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Über dieses Buch

Crossroads in New Media, Identity and Law is a compilation of essays on the nexus of new information and communication technologies, cultural identity, law and politics. The essays provoke timely discussions on how these different spheres affect each other and co-evolve in our increasingly hyper-connected and globalized world.




1. Introduction

Nations and national cultures are often treated as basic units of analysis, as primordial components of social life. According to the dominant view among historians and social scientists, however, this artless simplicity of nationhood and national identity is almost certainly illusory (compare Anderson 1983; Gellner 1983; Hobsbawm 1990). National cultures and nation states are historically contingent phenomena. As Saskia Sassen notes in this book, ‘the current condition we see developing with globalization is probably by far the more common one, while the more exceptional period is the one that saw the strengthening of the national state’ (Sassen, p. 17). Even though they are often thought to go back to the mists of time, nation states are of fairly recent origin and depend on a particular set of social, technological and economic circumstances to exist. Nation states, in other words, are not a natural phenomenon, but an artifice, a socio-technical constructed form of complexity. And as evolved constructs, one could say, they are subject to the law of entropy. Effort and energy need to be expended to maintain and reproduce their specific forms of complexity. Without such effort, or with countervailing forces overwhelming such energy, the complexity will take on potentially undesired new forms or revert to a disorderly state. With the momentous developments in information and communication technology of the 21st century, the nation state is mutating into something that no longer necessarily facilitates the reproduction of a shared national identity. Instead, it is developing into something that is likely to support an altogether different outcome.

Wouter de Been, Payal Arora, Mireille Hildebrandt

Communication, Law and Politics


2. From National Borders to Embedded Borderings: One Angle into the Question of Territory and Space in a Global Age

There have been many epochs when territories were subject to multiple systems of rule.1 The current condition we see developing with globalization is probably by far the more common one, while the more exceptional period is the one that saw the strengthening of the national state. In this context, digitization can be seen as enabling a new type of cross-border process that can bypass interstate borders and constitute its own specific bordered spaces. The actors in these new types of transversally bordered spaces range from small, resource-poor organizations and individuals to powerful private financial trading networks (notably the so-called ‘dark pools’). Further, we see the formation of novel kinds of internal borderings that can bring particular types of advantages to at least some actors and institutions. Elsewhere I have theorized these as holes in the tissue of national sovereign territory; again, digital technologies have enabled this development, but it is not necessarily a completely new condition: one might think of the distinctive jurisdiction of international churches as having some of the same features (Sassen 2008, chapters 8 and 9).

Saskia Sassen

3. Playing around with a Few of Your Favorite Things: Freedom and Continuity on the Internet

This chapter will look at the nature of communities that flourish through new information and communication technologies (ICTs). In its infancy the Internet was widely conceived as a terra nova, a wide open space where people could completely reinvent themselves beyond the stifling conventions and limitations of the real world. This vision of limitless freedom has turned out to be a chimera. States and corporations have gained a great deal of control over digital networks and the Internet has lost its feel of an anarchic, countercultural playground. Mobile phones, tablets and a growing range of smart devices, moreover, have woven the real and online world together into a much more continuous experience. Digital networks are not so much a separate sphere, as a multilayered mesh of communicative practices seamlessly integrated into real-world social life. Even so, the early vision of freedom and boundless possibility remains a potent ideal even today. This chapter will take stock of that vision as a species of social and political theory. It will raise questions about the expansive notion of freedom and authenticity at the heart of this social and political ideal. Communities mediated through new ICTs are not characterized by total plasticity and freedom, but by jazzy innovation — that is, by improvisations on given cultural characteristics and rehearsal of the basic virtues of civility necessary for community to exist in the first place.

Wouter de Been

4. The Networked Self in the Modulated Society

The theme of the book — global community, global archipelago or a new civility? — echoes a question that has often been posed about transformative new technologies:1 Will such technologies connect us or divide us? Will networked information technologies produce a new global cosmopolitanism characterized by enlightened tolerance and mutual recognition of common interest and common ground, or will they fragment civil society into discrete cultural enclaves animated by narrower and more tribal interests? Each view has its partisans, and since the early days of the Internet, the two have vied with each other for supremacy.

Julie E. Cohen

5. Fragments and Continuities of Law and ICT: A Pragmatist Approach to Understanding Legal Pluralism

Regulation of the Internet is a favorite example of legal scholars who argue that law is a globalized phenomenon (Berman 2007, p. 316; Fischer-Lescano & Teubner 2004, pp. 1010–11; Michaels 2009, p. 247). Internet law is fascinating from a legal theoretical perspective because it shows clearly that it is problematic to use state law to govern a global network, and that it is equally problematic to find international or non-state forms of law capable of regulating it adequately. It is therefore not surprising that many attempts to conceptualize problems of law and Internet do so on the basis of a theory of legal pluralism. Theories of legal pluralism take the plurality of law seriously and theorize about what legal pluralism means. This conceptual exercise is then related back to digital phenomena, which, I would argue, is a fruitful way to account for and understand Internet law. There is, however, not one way of theorizing the plurality of law. Different conceptualizations of legal pluralism are on offer, which take rather different starting points. One of the points about which theories of legal pluralism differ relates to the boundaries of legal orders: should we see these as closed systems, or as open and flexible? In this paper, I will take this issue as central to discussing the nature of legal pluralism. With respect to the topic of this volume, the question then is which conceptualization is the most convincing when it comes to understanding the pluralism of normative orders.

Sanne Taekema

New ICTs, Identity and Language


6. Database Identity: Personal and Cultural Identity in the Age of Global Datafication

On February 27, 2004,1 I contributed to the — at that moment rather heated — Dutch debate on multiculturalism with an essay in NRC Handelsblad, one of the prominent Dutch national newspapers.2 The essay began with a short description of a young Arab girl, who — several months before, in the Kralingse Zoom subway station in Rotterdam — had passed me by on skeelers. Apparently the girl was a student on her way to Erasmus University, just like me. She was dressed in baggy harem trousers and a T-shirt with a smiley on it, had a small backpack on and was wearing a black headscarf, the cord of the headset of her mobile phone peeking from underneath. When she came near I overheard some fragments of the conversation, in a strange mixture of Arabic and Dutch with a broad Rotterdam accent, that she was having with, as the tone of the conversation made me think, a female friend. The image of a skating Muslim girl was somewhat unfamiliar in 2004. However, according to an article recently published on one of the websites of the Turkish community in the Netherlands, rollerblading is becoming increasingly popular among Dutch Muslim girls.3 Moreover, skating even seems to enjoy a growing popularity in more orthodox Muslim circles. In April 2012, skating enthusiasts in Italy had the privilege of seeing Zahra Lari becoming the first niqab-wearing figure skater from the Gulf.

Jos de Mul

7. Rethinking Belonging in the Era of Social Media: Migration and Presence

This paper takes as its starting point the work of Adbelmalek Sayad (2004), and especially the notion of immigration as the trauma of double absence. In his influential account, Sayad (2004, p. 141) argues that migration creates a rupture and introduces disorder in the person. Sayad’s sociology of migration uses ‘double absence’ as the key to explain that immigrants who leave their home country create a social, personal and political void at home; in addition, they occupy a kind of liminal space in their host countries, where they are not full members. This metaphor of double absence is apt in capturing the dynamics of migration and its effects on belonging.

Mariangela Veikou, Eugenia Siapera

8. Rule Play: Negotiating Cyberspace and the Cybercultured Self in Saudi Arabia

Fixed and exclusionary boundaries of traditional socio-political organizations, such as the family, school and state, are loosening and opening up in cyberspace. The Internet enables individuals to explore, join and create previously unimagined groups. Acceptance, participation and inclusion in new groups are negotiated rather than naturally occurring.

Leigh Llewellyn Graham

9. Human-Algorithmic Scaffolding

Many of the changes that condition cultural and linguistic diversity today are inseparable from the co-evolution of technology and humans. This chapter focuses on linguistic diversity and assesses developments to that end at the intersection of language and technology. This is an area that has recently experienced a historical infrastructural shift: from a monolingual-only to a multilingual-ready Internet. Take the Web giants Wikipedia and Google as examples, which currently support about 300 languages, and compare this to traditional broadcasting media such as the BBC World Service, which currently serves 28 languages. This shift has allowed more people to become new Internet users, most of whom demand support for languages other than English. Figure 9.1 shows not only the contrast in the world’s Internet population between 1996 and 2012, but also the most recent reality: almost 90 percent of all Internet users live outside of the US, with a large proportion of Internet traffic generated outside North America in 2012.

Thomas Petzold

New ICTs and Cultural Industries


10. Has the Art Market Become Truly Global? Evidence from China and India

New ICTs are credited as being one of the major driving forces behind the globalization of the art world. They facilitate the creation and expansion of international networks and make it easier for artists, museums, galleries, collectors and other art world actors to connect and interact on a global level. Museums bring their collection to the public online and develop apps to enhance the museum experience. Online auction platforms and gallery websites are enabling a growing virtual marketplace that is not dependent on location and tangibility. However, despite the ubiquitous nature of these new technologies, real live events featuring actual artworks and personal contact between artists, distributors and consumers are likely to remain one of the pillars of the art world. Initiatives such as virtual art fairs have notoriously failed to gain traction, and the volume of e-commerce is still dwarfed by sales at brick and mortar galleries and live auctions. New ICTs may support interconnectivity and pave the way to a borderless art world, but they have not, so far, been able to substitute the physical art event. The art community has remained staunchly wary of the Internet, fearing that it may lead to a loss of aura for art and a market devoid of personal relationships (Velthuis 2014).

Femke van Hest, Filip Vermeylen

11. From Metaphysics to Metadata: Tagging as a Social Practice

This work aims at conceptualizing the dynamics of identity-building in globalized metropolises. I stress the importance of tagging as an information and communications technology (ICT) practice that informs the production and organization of identity models within and beyond digital environments. Most importantly, I emphasize the stereotypical nature of contemporary identities and the subsequent demand for citizens to play an actively creative role in their construction. I define stereotype as the combination of recognizable elements — imaginary tags — that are shared through the collective imaginary and attached to individuals and places as a way of reducing them to more easily mediated entities.

Nicola Bozzi

12. National Popular Culture in an Interconnected World: The Case of Pop Charts

Music charts have long been a potent symbol of the relationship between the music industry, artists and consumers (Hakanen 1998). Since the first appearance of the Billboard’s ‘Music Popularity Chart’ in July 1940 (Sassoon 2006), many radio stations and magazines across the world have rapidly followed suit. Our study takes pop charts as a vantage point to study the changing trends in the production and consumption of popular music over the last 50 years with special attention to the role of media. It allows us to gain insights into processes of cultural globalization and cultural diversity more generally, and to explore the interconnectedness of national and global markets for and audience responses to cultural products such as pop songs more specifically.

Marc Verboord, Amanda Brandellero


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