The Power of Networks

The Power of Networks

Organizing the Global Politics of the Internet

Mikkel Flyverbom

With an ever-growing number of users, the Internet is central to the processes of globalization, cultural formations, social encounters and economic development. These aside, it is also fast becoming an important political domain. Struggles over disclosure, access and regulation are only the most visible signs that the Internet is quickly becoming a site of fierce political conflict involving states, technical groups, business and civil society. As the debate over the global politics of the Internet intensifies, this book will be a valuable guide for anyone seeking to understand the emergence, organization and shape of this new issue.

Chapter 2: Problematizing the Digital Revolution

Mikkel Flyverbom

Subjects: business and management, organisational innovation, organisation studies, innovation and technology, organisational innovation, technology and ict, politics and public policy, international politics


The Internet entered the UN towards the end of the 1990s. It did so not only as a useful alternative to fax machines and regular mail, or as a way to rethink how files in the massive UN archives could be accessed. This technological innovation linking individual PCs in a quickly expanding global network brought on a wave of experiments with ways of organizing UN processes, suggested new directions for media regulation and development strategies to explore, and paved the way for unprecedented interaction and dialogue between business and other non-state actors. The emergence of these UN processes to flesh out the global politics of the digital revolution was made possible by a number of associations between multiple, heterogeneous elements. To understand how this happened, we need to address how these associations were made and stabilized, and particularly how they were driven by ideas about the relationship between technology and social transformation. As we will see, these associations cast the digital revolution as a project in need of attention, that is, they turned it into a ‘matter of concern’ (Latour 2004, 2005b). When matters of fact emerge as matters of concern, they ‘begin to look different, to render a different sound, they start to move in all directions, they overflow their boundaries, they include a complete set of new actors, they reveal the fragile envelopes in which they are housed’ (Latour 2005b: 39). This chapter captures the moment where this transformation started, and shows how we may think of it...

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