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<nettime> Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium Part Two, sectio
Patrice Riemens on Sat, 12 Apr 2014 05:11:18 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium Part Two, section #1

Part II

The Libertarian World Domination Project: Hacking, Social Network(s),
Activism and Institutional Politics.

(section 1)
Online Ideologies: Google as Heir to the Enlightenment, and Facebook the
Libertarian one.

We are now coming to the issue which is concerning us directly and is also
the closest to our heart: politics. Even though politics appears to have
very little connexion with social network, it is precisely the political
ideology behind their respective business model that makes out the major
difference between online sociality's two giants and long time
competitors: Facebook and Google.

Our Ippolita Collective spared no effort to attack wholeheartedly the
totalitarism of Google [*], the platform where the world's information
transits through. Yet one may also somehow position Google within the
tradition of the Age of Enlightenment. Google pursues the old dream of
global knowledge accessible to all who benefit from its benign and
enlightened tyranny. To liberate the human being from her/his 'minority
position' and making her/him more autonomous was the aim of Enlightenment,
and one will surely gladly adhere to that ideal. But then, the dark side
of Google is also the Enlightenment's dark side: its unrestrained display
of scientific rationality, of technological advances, and of all myths 
that go with them. Ratio's regressive moment comes with the advent of the
barbary of total control, of human alienation - and of the life-world as a
whole - all in the name of a machinic religion. There is no doubt that
Google represents the icon of the mega-machine in all its positive and
negative aspects. Google develops innovative algorithms and filters
providing snappy search results, as outcome of scientific research and
technical invention. Yet Google's contents are not solely the offshoot of
profiling its users, they are also, and even mostly so, the result of a
creative tension born out of a stock of freely available information
resources, (but) this within the limits of a freedom to access which is
managed by a technical subject - and thus not by the users (themselves) -
who intends not to be malevolent (the famous "/Don't be evil"/ motto), all
this within the context of a capitalist 'free market'.

In the United States, Google is being seen as politically 'liberal', which
is tantamount to left of the center in European parlance. In the rest of
the world, Google is perceived as supporting the freedom of expression and
to be inimical towards repressive (and usually anti-American) governments.
Its dissensions with China have earned it a reputation as a firm holding
up democratic values, or at least, abiding by the  democratic framework
when it comes to access to information. There is undoubtedly something
good about the idea of making all information accessible to all comers. In
a certain sense it is (also) about furthering the American Dream. Google
reproduces the saga of the Frontier by transmuting (the advance of) the
conquest of the Far West online. Progress here is about accumulating ever
more data, making the network denser, and, in the universalist outlook
towards an community (/koinè/) at the world-scale, about building up an
intensely collaborative encyclopedia, embracing everything, absolutely
everything - searches, e-mails, cards, books, articles, images, etc etc.
So actually, if one just glosses over the huge problem that is the
management of all knowledge by a private entity, and if one decides not to
care very much about the issue of technological transfer of authority,
well, then, Google is not bad at all! Of course, there will be more and
more conflicts - due to Google's humongous material interests, and the
global reach of its services. These conflicts will include both with
private individuals as well as national and international authorities and
they will be about infringements of the fundamental right to privacy,
suspicion of abuse of its dominant (market) position, cartel-forming,
undue collaboration with intelligence agencies, etc. But it is also true
that, as a firm dealing with global knowledge, Google does not lean on a
clearly definable political position.

This is certainly not the case with Facebook, which is supported and
sponsored by the libertarian extreme right in the US - or to use that
strangely apposite oxymoron: the anarcho-capitalists. But then it is not
easy to describe this particular ideology in a few sentences, especially
from an European perspective. Libertarian ideas (in Europe) may come in
many shades, from municipal libertarism to anarcho-syndicalism,
anarcho-communism, individual anarchism, etc. - yet they all are
historically linked to anarchism, and hence to  socialist
internationalism. Therefore, a fundamentally anti-socialist reading  of
anarchism doesn't make logical sense (in our parts).

And yet, as we shall see shortly, libertarians US-style (or /right
libertarians/, who have nothing in common with /left libertarians/ - the
real anarchists) not only play a central role in the everyday practices
and corporate politics of Facebook, they are also prominent in shaping a
whole set of values which has emerged over the past twenty years in the
digital world. There are (also) significant connections between the world
of hacking and libertarian ideas. In this perspective, we are not out to
explore the (epistemic) avenues between political philosophy and economic
theory, as much as we are trying to uncover the governing principle
linking phenomena like Facebook, Wikileaks and Anonymous - to name but a
few - together, even though, de prime abord, they do not have anything in

(to be continued)

next time: Libertarians - or a brief history of capitalism on steroids


[*]  See  http://www.ippolita.net/en/dark-side-google-abstract
Full version (in English):
An earlier version of the original Italian book's translation has been
'serialised' on nettime-l in 2009.

Translated by Patrice Riemens
This translation project is supported and facilitated by:
The Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences
The Antenna Foundation, Nijmegen
(http://www.antenna.nl - Dutch site)
(http://www.antenna.nl/indexeng.html - english site under construction)
Casa Nostra, Vogogna-Ossola, Italy

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