An anthropologist on the moon: anthropology blog .: January 2012

The Internet is an instrument of freedom and autonomy, when power has always been based on the control of people, through information and communication. "In fact, the Internet amplifies the oldest social gap in history, which is the level of education."


Interview with Manuel Castells professor of sociology.

If anyone has studied the interiorities of the information society is the sociologist Manuel Castells (Hellín, 1942). His trilogy "The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture" has been translated into 23 languages. He is one of the first brains rescued: he returned to Spain after having researched and taught for 24 years at the University of California, Berkeley. One of his most recent investigations is the Internet Project Catalonia, in which for six years he has analyzed, through 15,000 personal interviews and 40,000 through the Network, the changes that the Internet introduces in culture and social organization.

Question. This research shows that Internet does not favor privacy , as many people believe, but the people who chat the most are the most sociable.

Answer. Yes. For us it's no surprise. The surprise is that this result was a surprise. There are at least 15 major studies in the world that give that same result.

Why do you think the opposite idea has spread successfully?

For fear of the new?

R. Exact. But fear, from whom? From the old society to the new, from parents to their children, from people who have power anchored in a technologically, socially and culturally old world, with respect to what comes to them, that they do not understand or control and that they perceive as a danger, and in the end it is. Because the Internet is an instrument of freedom and autonomy, when power has always been based on the control of people, through information and communication. But this is over. Because the Internet can not be controlled.

We live in a society in which the management of visibility in the public sphere of the media, as defined by John J. Thompson, has become the main concern of any institution, company or body. But the control of the public image requires means that are controllable, and if the Internet is not ...

R. It is not, and that explains why the powers are afraid of the Internet. I have been to do not know how many advisory commissions of governments and international institutions in the last 15 years, and the first question that governments always ask is: how can we control the Internet? The answer is always the same: you can not. There may be surveillance, but no control.

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If the Internet is so determinant of social and economic life, can its access be the main factor of exclusion?

R. No, the most important thing will continue to be access to work and career, and before the educational level, because without education, technology is useless. In Spain, the so-called digital divide is question of age. The data are very clear: among those over 55, only 9% are Internet users, but among those under 25, they are 90%.

Is it, then, only a matter of time?

In this society that tends to be so liquid, in the expression of Zygmunt Bauman, where everything is constantly changing, and increasingly globalized, can the sense of insecurity increase, that the world moves under our feet? p>

R. There is a new society that I have tried to define theoretically with the concept of society-network, and that is not very far from the one that defines Bauman. I believe that, rather than liquid, it is a society in which everything is articulated transversally and there is less control of traditional institutions.

In what sense?

R. It extends the idea that the central institutions of society, the state and the traditional family, no longer work. Then the whole floor moves at the same time. First, People think their governments do not represent it and they are not reliable. We started wrong. Second, they think the market is good for those who win and bad for those who lose . As most lose, there is a mistrust of what the pure and hard logic of the market can provide to people. Third, we are globalized; this means that our money is in some global flow that we do not control , that the population is subjected to very strong migratory pressures , so that it is increasingly difficult lock people into a culture or national boundaries.

What role does the Internet play in this process?

And the greater can be their frustration at the distance between the theoretical possibilities of participation and those exercised in practice, which are limited to voting every four years, do not you think?

R. Yes, there is a huge gap between technological capacity and political culture. Many municipalities have put Wi-Fi access points, but at the same time they are not able to articulate a system of participation, serve to that people better organize their own networks, but not to participate in public life. The problem is that the political system is not open to participation, to constant dialogue with citizens, to the culture of autonomy, and, therefore, these technologies, what they do is to further alienate politics from citizenship. p>