Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How IT Came to Rule the World: Disciplining IT

This is the third post in the mini-series on How IT Came to Rule the World ©

While the focus here is primarily on the US and its role in developing data communications and computer technologies; IT has increasingly become global in its innovation, marketing, and production. The strength of the US “military-industrial complex,” the predominance of its currency and financial markets (as well as its capital markets that over funded its e-commerce capability and created the credit crisis of 2008), and the strategic role of its policy makers all contributed to the development of digital information technologies and a “disciplining” of the modern Internet. Consequently, these technologies are also involved in shaping modern American society, establishing new rules and protocols for daily life, and in the application and practice of power at the political level. Information and communications technologies have also been “permissive technologies” facilitating the movement of capital overseas, the management of off-shore production and research facilities, and the networks of global e-commerce and social media.

Friday, July 23, 2010

How IT Came to Rule the World: Regimes

This post was the second of my mini-series on How IT Came to Rule the World originally published at ©

The answer to the question of how information technology (IT) emerged is a complex one. A number of forces can be seen to have infused and shaped its development. The thesis in this project is that modern information technology developed out of the trajectory of US statecraft and its involvement in several political economy regimes which emerged successively and sometimes concurrently in the post-World War II period up and through the turn of the second millennium.

A regime refers to a system of political economy, including the reigning governmental and military power but also the dominant modes of distributing capital and producing goods and services. A regime is a structural alignment between political institutions, corporate and market forces, and the dynamics of human agency – the energy and talent of people working creatively and in collaboration within these structures.

Through relatively consecutive yet overlapping regimes, the system of computerization and telecommunications moved from military and space development, to commercialization, particularly for electronic finance, to the World Wide Web’s e-commerce and social media environment. As social media continues its phenomenal growth, it is on one hand a vehicle for personal empowerment and productivity; and on the other hand, part of an apparatus of surveillance and discipline.

How IT Came to Rule the World: Churchill and McLuhan

This post restarts my mini-series on How IT Came to Rule the World originally published at ©

0.1 One of Marshall McLuhan’s most celebrated intellectual “probes” was his paraphrase of Winston Churchill’s infamous “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.” Churchill was addressing Parliament some two years after a devastating air raid by the Nazis that destroyed the House of Commons.[i] McLuhan reworded Churchill’s concern in the 1960s with a more topical “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.” Writing in a time when the electronic media was exploding in the American consciousness, McLuhan undertook a commitment to understand the role of media, particularly electronic media in modern society and his probe serves here as a point of departure for understanding the emergence of information technologies and simultaneously interrogating their impact as a force increasingly “ruling” the modern world, both in terms of cultural, economic, and political power as well as the preponderance of protocols and procedures ordering our digital world.

[i] “On the night of May 10, 1941, with one of the last bombs of the last serious raid, our House of Commons was destroyed by the violence of the enemy, and we have now to consider whether we should build it up again, and how, and when.” He continued with the above quote arguing for the Chamber’s restoration, citing its “form, convenience, and dignity.”