[Air-l] Gianluca Miscione's book (in Italian) Sui limiti della rete

Michel J. Menou Michel.Menou at wanadoo.fr
Thu Jul 21 05:17:16 PDT 2005

A new book by doctoral candidate Gianluca Miscione, is available at

Below is a summary in English by the author

MY WORK draws an analytical trajectory through some of the main topics 
related to the Internet. The guiding line of the work is discursive, but 
not speculative. Indeed the relation with empirical reality is based on 
theoretical sampling (all main positions are supported by addressing 

The overall sensibility for this matter is rooted in readings of French 
post-structuralists, in research activities in sociology of 
communication, in a work as a journalist, and in a "culture" lived 

Being skeptical about the reclaimed autonomy/independence of the 
'cyberspace', I focused my attention on its relations with existing 
communicative, social and power relations. My aim was to highlight how 
infosphere is mutually interweaved with 'offline' world.

In order to do that, each chapter is focused on a specific aspect and 
related boundaries are addressed.


Chapter 1
Technocratic reductionism is criticized for the impossibility to create 
a perfect language to represent reality or to communicate universally. 
The irrationality of any language does not permit to automate it, and 
then embed it into technologies.

Chapter 2
Semiotics show that signs do not mirror reality but construct it on the 
social level, characterized by own rules (different from physical ones). 
Then, the discussion of net.art (§ 2.1.1), hypertexts (§ 2.2.1), 
intertextuality (§ 2.2.2), interfaces (§ 2.2.3) and 'cybergeographies' 
(§ 2.3) is relevant to describe main characteristics of this space made 
up of signs.

Chapter 3
Paying attention to real uses of the Internet allows to reflect on the 
fact that many projects and ideas theoretically possible failed because 
of unexpected social inertia (misleading perceptions, divergent 
routines, lack of trust). Scarce success of city-networks (§ 3.1) and 
Semantic Web (§ 3.2) are two examples of the risk to assume a rational 
conception of ICT implementations, forgetting social construction of 

Based on those three chapters, the second part arguments the centralità 
of social aspects in understanding communication and power on the Internet.

Chapter 4
How is a place where communication is content and place of social 
relations? How is experience organized there? Why are those social 
phenomena rather than produced by an aggregation of  individuals? 
Assuming that if people believe something is real, it will be real in 
its consequences (Thomas' theorem, § 4.4), it is possible (and actual) 
to construct imagined and shared places. Intersubjectivity of meanings 
and weak context in CMC, emphasize the social construction of virtual 
spaces, of any kind. The need of constructed and shared social contexts 
brings together constructivism and pragmatism (§ 4.4.3).

Chapter 5
On the political level, are we in a distributed situation in which 
nobody and nothing is fundamental for the system to work? Does the lack 
of political frontiers -that bond people to political decisions- 
pulverize a legitimated debate and decision place?
Contemporary social fragmentation is represented and supported by the 
Internet. Indeed many issues arisen from the Internet go towards wider 
individual independence and group autonomy. Consequently, the Internet 
is more like an arena than an agora.

Chapter 6
The conclusion is that the Internet is an extension of reality -not a 
representation- with particular rules and dynamics. Exclusion from it 
has the paradoxical effect to produce silence, usually unperceived.

About power and policies on the Internet, I accept a relational 
conception of power which is based on the attention to how actions are 
affected, not only commanded (§ 5). Indeed the ease to create groups and 
to escare national boundaries, and laws (§ 5.1) do not allow to apply 
power categories which rely on a sovereign  power (Locke, § 5.4). 
Autonomy and privacy claims deal with that reality (§ 5.1). On the other 
hand, fluidity of social phenomena on the Internet does not mean that 
power is not applicable: servers, data organizations, controls embedded 
into technologies, laws that only expert users can go around are ways to 
control users.

Public sphere (§ 5.1.1), free speech (§ 5.1.2.), and copyright (§ 5.2) 
have to deal with the described reality, which does not fit with usual 
dichotomy private/public.

More generally autonomy claims tend to weaken a public and homogeneous 
public sphere. Democracy is interpreted more as liberty than as 
distribution of power (§ 5.3).

Another relevant dualism is nomos/techné. Since Industrial Revolution 
laws and technology prospect diverse futures: (in continental 
philosophy) laws are expression and support for politics as "volonté 
générale", technologies promote social automation and technocracy. About 
this particular intersection, it is proposed an analysis of the hackers' 
phenomenon (§ 5.3.2. this part has been published on a academic journal).

Opensources and freesoftware (§ cases are addressed for their 
relevance in circulation of information on the Internet (or in the 
digital age). Those movements, which generated similar activities for 
contents in general (§ <>), propose a conception 
of knowledge which can be produce profit without reducing its public 

WITH THIS WORK I WANT TO highlight the boundaries of information 
society, as far as it assumes the autonomy of cyberspace without dealing 
with existing social and power relations. I find this understanding 
needed to analyze further and design future activities and policies 
about the infosphere. Finally this trajectory explains my interest and 
perspective on development issues, where basic and common assumption 
about knowledge society cannot be taken for granted

Dr. Michel J. Menou
Consultant in ICT policies and Knowledge & Information Management
Adviser of Somos at Telecentros board http://www.tele-centros.org
Member of the funding steering committee of 
Telecenters of the Americas Partnership http://www.tele-centers.net/
B.P. 15
49350 Les Rosiers sur Loire, France
Email: Michel.Menou at wanadoo.fr
Phone: +33 (0)2 41518165
Fax: +33 (0)2 41511043

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