Digital Liberation and Inequality: How New Is the New Digitalized World?

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 16:15
Location: Hörsaal 23 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Yury ASOCHAKOV, St.Petersburg State University, Russia
This paper aims at discussing possible approaches to understanding the shifts in social and power structures of information societies. At the turn of the 21t century social theorists analyze the emergence of a creative class as a new, progress-bringing element in the social structure of the post-modernized capitalism (Florida, Richard 2002). The key driving force of this new economic class – its “super-creative core” – is formed by the informational technology innovators: Silicon-Valley-like knowledge communities working for the advancement of the knowledge economies. From the point of view of anticipated social prospects of information revolution, communications and governance  in times of Internet are visualized as “flattened” (horizontal interconnectivity of countless digitally empowered equals) and potentially taken over by the control of citizens digitally networking on the basis of peer progressivism, citizen journalism, and technologies of liquid democracy. In this way the abstract post-modernist idea of non-hierarchical multipolar structures finds its base in the mass/class consciousness of digital citizens and is applied to social reality.

At the same time, the concept of digital divide is used for pointing out the phenomenon and the statistics of economic and social inequalities emerging along the lines of the access to and usage of information technologies. Following the discussion of these questions and based on the political economy analysis of the forms of participation in data/content consumption, production, and ownership, we can characterize three different levels of digital divide as traditional social-hierarchy-based forms of inequality.   To understand and conceptualize structural shifts in information society we need to develop a new approach on the basis of new productive metaphors (mobility, virtuality,fluidity, liquidness, hybridization) adequate to the nature of these changes.