“El poder tiene miedo de Internet” | “Power fears the internet”

Manuel Castells é um sociólogo espanhol que se debruça primordialmente sobre a sociedade de informação. Ele recentemente deu uma entrevista ao El Pais, no seguimento do lançamento do livro que lançou em conjunto com Marina Subirats dedicado às transformações das relações pessoais na era da internet. Uma das ideias que fica é que a Internet pode ser vigiada mas não controlada. A ler.

Manuel Castells is a spanish sociologist whose favorite theme is the information society. He recently gave an interview to El Pais, following the publishing of his and Marina Subirats’ book dedicated to the changes in personal relationships brought about by the Internet. One of the main ideas is that you can surveil the internet, but not control it. The translated text, right after this.

Via Travessias Digitais

Interview by MILAGROS PÉREZ OLIVA in 06/01/2008 , El Pais

If there’s anyone that has studied the core of the information society, that would be the sociologist Manuel Castells (Hellín, 1942). His trilogy “La era de la información: economía, sociedad y cultura” (The information age: economics, society and culture) has been translated to 23 languages. It’s one of the first “retrieved” minds: he returned to Spain, to head the research at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, in 2001, after researching and teaching for 24 years at Berkeley. One of his most recent research activities is Proyecto Internet Cataluña, in which he analyzed for six years, through 15 thousand personal interviews and 40.000 through the net, the changes the Internet has introduced in culture and social organization, and has just published , with Marina “Subirats, Mujeres y hombres, ¿un amor imposible?/Women and Men, an impossible love?” (Alianza Editorial), where they approach the consequences of these changes.

Question – This investigation shows that the internet doesn’t promote seclusion, like many believe, since the people that chat more are the most sociable.

Manuel Castells – Yes. For us, it’s not a surprise at all. The surprise is that that outcome has been surprising. There are at least 15 important essays through out the world that present that same result.

Q – Why do you think the opposite idea has spreaded so successfully?

M. C. The media have a lot to do with it. We all know that bad news are more news. You use the Internet, and your kids too; but it’s far more interesting to believe that it is crawling with terrorists, pornography… To think that it is an alienation factor is more interesting than to say: the Internet is an extension of your life. If you are sociable, you will be more sociable; if you’re not, the internet might help you a little, but not much. The media is, to a certain extent, the expression of what society thinks. The question is why does society think that way.

Q – Fear of what is new?

M. C. Exactly. But afraid of whom? The old society of the new, the parents of their children, the ones that have a settled power in a technological, social and culturally outdated world, of anything that may come over them, that they don’t control and perceive as a danger, which in fact it is. Because the internet is a tool for freedom and autonomy, when the power has always been based in controlling people through information and communication. But now it’s over. Because you can’t control the Internet.

Q – We live in a society where the visibility management in the mediatic public sphere as defined by John J. Thompson, has become the main concern of any institution, company or organization. But the public image control demands for controllable media, and if the internet isn’t…

M. C. – It isn’t , and that explains why the establishment is afraid of the Internet. I’ve been in i don’t know how many governamental and institucional international assessment comissions in the last 15 years, and the first question that governments always ask is: how can we control the Internet? The answer is always the same: you can’t. There can be surveillance, but not control.

Q – If the Internet is that important in social and economic life, can it’s access be the main exclusion factor?

M. C. – No, the most important will still be the access to work and a professional career, and before, the education level, because, without education, technology is useless. In Spain, the so called digital gap is a matter of age. The data is very clear: among the over 55 year olds, only 9% are internet users, but among the less than 25 years old, are 90%

Q – So, it’s just a matter of time?

M. C. – When my generation is gone, there will be no digital gap in access. Now however, the problem in the Internet society, the complicated is not to know how to navigate, but to know where to go, where to get what we want to find and what to do with what’s found. And this requires education. In fact, the Internet increases the oldest social gap in History, which is the education level. That 55% of the adults in Spain didn’t finish high school, that is the true digital gap.

Q – In this society that tends to be so liquid, using the words of Zygmunt Bauman, where everything is constantly changing, and that is more and more globalized, can the feeling of insecurity increase, that the ground is failing beneath our feet?

M. C. – There is a new society that i have tried to define theoretically with the concept of net-society, and that isn’t too far from what Baumman defined. I believe, that more than liquid, it’s a society where everything is connected transversally and there is less control from the traditional institutions.

Q – In what way?

M. C. – The idea that the basic institutions of society, State and traditional family, don’t work anymore, is widespread. So the ground fails all at once. First, people think that their governments don’t represent them and aren’t reliable. So, we begin on the wrong foot. Second, they think that the market favours the winners and disregards the losers. Since the majority loses, there’s this empty suspicion on what the pure harsh logicof the market can give to everyone. Third, we’re globalized; this means that our money is in some sort of global flow that we don’t control, that populations are submitted to strong migratory pressures,in a way that it is harder to limit people to one culture or national frontier.

Q – What’s the role of the Internet in this process?

M. C. – On one hand, by allowing to acces all information, it increases the uncertainty, but at the same time is a key instrument for peoples autonomy, and this is something we demonstrated for the first time in our research. The more autonomous someone is, the more it uses the Internet. In our work we defined six autonomy dimensions, and we have proved that when someone has a strong autonomy project, in any of those dimensions, it uses the Internet more frequent and intensively. And the Internet use strengthens that autonomy. But, of course, the more one controls it’s life , the less he trusts in the institutions.

Q – And greater the frustration can be becuse of the distance between the theorical participation possibilities and those exercized in practice, that are limited to vote every four years, don’t you think?
M. C. – Yes, there’s a huge gap between the technological ability and the political culture. Many towns have created Wi-Fi hotspots, but at the same time aren’t able to articulate a participatios system, they provide a way to everybody organize their networks, but not to participate in the public life. The problem is that the political system isn’t open to participation, to the constant dialogue with the citizens, and, hence, what these technologies do is to separate even more the politics and the citizenship.

Any help with the translation from spanish will be appreciated.

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