Professor Nick Couldry, London School of Economics and Political Science
In earlier modernity the infrastructures of communication required for an expanding economy and society remained tied to national boundaries and broadly compatible with the values on which democracy was based. In late modernity, globalisation challenged nation-state boundaries, but not yet the values underlying democratic governance.
But the era of late late modernity – characterised by the embedding of internet-based connectivity into action at all levels and scales – creates conditions incompatible with freedom, a value generally regarded as essential to the quality of human life, and democratic capabilities in particular.
The internet involves the connectability of all points in space-time, which become points in an unlimited information-space. This generates a two-way bargain: if every point in information-space is connectable to every other, then it becomes susceptible to monitoring from every other point.
Meanwhile, the resulting ease of information production generates an information excess which makes targeted communication ever more difficult. In response, business and government are constructing a social world based on the permanent monitoring of all actors and the processing of the resulting data.