“To find something comparable, you have to go back 500 years to the printing press, the birth of mass media – which, incidentally, is what really destroyed the old world of kings and aristocracies. Technology is shifting power away from the editors, the publishers, the establishment, the media elite. Now it’s the people who are taking control.”
It’s pretty amazing to think that the web could be a revolution on the scale of the revolution that ended the aristocracy. There is a book I reviewed called The Netocrats some time ago which talks about the exact same devolution of power and essentially that the “The digital age is making way for a new world order”.
The book, by Jan Söderqvist and Alexander Bard, maintains that the breakthrough of digital interactivity as the dominant form of communication is a paradigm shift that entails, in turn, a shift in power of the same extent as when the bourgeoisie — aided by the invention of the printing press and mass media — wrested power from the feudal aristocracy.
Today’s society is still a society of class divisions. What class power struggles will there be in an advanced information age, ask Bard and Söderqvist. Who will take over from the capitalists and the bourgeoisie as society’s new ruling classes? How will power be distributed within the new hierarchies?
Their answer: a powerful, pragmatic elite called the “netocrats” will emerge — a global, dominant class that will harness the information age and the opportunities it offers, such as digital interactivity. The netocrats will manipulate societies’ networks, control the flow of information and ultimately wield the most power in the future.
The Internet is changing everything. The dot com crash, say Bard and Söderqvist, is largely a result of an old-style capitalist economy and old capitalists failing to grasp the new, interactive media and the social dynamic it is creating.
Netocracy emphasises the major difference between yesterday’s mass media and the mass media of today and the future: digital interactivity. It is this interactivity that will change the social and political fabric of the world as ordinary users begin to create networks and communities around themselves that bypass traditional communication channels. It will be a world where knowledge, networking and social intelligence become the primary respected qualities. Money, the source of capitalism’s power today, becomes “vulgar”. At first, this sounds idealistic and absurd — but then again look at the Open Source movement and how it operates– ring any bells?
Technology will empower individuals but disempower the control governments have over their citizens. Nation states will become less important and probably collapse while the netocrats and their networks, their “electronic tribes”, will have a huge impact on world events.
We have yet to reach the tip of the information revolution. The more information technology dominates, the more culture, society and the economy change. It’s the birth of a “whole new world” — a world undergoing a paradigm shift right under our noses.