I finally got around to reading Siva Vaidhyanathan’s The Anarchist in the Library (visit his blog here). What a fantastic read. As I understand it, he puts Laurence Lessig into overdrive. He starts with the problem of information flows and the laws that prohibit them and goes to fantastic places including the vulgar manifestations of neo-liberalism and the struggle between anarchy and republicanism (not to be confused with the party by the same name). While believing in anarchistic principles, he adroitly argues that anarchism too neatly follows destructive neoliberal patterns of radical individualism and that republicanism (as theorized by little known philosophers such as Aristotle), would cultivate a connection between personal freedom and belonging to society, political structures and culture in general.
This is a big problem as far as I’m concerned. It’s the premise of my work that networked and distributed technologies have aided the cultivation of neoliberalism, that even patterns of spectatorship have bended to an individual perspective. We are always in the driver’s seat when we view content. Digital media, if nothing else, has trained us to demand control over consumption. Being part of a crowd or mass audience is practically intolerable to most consumers and the world is being designed accordingly.
All that is to say, I applaud Mr. Vaidhyanathan for taking seriously the big picture. I applaud him for making the essential connections between the everyday legal battles and the global struggle for culture. It takes a skilled scholar to argue convincingly that when I download a song with any P2P technology, that I am in fact engaging in a much larger discourse about freedom, democracy and technology.