Poster claims that there has been more instances of human rights violations committed through the apparatus of US government than has been caused by terrorists. He states that terrorism is used as a propaganda exercise as a way to deflect attention away from the government abuse of a mainly imagined dangerous enemy. Possibilities for new forms of human empowerment are given up in order to retain existing power structures.
Commodification brings the questions of the possibility of democracy through the Internet down to already existing structures that do away with future possibilities. That is to say the interests of content providers and telecommunications companies become paramount rather than opening up possibilities of new forms of governance that might do away with existing structures.
Politics for this modern perspective is then the arduous extraction of an autonomous agent from the contingent obstacles imposed by the past. In its rush to ontologize freedom, the modern view of the subject hides the process of its historical construction.
What the fuck did that last sentence mean? Perhaps I’ll understand by the end of next decade.
The Internet is a decentralised communication system brought together by disparate and conflicting forces that now produce frictionless reproduction and dissemination of information. What will the effects of these be on society, Poster asks.
Wrong question he says. The Net dematerialises communication and transforms the position of the person engaging in the communication. The Internet is what Germany is to Germans – it makes them Germans. Unlike a hammer which doesn’t make people hammers but drives in nails.
Some people use the Internet like a hammer – as simply a way to get things done; to replace other forms of communication such as the post. Is there a new politics on the Internet, he asks. If there is a public sphere on the Internet who populates it and how? What interactions occur on this space that exists only in electrons (my word, not his).
The old public spaces, such as the Agora and the town hall have given away to TV which isolates people. Where then is the public space if television has become the medium of political influence? The public, he argues, has been replaced by publicity.
Quoting other scholars, Poster opines that the public space is everything which is not private. With the conception of private space now being confined to what is said inside the home, this poses problems.
For Poster, the Habermasian view of the public space where real people meet to have real dialogue and come to real consensus cannot stand against the new forms of communication presented through the Internet. The disembodiement of subjects and the manner in which machines play a crucial role in the line of communication poses too many problems for Poster to accept Habermas’ notion.
Poster observes that the Internet has created new forms of decentralised conversation, new collectives of people, new ways to undermine the power of the state, new ways to view property; and yet he notes that theory has not caught up with this development despite society creating this new form of democratic engagement.
“The “magic” of the Internet is that it is a technology that puts cultural acts, symbolizations in all forms, in the hands of all participants; it radically decentralizes the positions of speech, publishing, filmmaking, radio and television broadcasting, in short the apparatuses of cultural production.”
Poster believes that the creation of the subject and discourse on the Internet is part of the same dynamic process.
Politics will need to be re-thought to accommodate the disembodiment that occurs on the Internet. A new form of leader will necessarily need to emerge.