Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Doesn't AOL Control Cyberspace?

James Beniger sees the very decentralized structure of cyberspace as the very reason it can become so powerful and influencing. Beniger uses the transformation of the U.S. Postal system from a hand and sort entity into a computerized mass mailing database of the future as the warning that cyberspace's power and appeal are not unnoticed by the politically savvy and business power hungry of the world.

Beniger's analysis of cyberspace's capability to amplify the reach and persuasion of mass communication brings up important points about the versatility of the Internet, and is another demonstration of how it has become the all encompassing medium. Indeed as Beniger puts it, the thought of a personalized and intimate form of mass communication, wherein 2 way communication is possible and a record of who believes what is feasible makes for a pretty scary tool for your deceptively persuasive dictator. Beniger brings up the particularly interesting point about cyberspace's threat to the centralized order as being the main attraction it has to the very people it poses a threat to .

While discussing the future of cyberspace, Beniger brings about the likely rationalization of its structure in some form or another. Just as cited in the Postal system's use of it to categorize the masses into whatever subset they please, e-commerce has used cyberspace to make the Internet one big focus group. With so much of this world unclear as it continues to develop, the business and government elites are using this uncertainty to their advantage. Recalling AOL's divulging of several thousand personal accounts to the government a couple of years back I can't help but think that some of Beniger's predictions are already happening. Not to mention what another peer has stated about Google's power. The decentralized world of the cyberspace runs along a digital divide, so its more likely as Beniger puts it that those who control society at large will be controlling cyberspace and indeed, might be already.


Lance Strate said...

Beniger was definitely prescient, especially when you think about how internet interactivity is used for commercial purposes on MySpace and Amazon.

Lance Strate said...

And I would make the distinction between interactivity as a programmed simulation in which impersonal communication masquerades as personal, personalized communication, and true interaction between two human beings.

Or we could also apply Martin Buber's distinction between I-You and I-It relationships here.