Simon G Penny on Tue, 7 Oct 1997 01:57:32 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> re: Uneven Development

Armin Medosch and Niko Waesche

I want to compliment you on broaching this issue in Telepolis. 

You are absolutely correct that 'the nation state is in trouble'. It has
been apparent to me for some years that the politico-economic autonomy
of the nation state cannot endure a trans-national economics in which
corporations, uprooted from any geographical location or national
allegiance, move sources of raw materials, labor, plant _and_ markets at
whim about the planet. In this context all nationally based  democratic
processes; from democratically elected governments to labor
organisation; are undermined and potentially, can be rendered powerless. 

A new global medievalism looms, in which nation states are reduced to
the role of serfs in the new order. Swifts' image of the 'floating
island' in Gullivers Travels comes to mind. 

The rise of multinational capitalism could not have happened without
high speed global data transfer (ie 'the net') and we must always
remember that the libertarian playground of the internet is just the
frilled edge of International Data Capitalism. Indeed, it was John Perry
Barlow who many years ago said: "the first thing to go virtual was your
money". Not that the issue is _new_, my 91/92 installation Big Father
focused on this issue, and papers by Maria Fernandez of those years
addressed related issues such as 'technology transfer' from first to
third world as a kind of neo-colonialism, carrying cultural values along
with the (ostensibly) 'neutral' technology. (cf: Globalisation of
Culture, Maria Fernandez, 1991/2, presented at TISEA Sydney 1992; and:
Technological Diffusion and the Construction of a Universal
Aesthetic...1993/4, presented at Future Languages, Adelaide Jan94 and
ISEA94 Helsinki.)  

That 'development is consistently uneven' should come as a surprise to
no-one. Only the most naive of techno-utopians could conceive that
international data communications networks established (largely) by and
for big business would support any ideology other than the one that they
emerged from. As colonialism was the 'dark' component of the industrial
revolution (an exploitable source of resources and markets), so the
net-result (pun intended) of the net is, as we have seen, increased
concentration of wealth. 

As many of us have been saying for years: net-utopianism is a dellusion
of the disaffected of the developed nations. Lets acknowledge (again)
that the vast majority of the worlds population has neither reliable
electricty nor telephones. Although Utopians seem to imagine that the
net is just 'there' in the ether, in fact it rides on an expensive and
high-tech hardware infrastructure, at worst: reliable phone lines. If
optical fibre isn't laid in your part of town (ie: south central LA) you
just fell off the map into the marginal zone of the net-poor. You just
lost your voice and your ability to share in this new wealth production.
Similarly, although free net services may exist in some places, you'd
better have some serious disposable income if you're dialing up from

Simon Penny
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