The Politics of Networks.

A New Politics?

Just as previously technically mediated epochs had specific politics, so the network has modes which are more active and critical, and those which are passive. If the labour mechanism of the Industrial Revolution gave rise to Union politics, what activity does the network imply?

Singular Identity equals the oppression of the State.

The creation of a singular identity is the prime act of political suppression in the `post-industrial' epoch: The precision of locating a subjects whereabouts in the actual/virtual world is the primary means where the state enforces itself.

We are quite accustomed to having to release details about ourselves to government agencies, but this is a historical development. The underlying premise is expressed in the Panopticon  that socially engineered device that relies on the prisoners paranoia that. at any time, they may be being examined. Foucault  outlines the development of this self-regulating mechanism, and would no doubt be bringing our attention to the rash of `security' cameras that are hitting the developed world; surveillance, no matter how apparently benign, always represses the space under examination.

The Panoptican was the prison developed by `reformer' Jeremy Bentham in the 18th C where the cells were arranged in a circle around a central observation platform. The prisoners had to assume that they were being watched at every moment, even if they were not: They were `self survailling'.

Foucault: 20th C French cultural critic, particularly noted for his work on histories of sexuality and punishment.

Using BUGS

The effort to create `BUGS' (Body Units Grounded in Self  ) is the prime political act of post-industrial society. It's an effort to maintain a zero-state, that is a `paradise' with no deviance. In Australia, the recent drive to limit immigration is a classic drive to keep the socius `clean'. The irony is that a zero state needs outside energy to keep it going, and must open itself to the outside in order to gain energy to keep its wheels turning. The classic instance in this century is Nazi Germany; to create a paradise, the outside energies had to be appropriated and war in some form is a required action of any state that is going to try to make an ideal world.

The term comes from Roseanne Allequerce-Stone, a contemporary writer on identity & technology.
First and Third Worlds.

A similar mechanism exists in the developed worlds relationship to the third world. The developed world could not exist without an undeveloped outside from which it derives it's energy to keep going. For America, for instance, state-expanding warfare is not necessary, since the expansionist drive of it's IT, Film, Financial (etc etc) industries is enough to keep enough energy coming into the system, at least for the time being. Despite the USA's rhetorics, outsiders will always be mustered and exploited, whether they exist inside or outside the geographical borders or the country.

BUGS on the Internet.

It's hugely ironic that the Internet arose within the military/academic establishment, given that it's effect is to undermine the whole BUGS effort. BUGS drives to ensure that any persona has the warranty of a body attached, and can therefore be tracked, and charged (whether for money or offences). The internet allows techniques for persona that encourage slippage, strange becomings and experimental selves; Avatars, aliases, MUDS, anonymous FTP, hacking and cracking, e-mail, web-publishing can all work either for or against BUGS and the agencies of control.

The Internet innately resists efforts to regulate it and turn its users into BUGS, despite the best efforts of Government agencies; the Clipper Chip, Back-Doors in Encryption, efforts to give sites CPI ratings, making ISPs responsible for content, these are all very naive efforts to pin down a medium that was designed to maintain operability and secrecy in the first place. For Business, the challenge is not so much to legislate, but to overwhelm   and the effort going into enforce BUGS  in the form of financial transactions is huge.

Business is hyping the `enlargement' of the Net to link consumer devices. This will enable them to re-route services though `chargeable' means (cable and HDTV) and therefore back to BUGS. Perhaps even more important, usage information can then be used for marketing - they will be able to collect information as easily as they send it.
Self and Politic.

In this sense, anyone engaged in persona play on the Internet is engaged in a political act, that of resisting the effort to flatten society and it's subjects. Of course someone who is `of the system' in the real world is less likely to see the Net in this way, and indeed it's possible to use the net without opposing BUGS in any way.

For those who are aware (and now, I'm afraid, that includes you) the Internet is an important field of `becoming other' or, more specifically, `becoming virtual'. There are, just like the subject who is striving for personal anarchy, dangers in becoming virtual. The first is that, in placing more of yourself `on' the net you abandon the real world, and leave it open for zero-state manipulations. The second is that while on the net you merely reproduce the status-quo; claims from men, for instance, that they can understand how women feel after taking on a female persona are deeply offensive and merely sexualise and reinforce gender difference and their inequalities.

It would be more honest to say that they understood something of the way that gender difference in Persona is created and arbitrary, and be open to the possibility that such arbitrary constructions bring into question their own assumptions about gender (and their own erotics). Such awareness seems to be rare; it would mean, in this instance, admitting that a homoerotic force was coming into play. Heaven Forbid!

On the net you must assume that every one you meet is a construction (not a lie, but an experiment) and that each construction is a part of another's Networked Self. You are then free to engage without hypocritical appeals to being misled.
Erasing the Actual/Virtual difference.

With a Networked Persona, effects and experiences on the Net reflect back into the material self as if they had happened in the material. This means that your Net personas are equal in effect to your `actual' personas and vice-versa, there is no difference. Therefore it's no big surprise that the Internet is the site of some of the most important cultural fights going on at the moment. It's also no surprise that any `net-consensus' gathers around what we can call `first amendment' issues; freedom of speech, assembly and ideas.

Some more on Net.Politic...
The Line and the Fold - the aesthetics of being...