Saskia Sassen (US) A Topography of E-space - Electronic Networks and Public Space
This is a particular moment in the history of digital networks, one when powerful corporate actors and high performance networks are strengthening the role of private digital space and altering the structure of public digital space.
E-space has emerged not simply as a means for communicating, but as a major new theatre for capital accumulation and the operations of global capital. And, increasingly for new forms of transnational politics that are connecting people engaged in often very specific, local issues that they share with other localities.
We have seen a growing digitalisation and globalisation of leading economic sectors and a growing economic importance of electronic space. This has further contributed to the hyperconcentration of resources, infrastructure and central functions, with global cities as one strategic site in the new global economic order. Globalisation and digitalisation have furthered global alliances among firms and massive concentrations of capital and corporate power. They have also contributed to new forms of segmentation in electronic space.
At the same time there has been a proliferation of noncommercial uses and users. Civil society, whether it be individuals or NGOs, is a very energetic presence in cyberspace. From struggles around human rights, the environment and workers strikes around the world to genuinely trivial pursuits, the Net has emerged as a powerful medium for nonelites to communicate, support each other's struggles and create the equivalent of insider groups at scales going from the local to the global.
The political and civic potential of these trends is enormous. It offers the possibility for interested citizens to act in concert, to enhance democratic practices through the formation of communities on the Net and on the ground. The possibility of doing so transnationally at a time when a growing set of issues are seen as escaping the bounds of nation states makes this even more significant.
We are also seeing a greater variety of subcultures on the Net in the last decade after being dominated by young white men, especially from the US.
The growth of global corporate actors has also profoundly altered the role of government in the digital era and, as a consequence, has further raised the importance of civil society in electronic space as a force through which a multiplicity of public interests can resist the overwhelming influence of the new global corporate world.
Further, digital space, whether private or public, is partly embedded in actual societal structures and power dynamics: its topography weaves in and out of nonelectronic space.
In the case of private electronic space, this feature carries enormous implications for theory, for the results of the digitalisation of economic activity, and for the conditions through which governments and citizens can act on this new electronic world of the economy and power. The embeddedness of private economic electronic space entails the formation of massive concentrations of infrastructure, not only worldwide dispersal, and a complex interaction between conventional communications infrastructure and digitalisation.