Today’s required viewing is a half-hour documentary by friends of ToC, Brian A. Anderson and Erin Carr at Motherboard.Vice.Com .
There are several interesting responses to the questions put forth. First off, I think it would be easy to miss the forest for the trees, particularly for the more technophobic. The Internet is means of communication, just like books, television or messages in bottles. The Occupy movement was, in some ways, a test to see to what extent this means of communication can translate in to face-to-face action.
I bring this up only because I sort of agree with Ms. Grant when she points out that the Internet starts as a government tool, and the question of whether it can ever be anything more than that has now arisen. Likewise, I often dismiss the Internet as corrupted in an essential way, since it is a way of human interaction that denies us the very human and very Levinasian experience of seeing one’s interlocutor (hence a lack of civility, or any sort of “discourse” as is traditionally defined). I also believe the world viewed through “the Internet” is often only taken as spectacle (in a Guy DeBord sort of way), with the ever escalating experience of addiction, since the Internet so willingly proffers what we want.
I also find Isaac’s notions of “We are facing global challenges, therefore we need extremely localized communities” to be a little confusing. The world has been connected by forces of colonialism and exploitation. What does a world connected by something else even look like? What do we have to say to each other in our native tongues, which is to say, apart from commerce? One looks to the Internet. If one looks at 4chan, it’s racism and misogyny. If one looks at reddit, it’s smugness and cats. If one looks at the Occupy movement it’s undefined rage.
But that’s taking a rather dichotomous view of what the Internet can do, and mostly does, and makes distinctions that I’m not really in the mood to make right now. The fact is, books cause you to withdraw from the physical world that surrounds you, and magazines are a part of the society of the spectacle and yet both of these also possible means to understanding the physical world/society and getting closer to a notion of truth. And the Internet not as a true or complete community, but as means to a true human community (meaning what? I don’t know) might seem contradictory, but it’s not as though one can’t read about deforestation in a newspaper.
Isaac is incredibly intelligent and well-spoken and when he points out that what he’s doing with consumer electronics is far from ethically perfect, he’s honest: It is a step, in faith, to less net suffering. And a connected world that allows you get past the petty arguments and to genuinely understand (or see documentaries that cause you to have internal debates…) seem like steps to a better understanding of what society is and can do, and what a world outside of commerce–eventual face-to-face interaction that leads to people as an end in and of themselves rather than means–might someday be.