Power and Space in Electronic Communications
- Philip E. SteinbergPhilip E. SteinbergDepartment of Geography, Durham University
- and Darren PurcellDarren PurcellDepartment of Geography and Environmental Sustainability, The University of Oklahoma
Electronic communications refer to forms of communication where ideas and information are embedded in spatially mobile electronic signals. These include the internet, telephony, television, and radio. Electronic communications are linked to state power in a complex and, at times, contradictory manner. More specifically, a tension exists between divergent pressures toward constructing electronic communication spaces as spaces of state power, as spaces of escape, and as spaces for contesting state power. On the one hand, states often invest in infrastructure and empower regulatory institutions as they seek to intensify their presence within national territory, for example, or project their influence beyond territorial borders. The widespread use of electronic communication technologies to facilitate governmental power is especially evident in the realm of cyberwarfare. E-government platforms have also been created to foster interaction with the state through electronic means. On the other hand, communication systems thrive through the idealization (and, ideally, the regulatory construction) of a space without borders, whereby individuals might bypass, or even actively work to subvert, state authority. Just as the internet has been seen as a means for state power to monitor the everyday lives and subjectivities of the citizenry, it has also been employed as a tool for democratization. Various institutions have emerged to govern specific electronic communication networks, including those that are focused on reproducing the power of individual states, those that operate in the realm of intergovernmental organizations, those that devolve power to actors in local government, and those that empower corporations or civil society.