"Digging deeper and wider than any previous effort into what the information revolution truly means, Netocracy is the must-read. Netocracy is the unsurpassable how and when of this whole revolution." Kjell A. Nordstrom and Jonas Ridderstrale, authors of Funky Business The world will not live without logos, but neither will capitalism silently take over democracy. What comes next? Forget capitalism and the class struggle, we are witnessing the birth of a whole new world. The digital revolution is, in fact, changing things far more dramatically then the hype-mongers of tech Internet ever imagined - only not in the way that they and their investors hoped. The move from a society dominated by print and broadcast mass media to the age of interactivity is at least as dramatic as the move from feudalism to capitalism. After capitalism comes attentionalism. Those who can harness global networks of information and master new forms of communication will control business, finance and legislation, forming the new business and government elites. They will inherit the power; they are the Netocracy.Driven by the Internet and mobile communications, networks are turning into the major means of doing business, organising action, getting knowledge; the organising principle for the information age. Simply put, networks will make the world go round. So controlling the networks of this world will soon count for more than controlling the capital. Harness the right network and yuo can do anything, anywhere. Manuel Castells has described the Internet as the most extraordinary technological revolution in history. But he also suggests it is as underdeveloped socially as it is overdeveloped technologically. The societal implications of the communications revolution are going to hit soon. Netocracy predicts what they will be, where the power will flow and draws some remarkable conclusions about life after capitalism. And who will have the power in a world dominated by networks? The Internet has often been touted as a radically decentralized unpredictable phenomenon thriving beyond the control of individuals, corporations or governments.In Netocracy, Bard and Soderqvist state show that the transparent and non-hierarchical society proclaimed by the enthusiastic early Internet pioneers is one of the greatest myths of the information age. Future society will be hierarchical. It will be divided - but not along lines of wealth and academic merit. Capitalist structures will be broken down. Power will not lie with those who own the means of production, but with those who sort and provide information : "It is the people who can create and sustain attention that are the Netocracy, the new holders of power, not those who simply supply capital."People who can manipulate networks and the information that runs through them will inherit the future. These are the netocrats. The netocracy consists of people with excellent social skills and a talent for the adept manipulation of information. Those without this ability to use the new interactive media technology to their advantage will form the lower classes of the digital age. netocrat [neA'to-krat] n. The netocrat has created and not inherited his social identity. He/she is self-made in the most fundamental meaning of the word.The netocrat has money but it is a means and not an end goal. He/she outsmarts the capitalist by ruling the networks that now rule the world. The netocrat is an artistic and political manipulator who has turned networking into an artform. "An extraordinary book." Computer Weekly "Alexander Bard, author of 80 hit singles in Scandinavia, is a record producer, Internet mogul, philosophy enthusiast, and much more. " FTDynamo, Euro-Gurus "He's seen the future. A renaissance man of many talents, Bard is either a genius or a madman. You decide" The Times Magazine, July 2003

Speech by Alexander Bard, musician and sociologist, Billingehus, Skovde, Sweden, 16 September 2000. Alexander Bard is author of the Internet sociology book best-seller "Netocracy". The question of the book is: "Where do the interactive media fit in?"

Alexander Bard Alexander Bard in Skovde

History of Speech

Mankind started talking 100,000 or 140,000 years ago. An advantage of language is, that it controls morals, so we stopped fucking all of the time, giving better and more controlled people.

History of Writing

Mankind started writing in Mesopotamia 11,000 years ago. Why in Mesopotamia, and not in China nor in Mexico? Because Mesopotamia was a very rich country with perfect conditions, lot of cattle, pigs, chicken, wheat, etc. The newly created villages needed rules and created the idea of property. Written language was used for laws, i.e. civilisation.

Only a few people could read and write. The written language and the need for a power ruling the society created the aristocracy ("I am better than you"). To manipulate other people you need a story telling "because somebody said so". This is the invention of God.

The monarch was created as the aristocrat of aristocrats. The monarch's role is to tell what is good for moral and the society. Ordinary people get the promise of a reward after death. In all societies you will always find a story of eternity.

History of Printing

The printing press was invented in China, but was taken into use in large scale in Europe around 1450, when the price of paper lowered. Suddenly there was a need for more people to know how to read. Now, there was a basis for building cities, and books told people how to live in cities.

This is a major paradigm shift, and it created the bourgeoisie and the working class. Again, the workers were told a story, and "Manhood" replaced "God".

The ability of reading created the feeling of individuality, because any person is reading and understanding by itself. Until 1750 we never thought of ourselves as individuals. The bible was the first book to be printed, but printing afterwards killed the religion.

The hand-written books were in Latin language. The printed books were in local languages as well, for example French (the winning dialect from the French area) and German (Luther's invention, a local dialect from Hannover).

Formerly, the educated people were placed in monasteries. Now, they are locked up in universities instead.

The books printed in local language were basis for the upcoming nationalism. Nationalism was introduced as the new religion, interpreted by the state. The new ideology is "progress". It is a new illusion, a way of controlling people.

There is no fundamental difference between radio, television and printed books – they are all one-way media.

History of Interactive Media

Since 1970 it has been possible to communicate with interactive media. Now attention is the scarcest resource, and capital is not the fundament anymore. Money is not the crucial power anymore, because you can't buy yourself into a network. Money is second-rated, and what is bought for money obtains a loss of credibility. This is a major power shift.

The society is divided between

Individualism has been abandoned, and instead networking is in. The old identities are worthless, and the new identity will be defined in subcultures.

In a democracy the majority rules and works. But it reigns a closed space, a nation state.

But the nation state has vanished. Will you die for Sweden? No – the nation state is dead. It means, that we have a plurachy where the minorities can walk out like it has always been in the plucratic culture in the United States. If a group did not like the others, they went west.

Maybe a network can convert into a company? Like cars interior. Surely, a company can convert into a network.

Money is not important for the upper class anymore. You need money as you need food, but it is not the most wanted resource anymore.

This must be a new trend - take two Swedes, preferable male, with hip glasses and shaved heads, have them write a book about the new economy, the internet, or the future of economics, and call it an instant classic. (To be fair, only one of this book’s authors has a shaved head, and the other wears glasses.) It began with the best-seller Funky Business, which, like the new economy it discussed was all bark and no bite, full of commonplaces and misunderstandings. Business Minds, who published Funky Business, obviously sees this as a successful fashion, and has published another book by two Swedes: Netocracy

The book’s blurb is enticing: “Those who can harness global networks of information and master new forms of communication will inherit the power. They are the Netocrats.” Perhaps two or three years ago, such a book might have had a relevance, but since we have realized that the dotcom expansion was made up of equal parts of innovation, hubris and greed, this type of subject seems less interesting.  

But the real problem with this book is trying to figure out exactly what it is about. The authors espouse a range of neo-Marxist ideas as the examine the relationship between power and information  in history, yet prevaricate a lot, as if they don’t really have anything new to say. Some of their statements are “so what?” statements; they state truths, but little more. They say, for example, “the fact that technology solves one problem does not mean that all related problems diappear or become less pressing. Working out how to transport information over great distances does not mean that people know how to interpret and understand the information in a relevant context.” Yes, that’s true. But they don’t take this anywhere, they state something - raising issues - but don’t offer answers. 

At times, the authors’ comments border on the ridiculous. In the introduction, they say, “Neither the intoxicated optimists nor the gloomy pessimists have been able to engage seriously in the problematics; they are both right only in the most banal respects, and wrong about everything important.” It is beyond me to interpret what this sentence actually means; I hesitate to fault the translator, but it seems to me to be nothing more than empty words, which this book is overladen with, from start to finish. 

One final example illustrates the ludicrous ideas behind this book. Again in the introduction, written for the English edition, the authors say how people will use the “means most effective in the age of electronic, interactive media to make their voices heard”. They go on to underline that “the WTC hijackers were very well educated and very much at home on the net. These guys even booked their plane tickets online!” Nuff said.

Needless to say, I didn’t manage to finish this book. I still don’t know what it’s about. 

Kirk McElhearn  

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