Rights Fit For a Networked World


I have written a new post on the politics of networked life for the Newcastle Politics Culture, Security, Identity blog at e-IR. In it, I look at the questions raised by the idea of a right to the internet and the way in which recent NSA spying has revealed the way in which our discussions about such rights are insufficiently developed. Here’s an excerpt:

The assumption of a right to connection and the reduction of discussion of its dimensions to practical concerns about access mask a deeper set of social and political dynamics. On the one hand, the conjunction of Facebook and the UN around a right to the internet shows the way in which the idea of a networked world has penetrated our thinking of contemporary global life. Life itself is no longer understood as individual, but rather as a constellation of relations. While relations with others have always been important, rights have generally been possessed by individuals thought of as single autonomous units of social and political life. However, the right to the internet reveals a different model of social and political life. Instead of individuals, we are nodes in networks (both physical and virtual – wires and relationships). Indeed, we can only achieve our full potential by connecting, that is by abandoning the idea of an autonomous individual and becoming enmeshed in the network.

As I have written elsewhere, in a networked world we cannot avoid being exposed virtually and physically: we are exposed to ideas and relationships; and we are exposed to a dependence on connecting infrastructures. Our life is characterised by being able to expose ourselves; to withdraw from exposure is to have no life at all. And yet there is little discussion of the politics of this exposure.

You can read the full piece here: http://www.e-ir.info/2013/10/29/rights-fit-for-a-networked-world/

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