Andrea Miconi

The Origin of Inequalities. Digital Capital in XXI Century

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: link, network society, Piketty, Xanadu, media history.

It is common belief that the Web in its commercial development has given up its original ideology, moving from being the realm of hyperlinking to becoming a system of proprietary platforms. Even the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, insisted on this point and warned against the rise of walled gardens. Users are walling themselves off from the cyberspace for a technical reason, according to Berners-Lee: while Web pages were given an URI (or URL) address, social network sites are not anymore. As a consequence, there is no way to get information out of private archives, so the Web is splitting up into separated environments. There are actually many good points in Berners-Lee's statement. Walled gardens do threaten the future of the Web, so much so that we are witnessing an alternation between two different forms of sovereignty: Google's open system and Facebook's closed one. Nonetheless, Berners-Lee is too optimistic with respect to the original features of his creation. This is why I will provide a critical analysis of the Web's early history - particularly focusing on the differences between Berners-Lee's hypertext and Ted Nelson's Xanadu - in order to detect the roots of inequality and show how the new infrastructure served as a vehicle for neo-liberal strategies. Moreover, this analysis will make it necessary a new reading of the general theory of the network society, also in the light of David Harvey's and Thomas Piketty's investigations of late capitalism.

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