In the look for inspiration, before starting this first post, which I had no idea of what was going to be about, I read another post talking about the list made by the History Channel of the 11 innovations that changed history.
After listing eleven inventions, that indeed are crucial in the understanding of human society nowadays and a pillar in the development of our societies, the post, very correctly locates the internet as the most disrupting invention of the human society and business in history. This definition, in my opinion, is correct but incomplete. Most of the actual internet, with pages like Facebook, Twitter or Amazon, have managed to change our societies. However the internet has developed the capacity of sustaining independent and parallel societies, “e-societies”.
The definition that the Oxford dictionary gives of society is: “The community of people living in a particular country or region and having shared customs, laws, and organizations”.
As we will see, the internet has managed to create societies that are able to fulfill most of the characteristics of this description. The only thing that the “e-societies” do not share with this definition is that they aren’t located in a specific country.
This way, even tough the internet has some strict links to the material world (for example the always problematic WiFi), the internet has managed to create completely parallel and different ways of social communication, group formation and many other features.
4chan, the origins of the international network Anonymous, is a great example of how the internet is capable of developing new cultural and communitarian structures. Different from any other one seen before, 4chan is a society formed by people of completely different nationalities, different cultural backgrounds, with different languages, different religions and different ideas.
What in the beginning was a simple image-based bulletin with a comment section, is now the pillar for an “e-society” that has managed to generate most of the characteristics of a society. In a way, 4chan has its language, its culture, and its ideological corpus, and organization patterns. For example, in 4chan ideal corpus is based, among other pillars, in the freedom of the internet, supporting and promoting the free content for the internet, wile fighting the restrictions that some countries and companies try to impose to the users.
In fact, this culture and ideology is so inculcated in the community that Anonymous started as a organization that had as its main goal defending these ideas and beliefs.
As we can see, this simple website has been able to create its own unique e-society, with a specific culture and even an ideological corpus. However, this societies are very different from the normal societies. There are, in my opinion, two big differences between the societies and e-societies.
- The social interaction: the internet has managed to take social relations to the limit. As many authors have already stated, such as Clay Shirky or Manuel Castells, the internet has allowed a two way communication platform making the interconnection between individuals extremely easy.
- There is an absolute lack of legislation among this societies. Even though governments around the world have tried to impose some legislation over the internet, excepting mayor violations, they have been extremely unsuccessful in the developing of a system capable of implementing that legislation. The most clear example is the illegal downloading of audiovisual or academic contents in the internet. Despite the clear prohibition of these activities in the traditional societies, the prohibition has been terribly ineffective worldwide.
This characteristics of the e-societies, are what makes them unique and special. Due to its characteristics, the e-societies are the first societies that aren’t formed with a legislative corpus with stable and effective institutions capable of enforcing the law. In philosophical terms, this societies lack of what the contractualists, such as Hobbes or Locke, called a social contract that is at the end the basis of the construction of a modern society.
Therefore, the e-societies are defying one of the most ancient conditions for a society. In a way, e-societies like 4chan have become quasi-anarchist societies, being the firsts of its kind in history.
The most important characteristic of this societies is that they can be absolutely parallel to our physical society. You can be at the same time a German butcher and a leader of an operation of the Anonymous organization.
This way we can see that the invention of society is not only modifying our society, but it’s algo being able to create its own. Nowadays, the “analogical societies” are the principal ones but the potentiality of the internet is so big that this relation could be reversed.