Despite a clear tendency towards enlightening social relations, the Internet does not promise to give revolutionaries their socialist society on a plate. In fact, it offers us the parallel “disinformation revolution” as well. Unlike misinformation, disinformation is deliberate.
Although mass propaganda can be expected to decrease quantitatively, customised propaganda may increase qualitatively. Propaganda and spin could become more, not less, powerful, as mass media gives way to “mess media” and a proliferation of micro-channels, micro-markets and perhaps micro-cultures makes the targeting of disinformation against selected individuals more feasible. It’s as if the ultimate dream of the free-marketeers is of six billion separate Earths, a doppelganger for each of us, and consensus or revolution impossible in any of them. But humans aren’t so easy to control, nor communication so easy to stop. The right-wing utopians forget about our critical faculties and our propensity to gossip amongst ourselves:
The hypnotic spell of years of television and its intense public relations is broken as people learn to deconstruct and recombine the images intended to persuade them. The result is that the population at large gains the freedom to re-examine previously accepted policies and prejudices” (Rushkoff, Cyberia, p.55-6).
The danger of participation is that there are . . . thousands of potentially critical eyes watching every entry. A faulty fact will be challenged, a lie will be uncovered, plagiarism will be discovered. Cyberspace is a truth serum (Rushkoff, p.18).
In 1992 the size of the world labor force was something like 1.76 billion people; by 2025, if current trends stay more or less what they are, the world labor force is going to be 3.1 billion people. That means every year for the next thirty years the world economy needs to create 38 to 40 million new jobs. And it’s got to do that at a time when the main technological trend is going in the opposite direction of net job liquidation” (http://www.eff.org/pub/Publications/E-journals/CyRev).
Ubiquity drives increasing returns in the network economy. The question becomes: what is the most cost-effective way to achieve ubiquity? And the answer is: give things away. Make them free (New Rules for the New Economy, Fourth Estate, 1998).
The network economy has set into motion the power of hobby tribes and informed peers . . . The law of increasing returns can feed a small interest into a mid-sized interest. Whereas once there was a lone fanatic for every notion, now there is a devoted website for every fanatic notion; soon there can be 10,000 fellow enthusiasts for every fascination (Kelly, p.105).
They will be playing computer games, watching interactive TV, and shopping in virtual malls. The stratified distribution of education will act as the guardian of the virtual border between the passive and the active user, and prevent those populations participating in multi-directional interactivity from increasing in any significant numbers (Alinta Thornton, Ch.5, http://www.wr.com.au/democracy/thesis1).