Dimensions of Power in Networked Society: New Sources, New Forces
Department:Center for Information Technology Policy
Audience:Open to the Public
CITP and WWS
The original Internet design combined technical, organizational, and cultural characteristics that decentralized power along diverse dimensions. Decentralized institutional, technical, and market power maximized freedom to operate and innovate at the expense of control. Market developments and the politics of security have introduced new points of control. Mobile and cloud computing, connected devices, fiber transition, big data, surveillance, and behavioral marketing introduce new control points and dimensions of power into the Internet as a social-cultural-economic platform. These all have affordances that could centralize or decentralize various kinds of power; and which of these affordances will be salient for life in networked society is up for grabs. The actors and battles are different than they were in the first decade and a half of the public Internet, and unlike in the Internet’s first generation, companies and governments are well aware of the significance of technical and institutional design choices and are jostling to acquire power over, and appropriate value from, networked activity. If we are to preserve the democratic and creative promise of the Internet, we must continuously diagnose control points as they emerge and devise mechanisms of recreating diversity of constraint and degrees of freedom in the network to work around these forms of reconcentrated power.