E-Topia as Cosmopolis or Citadel

Theory, Culture and Society 19 (1-2):197-225 (2002)
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We present a critical appraisal of the impact of the Internet upon processes of democratization and de-democratization in contemporary society. We review accounts of `the information revolution' as these have become polarized into mutually exclusive rhetorics of future cosmopolitan or citadellian e-topias. We question the Manichean assumptions common to both rhetorics: particularly the fetishism of information technology as an intrinsically democratizing or de-democratizing force on societies. In opposition to this new technological fetishism we focus upon Internet historicity; the human/machine nexus; Internet policing and appropriation presenting a different story of the Net, emphasizing contingent, indeterminate and negotiable characteristics of sociotechnical systems, preparing for a more radical critique of existing theories of `global technological citizenship'. Refiguring `culture' as technopoiesis, we argue that an alternative approach to global civil society minimally presupposes a cultural sociology of the Internet: approaching information technologies as the product of specific sociocultural practices and as historical sites of ethico-political transformation and reflexive self-figuration.



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