I felt that our readings this week carried an overall theme of discovering new ways to use our technology, how our technology was used in the past, and how we are using it today. The main idea of control was exhibited in all three of the readings, and all three mentioned that since the beginning of technology, even before the internet, control was always a present force. To refer back to week two with our Morus reading in, “’The Nervous System of Britain’: Space, Time and the Electric Telegraph in the Victorian Age”, the technological advancements from the telegraph was also for control over the societal whole, which reached out to an even further audience, or network of people. John Dewey, an American Pragmatism, whose views over technology resulted from human inquiry to further our uses of technology also believed, “control is coordinate with knowledge and understanding” The same notion can be applied to today with control over the internet era.
The ironic aspect is the connection between the “Blown to Bits” reading and the “Why Networks Matter”. Castells states, “…we live in a network society, not an information society or knowledge society.” While Abelson, Ledeen, and Lewis seem to focus on the cause and effects of technology and the impacts, however they focus on the information technology, which they state is neutral, neither good or bad. Their concern is, “our public agencies and private institutions, have a say in whether technology will be used for good or ill and whether we will fall prey to its risks or prosper from the opportunities it creates.” Albeit, Abelson, Ledeen, and Lewis are not the only ones to bring up the ideal of neutrality with the effects of technology. University of Notre Dame honoree, General David Sarnoff believed, “We are too prone to make technological instruments the scapegoats for the sins of those who wield them. The products of modern science are not in themselves good or bad; it is just the way they are used that determines their value”. I still belive that both Castells and Abelson, Ledeen, and Lewis would all agree that digital technology is reshaping our culture and as McLuhan would also believe, it is from the radical speed of instantaneity that is drastically changing the world around us.
In the Castells reading, I could not help but think of six degrees of separation, particularly, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” when it comes to the notion of why networks matter, particularly how network society has expanded to a global scale. Again, Castells brings up the strong-arm approach of power within a network society, which he believes, “In a network society, power continues to be the fundamental structuring force of its shape and direction.” He furthers his thought by exercising our values and interests against these power elites by challenging our networks versus their networks. He makes us aware that networks structure our lives. If we do not understand and adapt ourselves to the receivers within these networks we will not change programs or unveil new forms of code. He states, “Networks are the Matrix.” This notion of the Matrix is the same that McLuhan shares with content and medium like Castells, stating, “The latest approach to media study considers not only the “content” but the medium (like networks) and the cultural matrix within which the particular medium operates.”
Galloway also brings up the idea of elites within the internet age in another aspect, as users of the Internet comprise a diverse community as “the standard-makers at the heart od this technology are a small entrenched group of “techno-elite peers””. I also found it interesting that Galloway brings up the notion of the system’s workings. He believes that “most users are not interested in the details of the Internet protocols, they just want the system to work.” And as IETF Chair Fred Baker states, “The average user doesn’t write code, if their needs are met, they don’t especially care how they were met.” This ideal describes the same notion that McLuhan mentioned with the message from the movie medium and the transitions from lineal connections to configurations. McLuhan states, “It is the transition that produced the now quite correct observation: “If it works, it’s obsolete.” Like Galloway, who further explains the systems and languages within the internet, shows us that average and daily users do not think of the processes, as long as their page uploads and links work. They do not care about the code and the protocols of making pages and links work today. Another important notion of Galloway’s reading was the idea of standards being adopted non-voluntarily and voluntarily through voluntary participation. Ironically, the behaviors of non-voluntarily adoption are more successful in the marketplace, as it is emergent and not imposed. Also, back to the theme of power, the voluntary standards, ” has no binding power as a standards creation body and is not ratified by any treaty or charter.” The line of control with voluntary standards as Galloway believes, “it should not be inferred that a lack of centralized control means a lack of control as such.” It is the notion of a collaborative involvement and individual participation to a collective group that voluntary standards thrive, without direct control, and successfully adapt to the free market place.