, is expected to have, as Davidson and Rees-Mogg (1997) argue, low or no taxes, moderate personal security safeguards, and friendly hands-off civic expectations for the "sovereign individuals" who choose to live under or by their rulings.

One small indicator of this meta-national space's growing threat to existing states is the Echelon project. This electronic surveillance project is coordinated among five nations: the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. [66] Its mission is to capture, store, analyze, and react to all electronic modes of communication--all telephone, telegraphy, and data network traffic on wired and wireless transmission systems. While it began for national security reasons during the Cold War, it continues today. Yet, Echelon's work now is focused on nonmilitary targets, including businesses, individuals, and not-for-profit organizations in almost every nation of the world whose communications flow through meta-national space as electronic emissions. On one level, this initiative gathers intelligence on military and criminal threats; on another level, it makes possible industrial espionage on foreign competitors for the various respective states sponsoring this program; but, on a third leve l, Echelon also is a coalition of major powers intently spying upon the meta-national spaces of the nets where antistatal e-publican movements of sovereign individuals might organize an effective popular online resistance or attack against off-line governments.

Asking basic questions, like whether Microsoft is an evil empire or not, illustrates how worried people are becoming about the meta-national governance issues that arise from subpolitical choices, like "the lock-in" for informatic goods, because "what we do not see and do not want is changing the world." [67] The informatic subpolis further develops with each new corporate move made by telecratic forces, like Gates and Microsoft, and their subpolitical rule from meta-national space can change the most mundane details of how everyday life is conducted online and off-line. By fabricating digital domains, and then continuously struggling to master their informatic terrain, e-public interests seem to fulfill Jean-Francois Lyotard's prophecies about "the postmodern condition." That is, "knowledge in the form of an informational commodity indispensable to productive power is already, and will continue to be, a major--perhaps the major--stake in the worldwide competition for power." [68]

In fact, the struggle over cyberspace--both intranationally and transnationally--illustrates how fully the residents of civil society in nation-states must fight interests from the nascent cyberian society against e-publican interests for "control of information, just as they battled in the past for control over territory, and afterwards for control of access to and exploitation of raw materials and cheap labor." [69] online governance now works through protocols for the processing and reprocessing of data, information, and knowledge in its telematic forms. online and off-line, information "is and will be produced in order to be sold, it is and will be consumed in order to be valorized in a new production: in both cases, the goal is exchange." [70] Becoming digital, as Lyotard observes, also implies that everything in society and the marketplace

is made conditional on performativity. The redefinition of the norms of life consists in enhancing the system's competence for power. That this is the case is particularly evident in the introduction of telematic technology: the technocrats see in telematics a promise of liberalization and enrichment in the interactions between interlocutors; but what makes this process attractive for them is that it will result in new tensions in the system, and these will lead to an improvement in its performativity. [71]

The social pragmatics of global performativity, or means-ends cost efficiency, slowly supplant more deeply embedded narratives of national meaning, like those imagined to be essential human rights, enduring moral duties, elegant social contracts. As loosely defined, just-in-time protocols for building fluid temporary arrangements begin to prevail in governance, more impermanent understandings of personal rights and social obligations will come further into vogue for e-public life because of their "greater flexibility, lower cost, and the creative turmoil of its accompanying motivations--all ... factors [that] contribute to increased operativity." [72]

The Internet, then, is evolving increasingly into a meta-national domain of domains whose many constituent networks are not "indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all." On the contrary, there are very clear divisions in the Net's operativity between those who have and those who have not, those who have now and those who will have later, those who have a great deal and those who have very little, and those who have the latest and those who have the outmoded. These transnational online inequalities often parallel international off-line inequities, but they also constitute an entirely new set of leading and lagging relations of meta-national e-public inequality. While it developed as a type of anarchy outside of ordinary time and space, and many still seek to preserve its anarchical qualities, the explosive growth of e-commerce--in both the e-tailing consumer and "B2B" business markets--is drawing regulatory attention of governmental agencies as they seek to augment their power in cyberspace.

Many US citizens see these developments as well and good, but many people outside the United States regard the Net as a new cybercolonial domain of the world's new hyperpower. Indeed, it is not a big reach to see the meta-nation of cyberspace as an electronic enclave economy for the United States. Non-Americans off-line are welcome in America online, because it is another way to keep non-Americans in line. Moreover, Internet-ready social forces in the United States recognize this fact, and seek to maintain its reality. Because "America's prosperity has been harnessed to the Internet," as Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) claims in defense of a new cybercrime bill, "punishment of those who disrupt our Internet economy must reflect this new reality." [73] Of course, true e-publicans would bristle at such off-line jurisdictive pronouncements that link "our Internet economy" and "America in one statement. Bristle as they may, the United States already has twenty-one government agencies, commissions, and pa nels dealing with some aspect of computer-network security, and President Clinton proposed spending more than $2 billion more in 2001 to cope with new cybercriminal or infowar attacks on "American" interests. [74] If national prosperity depends on network security, then Washington still has resolve to act, as it did in the face of the Y2K crisis from 1995 to 2000, to keep the Net highly performative for "the American economy." The new Bush administration is continuing these efforts to draw and defend digital borders around the wealth that the meta-national domains of Cyberia generate for the United States.

E-publics and Performativity

At the e-public intersections of network places and connectivity spaces, Gergen claims, "our range of social participation is expanding exponentially. As we absorb the views, values, and visions of others, and live out the multiple plots in which we are enmeshed, we enter a postmodern consciousness." [75] Whether or not these e-haviors are postmodern perhaps is less clear, but sharply bounded personal identities and clearly bordered social communities of off-line territorial citizenship, as they have been imagined in the past, are perhaps increasingly in doubt out online. The multi-mediations of e-public digital domains, as Ronald J. Deibert argues, carry a functional bias toward decentered and fragmented identities, "and away from modern conceptions of the autonomous sovereign individual," because meta-national cyberspace allows many opportunities to generate "a plurality of 'worlds' and multiple 'realities,' each of which is contingent on social constructions, or 'language-games' that constitute and orient the field of experience." [76] Off-line nationality is not going away, especially for the immobile, preinformational, poor. online nodality, however, is arriving out in meta-national cyberspace, particularly for the relatively mobile, informational, rich. Here is where new e-haviors displayed by netizens enter the stage. Collective goods, civic ideals, and common aims may flag online, particularly in their historic off-line forms, and e-publican thinking will probably stress good service over serving the good. As Stephen Garter claims, "the rise of cyberspace is the apotheosis of the ideal (if it is an ideal) of individualized experience ... the appeal of the cyberspace is to autonomy: we can choose our own experiences." [77]

Such foundational changes, as Turkle suggests, point toward e-publican netizens "taking things at their interface value" in which "people are increasingly comfortable with substituting representations of reality for the real." [78] Therefore, online emulations of community, once had off-line through shared territoriality or common sovereignty, are perhaps generated out of computer-mediated meta-national communications. If people treat computers "in ways that blur the boundary between things and people," [79] then those things and people, which once were regarded as having fixed locations, settled boundaries, and defined distinctions, will begin to blur into online e-public projects where there are few historical traditions, ethical boundaries, or institutional precedents. So far, they are not more democratic, more fraternal, or more open, but they are more meta-national. Telematic networks, while not quite political entities, are increasingly taken simplistically at their interface values as wired social for mations whose e-havioral containments of what is "the real" set the ground rules of online agency and structure for new types of e-public interactions over networks.

Technologies, however, never fall fully formed from the sky. They instead must be made ready for business by enrolling users and advocates in new social movements to promote their utility, tout their necessity, herald their inevitability. Advocates of e-publican values out on the Net, for the Net, and by the Net reaffirm these truths. Thirty years ago, ARPANet went live, linking only a handful of university research centers. Twenty-five years ago, few believed every home should have a "personal computer." The technocultures of those times confined the Net to small conversations conducted between defense labs, and home computing existed in little kits for electronics hobbyists. Other technologies sustained many other different practices for processing words, archiving texts, sending messages, copying images, playing games, generating sounds, sharing discourses. All of those technics produced, and then reproduced, peculiar cultural communities around particular technological devices as systems, which, in turn, have constituted many of yesterday's and today's equally new social movements of anti-informatic resistance against the further spread of computer-mediated communication. Television, radio, cinema, telegraphy, and print all fostered certain transnational/extrastatal/nonterritorial forms of community in their emergent phases, but the mostly national infrastructures constructed for their use, coupled with existing national linguistic barriers, rarely tested individual identity or political citizenship in the ways that the Net can. Technics do redefine the acts and artifacts shared collectively in the life of specific human groups and communities, and telematic networks are now promoting very disruptive, wide-ranging, and rapid forms of cultural redefinition in e-havioral forms for a digital technoculture of meta-national e-publics. To this extent, Negroponte is right: computing is not about computers any more--it is about living.

Only a decade ago, the Internet was regarded as a truly free space open to anyone. As a place for anyone to express personal messages to would-be soulmates or political manifestos for likeminded activists, the Net's few hundred thousand users believed they had a workable anarchy that served humanity as a vast digital library, an online meeting place, a cybernetic speakers' corner, and a free postal system. With the working experience of many Usenet groups and IRC sessions, the noncommercial collaborative qualities of the Net fostered small subcultures of acceptable use and unacceptable abuse, which neither drew much outside attention nor raised many serious concerns. [80] Silly pranks by hackers occasionally provided a bit of amusement, some telecom firms lost a bit of revenue from phreakers tricking their billing systems, and crackers would infrequently get past a few security firewalls in the Department of Defense, major university, or big-bank computer systems to create mischief. The move toward more wide ly distributed, and ultimately what will be ubiquitous, computing regimes with the privatization and commercialization of the Internet after 1995, however, decisively shifted the net effects of informatics in the world economy and national society.

Living in telematic spaces organized around digital networks requires a facility from e-publican netizens for coping with many different language games nested amid a technoculture in which everything, including one's personal identity and social position, becomes represented as ones and zeros. And this struggle to reduce heterogeneous social, political, and cultural off-line elements to fit the online logics of techno-economic performativity is the new form domination takes today in "second modernity." Everyone is not equally prepared to manage

these clouds of sociality according to input/output matrices, following a logic which implies that their elements are commensurable and that the whole is determinable. They allocate our lives for the growth of power. In matters of social justice and of scientific truth alike, the legitimation of that power is based on its optimizing the system's performance efficiency. The application of this criterion to all of our games necessarily entails a certain level of terror, whether soft or hard: be operational (that is, commensurable) or disappear. [81]

The digital divides open where these e-publican operational conformities start or stop in meta-national space for different members of off-line economies and societies all over the world. Politics in networked places, economics for connectivity spaces, and society in digital domains, as Lyotard suggests, continue to be shaped by the answers to one question: "Who decides what knowledge is and who knows what needs to be decided? In the computer age, the question of knowledge is now more than ever a question of government." [82] Whose government, for whom, where, when, and how are all intriguing questions for e-public living, and their answers mark the raw boundaries of inequality--both in power and knowledge--out on the digital divides of the Net as new hyperpowers exercised by telecrats from within one or a few nation-states remake pieces of the real world to fit the meta-national forms of these e-public forms of life.

(*.) Department of Political Science, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.


This article was presented as a paper at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, March 15u18, 2000.

(1.) R. B. J. Walker, Inside/Outside: International Relations as Political Theory (Cambridge UP, 1993), pp. 26u49.

(2.) See Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1984).

(3.) Timothy W. Luke, "Governance," in Unspun: The Web, Language, and Culture, ed. Thomas Swiss and Andrew Herman (New York: New York UP, 2000).

(4.) See Julie Schmit, "lnternet Revolution Rolls through Asia," USA Today, February 11, 2000: B1u2.

(5.) John Pompfret, "Chinese Web Portal Opens to New Way of Life," Washington Post, February 13, 2000, Al, 26. Internet use has grown tremendously over the past decade, rising from a few hundred thousand in 1991 to 143 million in 1998; in early 2001 it was still only somewhere around 700 millionuthat is, a little more than 10 percent of the world's population. In many respects, the Net is a meta-national space, but it still has been made in the United States, for the United States, and by the United States. Almost 90 percent of all Net users live in the United States or other rich industrial countries, and 80 percent of all Web sites are in English, yet fewer than 10 percent of the world's population speaks English or lives in the rich industrial countries (Washington Post, July 13, 1999: E2).

(6.) Gary Smith and Peter Kollock, eds., Communities in Cyberspace (New York: Routledge, 1999), p. 197.

(7.) Cited in Janet Abbate, Inventing the Internet (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999), p. 208.

(8.) Smith and Kollock, n. 6, p. 197.

(9.) Timothy W. Luke, "Discourses of Disintegration, Texts of Transformation: Re-Reading Reading in the New World Order," Alternatives 18, no. 2 (1993): 229-258.

(10.) See Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1963).

(11.) Timothy W. Luke, "Governmentality and Contragovernmentality: Rethinking Sovereignty and Territoriality after the Cold War," Political Geography 15, nos. 6/7 (1996): 491-507.

(12.) See Ulrich Beck, Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity (London: Sage, 1992).

(13.) See Frances Cairncross, The Death of Distance: How the Communications Revolution Will Change Our Lives (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1997); and Sherry Turkle, Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet (New York: Touchstone, 1997).

(14.) Manuel Castells, The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture, vols. 1-3 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998), P. 336.

(15.) Ibid., p. 350.

(16.) Timothy W. Luke, "The Politics of Digital Inequality: Access, Capability, and Distribution in Cyberspace," in The Politics of Cyberspace, ed. Chris Toulouse and Timothy W. Luke (New York: Routledge, 1998), pp. 121-144.

(17.) See Paul Virilio, The Art of the Motor (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1995).

(18.) Wilson Dizard, Jr., MegaNet: How the Global Communications Network Will Connect Everyone on Earth (Boulder: Westview, 1997), p. 14.

(19.) See Ronald J. Deibert, Parchment, Printing, and Hypermedia: Communication in World Order Transformation (New York: Columbia UP, 1997).

(20.) See David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989).

(21.) For this account of the industrial revolution, see Sigfried Giedion, Mechanization Takes Command: A Contribution to Anonymous History (New York: Norton, 1948).

(22.) These properties capture some qualities of a "technological sublime." See David E. Nye, The Technological Sublime (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996).

(23.) Nicholas Negroponte, Being Digital (New York: Knopf, 1995), P. 4.

(24.) Ibid., p. 6.

(25.) See Kenichi Ohmae, The Borderless World: Power and Strategy in the Interlinked Economy (New York: Harper & Row, 1990); Kevin Kelly, Out of Control: The Rise of Neo-Biological Civilization (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1994); and Paul Virilio, Open Shy (London: Verso, 1997).

(26.) Michael and Ronda Hauben, Netizens: On the History and Impact of Usenet and the Internet (Los Angeles: IEEE Computer Society Press, 1997).

(27.) Ibid., p. 204.

(28.) Despite all of the agitprop pushing la vida electronica, a US Department of Commerce report recently found 32.7 percent of all people in the United States are Internet users; 67.3 percent remain entirely offline (see

(29.) See Stephen C. Jones, ed., Cybersociety: Computer-Mediated Communication and Community (London: Sage, 1995).

(30.) Douglas Rushkoff, Cyberia: Life in the Trenches of Hyperspace (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1994), p. 2.

(31.) Ibid., p. 4.

(32.) Ibid.

(33.) See John Seabrook, Deeper: Adventures on the Net (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997).

(34.) Bill Gates with Norman Myhrvold and Peter Rinearson, The Road Ahead (New York: Viking, 1996), p. 4.

(35.) Ibid., pp. 6-7.

(36.) Ibid., p. 251.

(37.) Ibid., p. 258.

(38.) Ibid., pp. 258-259. Gates embellishes his version of these wide-ranging changes in the built environments of contemporary economies and societies by recounting his, and supposedly everyone else's, experience of "growing up" with computers:

In the minds of a lot of people at school we became linked with the computer, and it with us.... It seems there was a whole generation of us, all over the world, who dragged that favorite toy with us into adulthood. In doing so, we caused a kind of revolution--peaceful, mainly--and now the computer has taken up residence in our offices and homes. . . . Inexpensive computer chips now show up in engines, watches, antilock brakes, facsimile machines, elevators, gasoline pumps, cameras, thermostats, treadmills, vending machines, burglar alarms, and even talking greeting cards. . . . Now that computing is astoundingly inexpensive and computers inhabit every part of our lives, we stand on the brink of another revolution. This one will involve unprecedentedly inexpensive communication; all the computers will join together to communicate with us and for us.... There will be a day, not far distant, when you will be able to conduct business, study, explore the world and its cultures, call up any great entertainment, m ake friends, attend neighborhood markets, and show pictures to distant relatives--without leaving your desk or armchair. You won't leave your network connection behind at the office or in the classroom. It will be more than an object you carry or an appliance you purchase (Gates, n. 34, pp. 2-5).

For Gates--and, of course, Microsoft--computers remake built environments. Economies and societies must change as computers connect to us, computers mature with us, computers reside with us at home, computers work with us in the office, computers colonize many other technical artifacts for us, computers integrate us into networks, and computers create new multimediated ways of life with us. Networks, like the ecologies of nature, are always beneath, behind, and beyond the political order of our civic life. This revolution, as it is made from desktops and laptops, coevolves with, and within, a new built environment, which is fabricated meta-nationally out of bits, mediated over networks, and located online.

(39.) Beck, n. 12, pp. 186-187.

(40.) Ibid., p. 186.

(41.) Ibid.

(42.) See Andrew P. Madden, "The Lawgiver," Red Herring 53 (April 1998): 64-69.

(43.) Beck, n. 12, p. 223.

(44.) James Adam, The Next World War: Computers Are the Weapons and the Frontline Is Everywhere (New York: Simon & Schuster).

(45.) See Michel Foucault, The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality, eds. Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1991), 87-104.

(46.) Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Vintage, 1979), p. 29.

(47.) Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vol. 1: An Introduction (New York: Vintage, 1980), p. 141.

(48.) Ibid. The meta-national spaces of the Internet are administered very loosely by the Internet Society (ISOC), since it is the home of the Internet Engineering Force (IETF) and Internet Architecture Board (IAB). Drawing together transnational telecoms, big software houses, national scientific agencies, professional-technical groups, and media companies, ISOC is a major executive force in the management of the informatic subpolis. Its intent, however, is essentially e-publican inasmuch as its members want to maintain the Net's uniquely meta-national qualities by safeguarding "the viability and global scaling of the Internet" in ways that "assure the open development, evolution, and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world"; see

(49.) Gates, n. 34, p. 5.

(50.) See Graeme Browning, Electronic Democracy: Using the Internet to Influence American Politics (Wilton, Conn.: Pemberton Press, 1996). Also see

(51.) See Roza Tsagarousianou, Damian Tambini, and Cathy Bryant, eds., Cyberdemocracy: Technology, Cities, and Civic Networks (New York: Routledge, 1998); and Richard Davis, The Web of Politics (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999). Also see

(52.) See Geoff Mulgan, Connexity (London: Chatto & Windus, 1997).

(53.) See C. Richard Neu, Robert H. Anderson, and Tora K. Bikson, Sending Your Government a Message: Email Communication Between Citizens and Government (Santa Monica, Calif.: Rand, 1999).

(54.) For further discussion, see David Ronfeldt et al., The Zapatista "Social Netwar" in Mexico (Santa Monica, Calif.: Rand, 1999); Kathryn Sikkink and Margaret E. Keck, Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1998), and Peter Ferdinand, ed., The Internet, Democracy, and Democratization (London: Cass, 2000).

(55.) See

(56.) See

(57.) A good example of this problem is William J. Mitchell, e-topia: "Urban Life, Jim--But Not as We Know It" (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999).

(58.) Amy Harmon, "Secure or Not: The Internet Has Become a Part of Life's Routine," New York Times, February 13, 2000: 25.

(59.) David Hamilton and David S. Cloud, "The Internet under Siege: Stalking the Hackers," Wall Street Journal, February 10, 2000: B1, B6.

(60.) See John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, Advent of Netwar (Santa Monica, Calif.: Rand, 1996); Gerfried Stocker and Christine Schopf, InfoWar (New York: Springer, 1998); and Winn Schwartau, Information Warfare: Chaos on the Electronic Superhighway (New York: Thunder's Mouth, 1994).

(61.) See Lawrence Lessig, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace (New York: Basic, 1999).

(62.) For a democratizing vision of this alternative, see Andrew L. Shapiro, The Control Revolution: How the Internet Is Putting Individuals in Charge and Changing the World We Know (New York: Century Foundation, 1999).

(63.) An entire philosophy of global nomadism is developed in response to these possibilities as "sovereign individualism" for e-publics. See James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg, The Sovereign Individual: How to Survive and Thrive during the Collapse of the Welfare State (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997).

(64.) See Robert Reich, The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st Century Capitalism (New York: Knopf, 1991); and Hans-Peter Martin and Harald Schumann, The Global Trap: Globalization and the Assault of Democracy and Prosperity (London: Zed, 1997). In the United States, for example, government at all levels owns one-third of all land, spends more than one-third of the nation's GDP, pays for 40 percent of all medical care, manages 50 percent of all individual retirement funds, and has experienced more than 50 percent greater growth than the private sector since the 1940s (see George Will, "Federal Swelling," Washington Post, February 24, 2000: A21. These activities are perhaps necessary to become a hyperpower, but many US citizens now believe they can do better elsewhere because of the individual freedoms made possible by the Net and offshore data, capital, and service havens. The digitalization of capital allows individuals and firms to park assets beyond the reach of aggressive national taxation in more passive tax environments. Personal and corporate assets held offshore are believed by the United Nations to already total US$7 to $8 trillion, which is nearly equal to the GDP of the United States. See

In the United States, the individual tax issue is becoming a major problem in the sphere of state and municipal finance. The more than seven thousand taxing jurisdictions in the United States are highly dependent upon sales taxes: in 1970, for example, states derived 32 percent of their tax revenues from sales taxes; by 1996, this figure had risen to 49 percent, and in 2000, as more and more states reduced real-estate, property, and business taxes, it approached 55 percent (See Washington Post, February 20, 2000: B2). A 1992 Supreme Court ruling, Quill v. North Dakota, held that mail-order companies cannot be required to collect state sales taxes, and this holds true today for them and e-commerce concerns unless firms have a considerable physical presence in any given state or follow strict rules on "in-state" sales. State laws often require individuals to track their out-of-state purchases and remit the proper sales tax receipts to their state tax offices, but these regulations are routinely ignored in tele phone, mail catalog, and Internet sales. As the clock runs out on the 1998 federal moratorium on new taxes on Net purchases, a national advisory committee headed by Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore has favored continuing the Net's tax holiday, while the National Governors' Association has proposed creating a telematic parastatal agency to collect taxes on all remotely made sales. This "zero-burden" system would mobilize special software to calculate, collect, and remit sales taxes to the states from any remote vendor--either offline or online (see Washington Post, February 20, 2000: B2), creating a meta-national agency to collect and distribute national taxes.

(65.) See Robert Rosen, Global Literacies: Lessons on Business Leadership and National Cultures (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000).

(66.) See www.aclu/org/echelonwatch

(67.) Beck, n. 12, p. 187.

(68.) Lyotard, n. 2, p. 5.

(69.) Ibid.

(70.) Ibid., p. 4.

(71.) Ibid., p. 64.

(72.) Ibid., p. 66.

(73.) Cited in David A. Vise, "FBI Says It Is Hot on the Trail of Hackers," Washington Post, February 17, 2000: E7.

(74.) "Experts: Animosity May Fuel Internet Attacks," Roanoke Times, February 20, 2000: A15.

(75.) Kenneth Gergen, The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identify in Contemporary Life (New York: Basic Books, 1991), pp. 15-16.

(76.) Deibert, n. 19, p. 187.

(77.) Stephen Garter, Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy (New York: Basic Books, 1998), p. 193.

(78.) Turkle, n. 13, p. 23.

(79.) Ibid., p. 102.

(80.) Abbate, n. 7, pp. 181-220.

(81.) Lyotard, n. 2, p. xxiv.

(82.) Ibid., p. 9.
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Author:Luke, Timothy W.
Publication:Alternatives: Global, Local, Political
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2001
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