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The Cultural Politics of Control on the Internet

The Cultural Politics of Control on the Internet

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Published by Huey Tan
This paper attempts to look inside the culture of control and tries to re-imagine the cultural politics of control (Couldry 2000) , loosely based on openness, complexity and reflexivity (Couldry 2000: 4).
This paper attempts to look inside the culture of control and tries to re-imagine the cultural politics of control (Couldry 2000) , loosely based on openness, complexity and reflexivity (Couldry 2000: 4).

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Published by: Huey Tan on Jan 14, 2011
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University of Swansea, Student No. 570886MSDM03 Digital Edge: Contemporary Issues and TrendsWord Count: 4,998
The Cultural Politics of Control on the Internet
In this paper, we will discuss the cultural politics of control on the Internet relying oncurrent political debates (Net Neutrality
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in the United States), recent global events(Google¶s exit from China) (Olesen 2010) and the experience of control by anindividual user (through the impact of design). This paper attempts to look inside theculture of control and tries to re-imagine the cultural politics of control (Couldry2000)
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, loosely based on
openness, complexity and reflexivity
(Couldry 2000: 4). This paper recognizes it is not possible to meet the full rigor and discipline of the method,given the time and space constraints, and we will examine the metaphors of control ineach scenario set in its cultural and political context to redress this imbalance.The term ³cultural politics of control´ is not used in the sense of political economytheory (Appadurai 1990)
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although references to a capitalist mode of production isunavoidable. While we will discuss specific arguments as to who controls the Internet(Goldsmith and Wu 2006) or who rules the Internet (Thierer, Crews, and Cato 2003),we will not be review them in detail, mainly because it has been done. The focus of this paper is to highlight some of the contemporary issues and trends in a digitalculture, using the theory of the cultural politics of control to reveal the relationship of control and power in contemporary society.
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Tim Wus definition of Net Neutrality as a network design principle to achieve a maximallyuseful public information network with aspirations to treat all content, sites and platformsequally, is a reflexive and neutral definition:http://www.timwu.org/network_neutrality.html 
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Nick Couldry (2000)
Inside Culture: re-imagining the method of cultural studies
 
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Arjun Appadurai describes the cultural politics of the nation state and its place in a globaleconomy of culture and politics as a series of interrelationship between changing landscapes(mediascapes, infoscapes, ethonoscapes, etc)  the essay
Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy 
appears in
The Cultural Studies Reader 
(During 1999: 220-233).
 
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F
irstly, we will discuss our definition of a theory of the cultural politics of control(Section 1). Secondly, we will discuss control in the context of the current debate on Net Neutrality in the United States and the potential impact for the rest of the world(Section 2). Thirdly, we will discuss the rules of the Internet as control mechanisms,cultural sensitivities behind government censorship and surveillance, and the specificcase of Google¶s exit from China (Section 3). The last section explores the impact of design on the user experience and some implications for privacy (Section 4). We willend the paper with a brief summary and conclusion.
Section 1: A Theory of the Cultural Politics of Control
Cultural studies is undergoing a metaphorical change, akin to a mid-life crisis, re-imagining itself as a research methodology
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. It is deeply rooted in a democratic visionto investigate the link between the study of culture and power (Couldry 2000: 2). Butit has been stuck in the same groove, analyzing popular culture as an ³out of body´experience, outside of the experiential and never part of it (Couldry 2000: 3). As aresult, cultural studies focused on ³where the light shines, not where the shadowsappear´ (Couldry 2000: 3). Cultural studies must analyze culture from the inside byembracing the complexity of the experiential
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, but at the same time, leaving space toquestion (objectively) and to allow for reflexivity (Bourdieu and Nice 2004: 4)
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 (subjectively). Using this approach to examine the cultural politics of control, we aimto apply the attributes of openness (Gadamer 2004: 355, 546)
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, complexity (Mill2006: 466)
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and reflexivity (Couldry 2000: 4).
4
 
Inside Culture
, written in 2000, is based on the premise that there is a crisis of methods incultural studies.
5
Couldry is critical of recent cultural studies for lapsing into excessively complex language but recognizes that there is a need for a theory of cultural complexity.
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Pierre Bourdieu describes reflexivity as  every word that can be uttered about scientificpractice can be turned back on the person who utters it. (Bourdieu 2004: 4)
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In Truth and Method, Gadamer explains openness as a hermeneutic experience  it is commonbond that involves recognizing that I myself must accept some things that are against me, eventhough no one else forces me to do so (Gadamer 2004: 355) and our capacity for openness to areality which does not correspond to our opinions, our fabrications, our previous expectations(Gadamer 2004: 546) depends on whether it is possible to escape the sphere of influence of oureducation or our socialization, all of which is influenced by linguistics.
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J. S. Mill describes complexity as effects which depend on a complication of causes can be madethe subject of a true induction by observation and experiment (p. 466) i.e. in social sciences,there are factors too numerous to be ascertained or noted, or too rapidly in flux to provide thenecessary stable conditions to separates causes from contingently accompanying factors.
 
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Due to the limitation of space and time, it is not possible to apply this method with thedetailed rigor required. In brief, the theory requires that we analyze culture from theinside, and retain a skeptical eye to avoid the temptation to reify culture, treatingculture as a mass of open-ended processes (Couldry 2000: 4). We will immerse in thesubjective investigation of the cultural experience, and be able to step back from the³me´ merged inside culture to critically examine ourselves on difficult and uncertainquestions such as belonging and detachment (Couldry 2000: 4). Studying objectiveand subjective elements of culture together helps us to understand the scale of culturaland political production in ourselves and others:«how we speak about others and how we speak personally must be consistentwith each other, if our theory is to be fully accountable«We cannotoversimplify the cultural experiences of others, without caricaturing our own.Cultural studies in this sense involves an ethic of reciprocity, a mutual practiceof both speaking and listening, which is inextricably tied to taking seriouslythe complexity of cultures. It is here that ethics (and politics) converge withmethod (Couldry 2000: 5).Before addressing specific scenarios of culture and politics, we will discuss the natureof control in a modern society. The discourse on the nature of control is extensive andit will require scoping to fit into this discussion. Our starting point is the shift incontemporary society, moving from disciplinary regimes
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to regimes of control(Deleuze 1998: 1) (Hardt and Negri 2000: 329). These regimes of control are notmerely institutional. The use of the metaphor of ³societies of control´ (Deleuze 1998:1) aims to represent institutions as the source of power, due to the structuring andconsolidating of the strategy behind the formation of power (Kaufman 1998: 57).Deleuze on
F
oucault, remarks ³every society has its diagram(s)´ (Deleuze, Hand, and
F
oucault 2006: 31).
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In the mini-essay
Society of Control 
, Deleuze opens by saying that Foucault located the
disciplinary societies
in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, they reach their height at theoutset of the twentieth. (Deleuze 1998: 1)

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