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Monday, February 07, 2011

Net and Multiple Realities- Jodi Dan

the following write up on Net and Multiple Realities is by Vipin George


There is no doubt that the Internet is a wondrous creation. The entire world is rapidly becoming obsessed with it. Everywhere you look, you are bound to see something related to the Internet. Jodi dean, in one of her most recent essays “The Net and Multiple Realities” deals with her understanding of net and the way net is perceived in the modern society. The essay is divided in two parts. The first part of the essay is centred around three issues. Firstly, what is the significance of considering net as a public sphere? There are arguments for and against this proposal. Some consider it as a public sphere as it gives opportunities for interaction, and register their thoughts and opinions in political discussions. It is almost like the way democracy functions. Democracy as a political system is based on discussion, inclusion and participation. Due to the advancement of net, there is the emergence of ‘world Public Sphere’, which means the information is no more the privilege of the elite but everyone has access to information and can register their thoughts. “The internet is a great facility to enhance democracy and individual participation in politics, only if the thoughts and voices of different people are posed properly, with organization and clarity, through a website that is recognized by the state and government, a website that has legitimacy” However, the challenge in considering net as a true public sphere is due to the fact that even today net is limited to the urban population even though it is making inroads in to the rural area. Again, people who engage on net debate and discussion are the techno-savvy elite and not the masses or the majority of the population. In my opinion, there is a long way to go before net can be considered as a true public sphere representing the masses.

Secondly, Jodi Dean tries to redefine net as communicative capitalism. The most significant aspect of net is that it is a medium of communication. Today it has become a system like capitalism with its own rules, regulations and structure. These regulatory interventions are invoked and pursued to make the net safe for commercial exchange, to protect the intranets of financial markets, establish the trust necessary for consumer confidence in online transactions, and to make appear as a public sphere what is clearly the material basis of the global economy. “Communicative capitalism designates that form of late capitalism in which values heralded as central to democracy take material form in networked communications technologies.” However, we think that net is encouraging participation but actually it is a financially mediated exchange centred on advertising, public relations and the means of mass communication. Thus, it only strengthens capitalism and the elite, and gives a false sense of participation, power and hope to the mass. Of course, this view of looking at net may be a Marxist way of perceiving the net and its role in our society. The net allegedly opens the world to everyone, regardless of race, creed, and sex which makes it democratic but still not everyone can afford to go online.

Thirdly, in order to have a critical perspective on the net and its relation to public sphere there is a need to consider public sphere as a construct, and subject it to critique. The ideology of techno-culture is centred on publicity. Publicity makes communicative capitalism seem natural and unavoidable. It gives us the matrix that tells us what to think, what to see, and what to desire. The new media is presented as the new democratic public, where we have all the privileges of democracy without the mess created by millions of people interacting together. But a closer look at the technoculure reveals that what it offers is not democracy but a communicative capitalism. As Saskia Sassen's research on the impact of economic globalization on sovereignty and territoriality makes clear, the speed, simultaneity, and interconnectivity of electronic telecommunications networks produce massive distortions and concentrations of wealth. An integral element of this communicative capitalism is the publicity. It makes today’s communicative capitalism seem perfectly natural.

In the second part of the essay Jodi defines net in terms of two concepts such as zero institution and neo-democracy. Zero institution as a concept was introduced by Claude Levi-Strauss. It means a shared understanding (assumption) that is never represented. “Like Hitler, assumes that marriage is solely for procreation . Kall assumes humans are simply “cells” in the body politic, nothing more.” (Thompson) It is an institution that has no positive function at all. Dean considers net as a zero institution because it allows myriad conflicting constituencies to understand themselves as part of the same global structure even though they disagree over that the architecture of this structure. For example, “where tradition and kinship have been superseded by modernity "the nation" takes on the role of a zero-institution."Liberals" and "conservatives" may have opposing, or even mutually exclusive, understandings about social organization but both groups agree they belong to a larger community that binds them together regardless of conflict and difference.” This conflict links net to be considered as neo-democracy. Neo-democracies are configured through contestation and conflict. It is like the public sphere that has been the site of political legitimating through discussion and debate over matters of common concern. In the same way the neo-democratic networks are contestatory networks, networks of engagements around issues of vital concern to their constituents.

Internet is here to stay and it has its wide ramifications for our social, political, economic and cultural life. It is of great help to student’s community as information and knowledge recourse have become easily available and affordable.


Dean, Jodi. “The Net and Multiple Realities” The Cultural Studies Reader. Eds. Simon During, London: Routledge, 2007. Print.

“Communicative Capitalism: Jodi Dean” Internet and it’s Effects. 28 Oct. 2008. Web. 5 Feb. 2011.

“Zero Institution” Ghost of a Flea. 31 August, 2005. Web. 6 Feb. 2011.

“Zero Institution” Web. 5 Frb.2011.

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