Towards Commercialization: “The Revolution Will Not Be Privatized”.

Professor Monroy, in his previous post, gave a great summary of Tim Wu’s argument in the Master Switch. Wu skillfully lays out the history of several key technologies through a series of stories that don’t necessarily have happy endings—each “technological path” ends in consolidation, commercialization, and centralized control.

As an aside, a critique that I have of the book is its “Great Man” view of history. Though the book is not staunchly based on technological determinism, I did find that it played much more on personalities than structural issues of political economy.

The concerns of monopolization and consolidation that Wu discusses in his book me seem way more threatening to me then spam, cyber-bullying, and other ills that Levinson discusses that that can be navigated as the internet matures.

As a student who has been somewhat involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement, I can definitely see that the Internet is still very much in its nascent phase—the stage in which the technology seems to liberate you from previous regulators and corporations. As I write this, I have a livestream of the OWS happenings humming in the background, and dozens of tweets inform me when something important is occurring—not just when something that is important to a Rupert Murdoch-type figure is occurring.

Reflecting on Wu’s book, however, I worry that it won’t be long until the Internet will no longer be ours, and social media networks and independent blogs will be co-opted by powerful corporations.

Thoughts? Looking forward to having an online conversation about this.

An example of the livestream I follow for OWS:


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2 Responses to Towards Commercialization: “The Revolution Will Not Be Privatized”.

  1. I definitely agree with you there–that’s what makes the book palatable. On a different note, a bleak quote from a review of the book from The Guardian:

    “If the internet does indeed succeed in escaping the controlling embrace of corporations or governments, he argues, then it will be a historic first. For every other modern communications technology – telephone, radio, cinema and TV – has eventually succumbed to these forces.”

    oy vey.

    I might be wrong, but this seems to be a weird blend of technological determinism (because it DOES have a great deal to do about what technology, what the physical wires are, etc. that are available) and something else (Marxist theory?), and there is something so *finite* about the way Wu frames the “cycle” of every technology. Then again, I might just be resistant because we’re still in the stage (I think!) that the Internet has the power to create positive change…

  2. Juan Monroy says:

    Awww, shucks! The “technological path” was my way to generalize about the subjects of the book.

    You’re absolutely right that the book’s focus on characters, all either good, bad, or ugly, is a drawback of this critical history because it minimizes downplays the historical circumstances. However, that’s what make this book and the technological history these communication technologies so gosh-darn readable.

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