‘The Internet is an anti-political machine’

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Evgeny Morozov Technology researcher  Photo: Arun Sehrawat
Evgeny Morozov, Technology Researcher
Photo: Arun Sehrawat

EDITED EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW

How do you explain your cynicism towards the idea of Internet?

I would rather have myself described as critical, not cynical. I am trying to locate the exact political and economic logic behind what are presented as innocent digital innovations. You have to be cynical if you want to destroy a certain way of talking. You have to ridicule it because it’s the best way to make seemingly legitimate ideas look silly.

How do you describe your project?

To reveal the proliferation of new systems and modes of control — and to do that you have to reveal the many ways in which they have become invisible, partly because we discuss them using the language of the digital. This way of talking brackets important political, economic and ideological questions. In some sense, the digital or the Internet is an anti-political machine.

Can the Internet be thought of as a public space and do we need to protect Internet freedom?

You have to understand why in the 1980s digital technologies began to be talked about using spatial metaphors, why we suddenly started talking about cyberspace, though we had never talked about ‘phonospace’ or ‘telegraphospace’. The tendency to introduce spatial dimensions has specific historical and intellectual origins. This has to do with the role played by architects in the early decades of defining cyber culture. There is no cyberspace. We decided to talk about that space in such a way and it seemed reasonable for a long time, but not anymore. I think a metaphor like cyberspace has outlived its usefulness by a few decades.

How far has the Internet helped drive the capitalist project?

The Internet itself isn’t driving anything because it doesn’t exist. But the discourse of Internet is. It allows people who should be justifying what they are doing to blame it on the Internet. Your privacy isn’t gone because of the Internet, but because our governance system needs more and more data and can’t tolerate any unplanned activity outside the system. Practices don’t change because a technology drops out of the sky. They change because the underlying political, ideological, economic and cultural systems are affected by new systems of governance and new rationales. We eliminate these complexities and blame the Internet, and that’s sad.

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