Friday, 17 October 2008

Democratization of virtual environments_part 1


Historically all the possible practices of politics which have been invented, exercised and experienced, resulted in forms of power which constituted regimes. This categorisation, which occurred during the era of Enlightenment, defined the realm of the new born episteme of political science. The result was the definition and the study of regimes such us Democracy, Monarchy and Despotism. Among these, Democracy is still in question as commodity and at the same time it is the most demanding concept of political struggle.

In the realm of the democracy of the virtual I am mainly concerned with the image of democracy, the image of the universal suffrage and less with the action at the virtual or real public space. Consequently, the image of democracy itself results to be based on narrative, immersion and interactivity which became more important by replacing and raping the ‘public’ political discourse itself. But any public space, which asks to be defined as such, should evoke communication, and the constitution of the political life should advance and aim on coexistence.

Virtue, as memory reveals today in the infosociety’s contemporary politics, is mostly related with the designers of the software and less with the obedience or disobedience of how we act and behave in the virtual public space. It is more important how the designers of the software expand the horizon of the user and less how the users expand the horizon within the given software.

“When democratic culture becomes technological, sooner or later democratic rules also have to be hardwired into the technical systems, for example in the form of software. Instead of asking how representative democracy can be saved or renewed by using the internet, the first question that needs to be asked is how democratic the internet (and its culture) itself is.
But how the democratisation of the virtual environments and the internet in general can be measured? Is still the production of virtue, within the context of the virtual, the Achille’s heel of democracy?

By software I refer not only to programs like Photoshop, a game engine or how Wiki works but the internet itself and in a great extent the 'physical' public space with its rules of use. Software expresses itself with interfaces which tend to function as social sculpture. It is a space where the rules - that have been set up usually by the designers - are supposed to expand the cognitive horizon, the desires and the needs of the user; meanwhile they create and store the collective memory.

Interfaces for that reason become the gatekeepers of perception, knowledge, imagination and memory. Although there is an opposite perspective to that, which could be concluded in the trendy slogan that runs across some parts of European elites: How Marcel Proust can save your life from the internet.

However, the grass root participation in virtual environments appears to transform the platforms to a state that encourages critical thinking. This in its turn assures the production of the essential principle of virtue that feeds and retains democracy. But interfaces could easily transform the potential space to a participatory immersion that raises propaganda and seduction.

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