I’m looking forward to reading Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody after listening to the Demos Podcast of their event with him earlier this month.
Particularly interesting are his musings on the future of the Nation State. Since the internet allows people to associate with people in geographically disparate areas, and to associate on ever more specific grounds. If people live and love online, then other types of ‘polity’ might become more politically relevant.
This is a really crazy moment in the history of the Nation State… The pull outwards into smaller, more ethnically coherent groups is actually overcoming what was, in the 20th Century, and argument for economies of scale in Nation States. Whether that is good or bad , I don’t know, it would be such a profound shift that it would transcend good and bad, it would be a new world order.
He was talking specifically with regards to ethnicity – Tiawanese students reading the Taipei newspaper online while studying in New York, say, or Indian immigrants watching nothing but Zee-TV on Sky. I haven’t thought about the implications for multiculturalism in this, but if true, it seems an essentially insular development, where the chance of exposure to new and different thoughts is reduced. In this sense, it is similar to the social gerrymandering that is occurring in the USA, with families moving homes and states in order to surround themselves with like-minded people.
However, I wonder whether the most profound shift might come when people transcend ethnicity as well as geography. With people spending so much time, and actually making money in worlds like Second Life, or building large guilds of allegiences in Eve Online or WarCraft, perhaps those bonds could be the basis for some other kind of nation or ‘polity’ with real power and relevance.