Transcript: Darin Barney on Citizenship in the Technological Republic | May 06, 2007

[Theme music plays]

The opening sequence rolls. The logo of “Big Ideas” featuring a lit lamp bulb appears against an animated blue slate.
Then, Andrew Moodie appears in the studio. The walls are decorated with screens featuring lit lamp bulbs, and two signs read “Big Ideas.”
Andrew is in his early forties, clean-shaven, with short curly black hair. He's wearing a gray shirt over a gray cotton tee. He holds an electronic PC component in his hand.

He says HELLO,
I'M ANDREW, THIS IS
BIG IDEAS,
AND THIS IS
AN INTERNAL ROUTER FOR A PC.
NOW, MY LAST ONE CONKED OUT ON
ME AND I HAD TO ORDER THIS ONE
ON THE INTERNET.
TO BUY THIS LITTLE NUGGET OF
TECHNOLOGY I NOT ONLY HAD TO
ENTER MY CREDIT CARD
INFORMATION, BUT ALSO MY
ADDRESS, MY PHONE NUMBER, MY
AGE AND MY GENDER.
I'M ASSUMING THAT THEY'RE USING
THE INFORMATION FOR MARKETING,
BUT CAN I BE REALLY SURE?
TECHNOLOGY, IT'S INCREASING AT
EXPONENTIAL RATES.
IT'S -- IT'S PENETRATING
EVERYTHING, INCLUDING OUR
PSYCHES.
IT AFFECTS OUR VIEW OF NATURE
AND SO OUR BEHAVIOUR TOWARDS
THE ENVIRONMENT.
AND ACCORDING TO DARIN BARNEY,
OUR CITIZENSHIP SUFFERS AS
WELL.
YES, OUR CITIZENSHIP.
BARNEY HOLDS A CANADA RESEARCH
CHAIR IN TECHNOLOGY AND
CITIZENSHIP AND IS THE AUTHOR
OF
COMMUNICATION
TECHNOLOGY: THE
CANADIAN DEMOCRATIC AUDIT.
IN THIS ANNUAL HART HOUSE
LECTURE, HE IS ASKING THE
QUESTION: IS TECHNOLOGY GOING
TO CONTROL US OR ARE WE GOING
TO CONTROL IT?

A clip plays in which Darin Barney stands behind a small podium in a packed room giving a lecture.
Darin is in his late thirties, clean-shaven, with short brown hair. He’s wearing glasses and a gray shirt.

He says WELL, YOU
MIGHT HAVE MISSED THEM, BUT
THERE WERE TWO MORE REVOLUTIONS
THIS PAST YEAR.
THE FIRST WAS PROCLAIMED BY THE
NEW YEAR'S EDITION OF
TIME MAGAZINE
IN WHICH
THE EDITORS DECIDED THAT THE
PERSON OF THE YEAR WAS: YOU.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Darin Barney. Professor of Communication Studies, McGill University. ‘One nation under Google.’ Hart House Lecture. March 22, 2007."

Darin continues YOU AS IN
YouTube, THE VIDEO SHARING
WEBSITE THAT ALLOWS USERS TO
UPLOAD AND DOWNLOAD VIDEO
CLIPS, AND WHICH, ALONG WITH
MySpace, WIKIPEDIA, FACEBOOK,
SECOND LIFE, THE BLOGOSPHERE,
AND PODCASTING, IS SAID TO
COMPRISE A WHOLE NEW WORLD.
WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
“IT'S ABOUT,” WE'RE TOLD, AND
THIS IS A QUOTE FROM
TIME MAGAZINE,
“THE MANY
WRESTLING POWER FROM THE FEW
AND HELPING ONE ANOTHER FOR
NOTHING AND HOW THAT WILL NOT
ONLY CHANGE THE WORLD, BUT
CHANGE THE WAY THE WORLD
CHANGES.”
IT'S NOT JUST A NEW VERSION OF
SOME OLD SOFTWARE.
IT'S REALLY A REVOLUTION.
“POWER TO THE PEOPLE,” THE
HEADLINE SHOUTED, “YOU CONTROL
THE INFORMATION AGE.”
THE SECOND REVOLUTION WAS PROCLAIMED JUST
OVER A WEEK LATER.
THIS TIME IT WASN'T YOU, BUT I.
THE iPhone, APPLE'S NEW
HANDHELD WIRELESS EMAILING-WEB-
SURFING COMPUTER-CELL PHONE-
AUDIO AND VIDEO PLAYER ALL IN
ONE.
IT HAS NO BUTTONS, BUT, LIKE
US, IT'S TOUCH SENSITIVE.
“EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE,”
REFLECTED APPLE'S CEO STEVE
JOBS, “A REVOLUTIONARY PRODUCT
COMES ALONG THAT CHANGES
EVERYTHING.”
CHANGES EVERYTHING.
THAT'S THE DEFINITION OF A
REVOLUTION ALL RIGHT, IT
CHANGES EVERYTHING.
BUT IF THAT'S TRUE, IT'S
DIFFICULT TO SEE HOW THIS WORD
CAN SENSIBLY BE APPLIED TO
THESE TECHNOLOGIES.
DO YOU FEEL, AS YOU BOIL IN
TRAFFIC ON THE 401 TO AND FROM
A JOB THAT EITHER PAYS YOU TOO
MUCH OR TOO LITTLE; AS OBSCENE
WEALTH AND SHOCKING POVERTY
PILE UP SIDE BY SIDE ON
DOWNTOWN VANCOUVER'S EAST SIDE;
AS YOU PREPARE FOR THE WORST AT
THE AIRPORT BECAUSE OF THE
SOUND OF YOUR NAME OR THE
COLOUR OF YOUR SKIN; AS YOU
NUMB TO THE SPECTACLE OF
EXPLODING VILLAGES AND SUBWAY
TRAINS AND CLASSROOMS; AND AS
YOU WINCE AT THE NEWS OF
BEAUTIFUL NORTHERN CHILDREN
COMMITTING SUICIDE BECAUSE THE
WORLD BEAMING INTO THEIR
COMMUNITIES BY SATELLITE OFFERS
THEM NOTHING TO BE OR TO DO;
AS THE SAME SORT OF PEOPLE SEEM
TO BE MAKING THE SAME SORT OF
DECISIONS IN THE SAME SORT OF
WAYS AS YOU TRY BUT FAIL TO
ESCAPE THE APPLIANCES THAT
SHACKLE US EVEN AS THEY CONNECT
US; AS EVERY NIGHT YOU WONDER
WHERE THE DAY WENT, OR AS YOU
SALVAGE JOY FROM BEAUTY, FROM
WORK OR FRIENDSHIP, FROM
INTIMACY, FROM THOUGHT OR
STRUGGLE, FROM A CHILD, FROM
THE WILDERNESS OR THE CITY - AS
YOU LIVE THROUGH ALL OF THIS DO
YOU EVER FEEL FOR ONE SECOND
THAT EVERYTHING CHANGED WHEN
YouTube WENT ONLINE AND THE
iPhone HIT THE MARKET?
BUSINESS MODELS PERHAPS.
ONE WOULD HAVE TO HAVE A
SEVERELY LIMITED VIEW OF WHAT
CONSTITUTES CHANGE AND AN
IMPOVERISHED SENSE OF WHAT'S
INCLUDED IN “EVERYTHING” TO
THINK THAT A FEW NEW WAYS OF
EXCHANGING INFORMATION ON THE
WEB OR THE FOLDING OF TWO OR
THREE DIGITAL APPLIANCES INTO
ONE MAKES FOR A REVOLUTION.
IF THE PAST TWO DECADES OF
LIVING WITH THE INTERNET HAS
TAUGHT US ANYTHING, IT'S THAT
WHENEVER WE HEAR THE WORD
REVOLUTION ASSOCIATED WITH A
TECHNOLOGY, SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE
IS ABOUT TO GET EVEN RICHER AND
THINGS ARE ABOUT TO STAY VERY
MUCH THE SAME.
NOW, THIS IS AN EASY POINT TO
MAKE.
THIS RHETORIC IS, AFTER ALL,
JUST MARKETING HYPE DESIGNED TO
SHIFT A FEW UNITS, AND WE HAVE
BECOME SO ACCUSTOMED TO IT THAT
NO ONE TAKES IT SERIOUSLY
ANYMORE.
I'D LIKE TO SAY THAT THIS IS
IMPORTANT BECAUSE IT'S AN
EXAMPLE OF HOW TECHNOLOGY WORKS
TO DRAIN POLITICAL LANGUAGE OF
ITS INTEGRITY, BUT IT WOULD BE
MISLEADING TO SUGGEST THAT THE
AD MEN ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR
KILLING THE REAL MEANING OF THE
WORD REVOLUTION.
IN THIS PARTICULAR DRAMA,
THEY'RE MORE LIKE SCAVENGERS
THAN ASSASSINS.
THE ONLY REASON THE WORD CAN BE
USED REPEATEDLY TO SIGNIFY ITS
OPPOSITE IS BECAUSE IT LONG AGO
CEASED TO HAVE ANY OTHER
SENSIBLE MEANING IN THE
POLITICAL CULTURES OF WEALTHY
CAPITALIST COUNTRIES LIKE OURS.
THE AD MEN FOUND THE WORD
REVOLUTION LYING BY THE SIDE OF
THE ROAD.
IT WAS THERE FOR THE TAKING.
AND THE DEFINITION OF
REVOLUTION AS TECHNOLOGICAL
INNOVATION IS, THEREFORE, NOT A
CRIME AGAINST THE WORD'S REAL
MEANING, BUT, RATHER, ITS ONLY
MEANING IN THE CONTEMPORARY
CONTEXT.
TECHNOLOGY IS BOUND UP
INTIMATELY WITH THE POSSIBILITY
OF POLITICS, AND THE
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TECHNOLOGY
AND THE LANGUAGE WITH WHICH WE
IMAGINE THAT POSSIBILITY IS AN
IMPORTANT PART OF THIS
INTIMACY.
IT WOULD BE TO UNDERESTIMATE
THE COMPLEXITY OF THIS
RELATIONSHIP, TO REDUCE IT TO
SOMETHING AS INCIDENTAL AS THE
OPPORTUNISM OF THE MARKETING
PROFESSION.
WE SHOULD ALSO BE CAREFUL NOT
TO ALLOW THE EXCESSES OF THIS
STYLE OF RHETORIC TO BECOME AN
EXCUSE FOR FAILING TO TAKE
SERIOUSLY THE VERY REAL
CONSEQUENCES THAT ACCOMPANY
TECHNOLOGICAL DEVICES, SYSTEMS,
AND PRACTICES.
WE CAN BE PROPERLY SKEPTICAL OF
THE REVOLUTIONARY CLAIMS THAT
ARE MADE ON BEHALF OF YouTube
AND iPhone WHILE STILL PAYING
CAREFUL ATTENTION TO THE WAY IN
WHICH TECHNOLOGY - AND HERE I
REFER TO A BROAD RANGE OF
TECHNOLOGY THAT ENCOMPASSES FAR
MORE THAN MERELY THE DIGITAL -
THE WAY IN WHICH TECHNOLOGY IS
BOUND UP WITH THE ORGANIZATION
OF SOCIAL LIFE, THE
DISTRIBUTION OF POLITICAL AND
ECONOMIC POWER, AND THE
EVERYDAY PRACTICES THAT
COMPRISE A CULTURE.
WHILE IT MAY BE MISLEADING TO
CHARACTERIZE YouTube AND THE
iPhone AS REVOLUTIONARY, IT
WOULD BE EQUALLY MISLEADING TO
SUGGEST THAT INHABITING THE
WORLD WITH THE INTERNET AND
MOBILE TELEPHONY IS THE SAME AS
INHABITING THE WORLD WITHOUT
THEM.
THINGS HAPPEN WHEN NEW
TECHNOLOGIES ARRIVE ON THE
SCENE OR WHEN PRACTICES
SURROUNDING OLD TECHNOLOGIES
CHANGE.
IN HIS 2005 HART HOUSE LECTURE,
DAVID BORNSTEIN TOLD THE MOVING
STORY OF THE GRAMEEN BANK,
WHICH, ALONG WITH EXTENDING
MICROCREDIT TO POOR BANGLADESHI
WOMEN, ALSO LEASES CELL PHONES
TO OVER 100,000 VILLAGE PHONE
LADIES WHO MAKE A LIVING BY
SELLING ACCESS TO THE PHONES
AND IN THE PROCESS BECOME VITAL
NODES IN EMERGENT INTRA AND
INTERVILLAGE SOCIAL NETWORKS.
IN HIS 2002 LECTURE, ALAN
LIGHTMAN DESCRIBED HOW THE
PROLIFERATION OF DIGITAL
NETWORKS WAS CHANGING THE TERMS
BY WHICH WE MIGHT UNDERSTAND
THE MEANING AND THE POSSIBILITY
OF PRIVACY AND PRIVATE SPACE.
AND LAST YEAR MICHAEL GEIST
STOOD HERE AND DETAILED THE
IMPLICATIONS OF NEW MEDIA AND
COPYRIGHT LAW FOR THE CREATION
AND DISTRIBUTION OF THE TYPES
OF CULTURAL AND INTELLECTUAL
WORK THAT SUSTAINED THE
POSSIBILITY OF A VIBRANT PUBLIC
SPHERE.
THESE EXAMPLES, DRAWN FROM THE REALM
OF DIGITAL INFORMATION AND
COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES, ARE
ONLY THE TIP OF THE MOST RECENT
ICEBERG TO FLOAT DOWN THE
RIVER.
COMPARATIVELY OLD TECHNOLOGIES,
SUCH AS THE AUTOMOBILE AND
TELEVISION, THE LASER AND THE
COMBINE, THE TELESCOPE AND
CONTRACEPTIVES, CONTINUE TO
EXERT STRUCTURING INFLUENCES ON
OUR PRACTICES, ON OUR OPTIONS,
ON OUR RELATIONSHIPS AND OUR
ATTENTION.
AND WHEN WE
DRAW THE EMERGING POSSIBILITIES
OF NANO TECHNOLOGY, BIO AND
REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGY AND
GENETIC TECHNOLOGY INTO THE
PICTURE, IT'S HARD TO DENY THAT
SOMETHING IS AT STAKE WHEREVER
PEOPLE LIVE IN THE MIDST OF
TECHNOLOGY.
IN THIS EVENING'S LECTURE I'D
LIKE TO SUGGEST THAT ONE OF THE
THINGS AT STAKE FOR THOSE OF US
WHO INHABIT THE WORLD OF
TECHNOLOGY IS CITIZENSHIP.
I WANT TO ARGUE IN PARTICULAR
THAT TECHNOLOGY POSES A
SIGNIFICANT CHALLENGE FOR
CITIZENSHIP AND I WANT TO
SKETCH OUT THE DIMENSIONS OF
THAT CHALLENGE.
I'LL BEGIN BY PROPOSING A
CONCEPTION OF CITIZENSHIP THAT
PLACES THE PRACTICE OF
POLITICAL JUDGMENT AT ITS CORE,
AND THEN TALK ABOUT THE THREE
WAYS IN WHICH TECHNOLOGY BEARS
ON CITIZENSHIP UNDERSTOOD IN
THIS WAY: AS A MEANS, AS AN
OBJECT, AND AS A SETTING FOR
POLITICAL JUDGMENT.
THE CHALLENGE THAT I'LL TRY TO
SKETCH HERE IS BOTH COMPLICATED
AND TROUBLING BECAUSE IT SEEMS
TO RELY ON AN INTRACTABLE
CONTRADICTION.
ON THE ONE HAND, INDIVIDUAL
TECHNOLOGIES ARE ALWAYS AND
EVER POLITICAL IN BOTH THEIR
GENESIS AND IN THEIR OUTCOMES.
IN THIS SENSE, TECHNOLOGIES
ALWAYS PRESENT AN OCCASION FOR
CITIZENSHIP, EVEN WHEN OUR
CIVIC EQUIPMENT AND
INSTITUTIONS ARE NOT CONFIGURED
TO MAKE THE MOST OF THESE
OCCASIONS.
ON THE OTHER HAND, AS A GENERAL
CULTURAL PHENOMENON, TECHNOLOGY
TENDS IN THE DIRECTION OF
DE- POLITICIZATION INSOFAR AS
TECHNOLOGICAL SOCIETIES REMOVE
TO POLITICAL JUDGMENT AND
CONTEST QUESTIONS THAT BELONG
IN THE POLITICAL REALM.
TECHNOLOGY IS AT ONCE
IRRETRIEVABLY POLITICAL AND
CONSISTENTLY DEPOLITICIZING.
AND IT'S AT THE CENTRE OF THIS
CONTRADICTION THAT THE
PROSPECTS FOR CITIZENSHIP IN
THE MIDST OF TECHNOLOGY LIE.
SO, WHAT IS CITIZENSHIP SUCH
THAT IT COULD BE CHALLENGED BY
TECHNOLOGY?
WELL, I'D LIKE TO SUGGEST THAT
CITIZENSHIP, LIKE SCIENCE AND
TECHNOLOGY, IS A WAY OF KNOWING
AND ACTING, A WAY OF BEING IN
THE WORLD, A PRACTICE.
TO SAY THAT CITIZENSHIP IS A
PRACTICE IS TO SAY THAT IT'S
SOMETHING NOT MERELY BORN, BUT
MORE PRECISELY SOMETHING DONE;
NOT JUST AN ATTRIBUTE, BUT AN
ACT; NOT SIMPLY A STATUS
INHERITED PASSIVELY OR ONE
THROUGH DUE PROCESS OR
STRUGGLE, BUT A HABIT MOTIVATED
BY CIRCUMSTANCE AND OBLIGATION,
CULTIVATED THROUGH EDUCATION
AND EXPERIENCE CONSISTENTLY
PERFORMED.
FOR CLASSICAL LIBERALS
CITIZENSHIP NAMES A PARTICULAR
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AN
INDIVIDUAL AND THE STATE AND
BETWEEN THE MEMBERS OF ONE
NATIONAL COMMUNITY AND ANOTHER.
CITIZENSHIP HERE MEANS THE
INDIVIDUAL POSSESSION OF RIGHTS
AGAINST THE STATE AND
CORRESPONDING OBLIGATIONS TO IT
AND ESTABLISHES NATIONAL
IDENTITIES AGAINST OTHERS IN
TERRITORIALLY DEFINED UNITS.
IN THIS LINE OF THINKING,
CITIZENSHIP IS MOSTLY ABOUT THE
FORM OF QUALIFICATIONS,
OBLIGATIONS AND BENEFITS OF
MEMBERSHIP IN A POLITICAL
COMMUNITY AND THE CONDITIONS
UNDER WHICH THESE CAN BE
DISTRIBUTED JUSTLY.
TO BE SURE, THERE ARE
POTENTIALLY MANY INTERESTING
AND CRITICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN
CITIZENSHIP AND TECHNOLOGY THAT
COULD BE RAISED FROM THIS
PERSPECTIVE.
IF ACCESS TO THE INTERNET, FOR
EXAMPLE, IS NECESSARY TO
RECEIVE THE GOVERNMENT SERVICES
TO WHICH A CITIZEN IS ENTITLED,
SHOULD ACCESS TO THIS
TECHNOLOGY OR PERHAPS, EVEN
MORE BROADLY, THE RIGHT TO
COMMUNICATE BE NUMBERED AMONG
THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF A
CITIZEN IN THE INFORMATION AGE?
WHEN MASSIVE BOTTOM-DRAGGING
FREEZER TROLLERS ARRIVE TO ALL
BUT REPLACE THE SMALL BOAT
FISHERY AND CANNING COMMUNITIES
IN ATLANTIC CANADA, WHO SHOULD
HAVE THE RIGHT TO SPEAK ABOUT
THOSE TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGES
THAT SO DRAMATICALLY AFFECT
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC LIFE IN
THOSE PLACES?
AND WHAT IF SUCH TECHNOLOGICAL
CHANGES ORIGINATE IN
JURISDICTIONS IN WHICH THOSE
AFFECTED HAVE NO RIGHTS OR
REPRESENTATION AS CITIZENS?
THESE ARE IMPORTANT AND
DIFFICULT QUESTIONS.
THEY GO TO THE HEART OF
THINKING ABOUT CITIZENSHIP IN
TERMS OF MEMBERSHIP AND STATUS
AND RIGHTS, BUT I THINK THEY
DON'T GET TO THE HEART OF THE
CHALLENGE THAT TECHNOLOGY POSES
FOR CITIZENSHIP.
FOR THIS WE NEED AN ACCOUNT OF
CITIZENSHIP THAT'S NOT CONFINED
TO QUESTIONS ABOUT THE
CONDITIONS OR EXTENT OF
MEMBERSHIP IN A LIBERAL POLITY
OR TO QUESTIONS ABOUT THE
DISTRIBUTION OF RESOURCES
NEEDED TO MAKE MEMBERSHIP
PRACTICABLE, BUT WE NEED A
DEFINITION THAT EXTENDS TO
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE QUALITY OF
CITIZENSHIP AS A PRACTICE, AS
SOMETHING THAT PEOPLE DO.
THE PRACTICE OF CITIZENSHIP IS
AT ITS CORE THE PRACTICE OF
POLITICAL JUDGMENT.
TO BE A CITIZEN IS TO BEAR THE
RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS ATTACHED
TO MEMBERSHIP IN A GIVEN
POLITICAL COMMUNITY.
TO BE
AS
A CITIZEN IS TO
ENGAGE IN JUDGMENT ABOUT COMMON
THINGS IN RELATION TO AND WITH
OTHERS.
NOW, IF WE CONSIDER THAT THE
CATEGORY COMMON CITIZENS
INCLUDES THE GREAT BREADTH AND
DIVERSITY OF SUBJECT POSITIONS
PRESENT IN CONTEMPORARY
POLITICAL COMMUNITIES, MEN AND
WOMEN, STRAIGHT AND QUEER,
RELIGIOUS AND SECULAR, NATIVE
AND IMMIGRANT, RICH AND POOR,
BLACK, RED, YELLOW, WHITE AND
BROWN, THEN WE BEGIN TO SEE
THAT THE CAPACITY FOR JUDGMENT
IS A QUITE INCLUSIVE BASIS UPON
WHICH TO THINK ABOUT THE
PRACTICE OF CITIZENSHIP.
THIS, I THINK, IS ESPECIALLY
TRUE WHEN WE CONSIDER THAT
THERE IS A BROAD RANGE OF
POSSIBLE MODES OF ENGAGING IN
POLITICAL JUDGMENT.
IN MOST ACCOUNTS, CITIZENSHIP
IS CHARACTERIZED BY
PARTICIPATION IN POLITICAL
JUDGMENT THROUGH PUBLIC
DIALOGUE OVER WHAT OUR ENDS
SHOULD BE AND WHAT ARE THE BEST
MEANS FOR ATTAINING THEM.
WHAT WE DO WHEN WE DO
CITIZENSHIP, WHEN WE MAKE
JUDGMENTS, WHEN WE DO POLITICS
IS ENGAGE WITH EACH OTHER IN
PUBLIC AND GIVE EACH OTHER OUR
REASONS.
WHEN THE
MADRES DE PLAZA
DE MAYO
MARCHED SILENTLY
AND INCESSANTLY BEFORE THE
PRESIDENTIAL PALACE IN
BUENOS ARIES, THEIR HEADS
COVERED WITH WHITE
HANDKERCHIEFS EMBROIDERED WITH
THE NAMES OF THEIR DISAPPEARED
CHILDREN, THEY WERE ENGAGED
RESOLUTELY AND DRAMATICALLY IN
AN ACT OF POLITICAL JUDGMENT.
IT'S NOT CLEAR
THAT THIS SORT OF PUBLIC
MOURNING COMPRISES REASONED
SPEECH OR DIALOGUE, BUT IT'S
UNDENIABLE THAT THE MOTHERS
WERE MAKING A CLAIM AND
PRACTICING CITIZENSHIP.
THE SAME MIGHT BE SAID OF THE
HACKTIVISTS RUNNING THE OPEN
NET INITIATIVE HERE AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO WHO
RESEARCH, TEST, AND PROMOTE
TECHNOLOGIES SUCH AS THEIR
RECENTLY RELEASED SIPHON
SOFTWARE PACKAGE DESIGNED TO
ASSIST DEMOCRATIC ACTIVISTS
SEEKING TO CIRCUMVENT
CENSORSHIP, SURVEILLANCE, AND
DATA FILTRATION BY
AUTHORITARIAN STATES.
WRITING CODE
THAT MAKES IT POSSIBLE FOR A
CHINESE DISSIDENT TO HAVE
ACCESS TO UNFILTERED Google
RESULTS SURREPTITIOUSLY MIGHT
NOT BE REASONED SPEECH EXACTLY,
BUT IT SURELY IS THE ACT OF A
PERSON MAKING A POLITICAL
JUDGMENT, A PERSON PRACTICING
CITIZENSHIP.
STILL, NOT ALL JUDGMENT IS
POLITICAL.
PART OF WHAT MAKES JUDGMENT
POLITICAL IS THAT IT ALWAYS
INVOLVES OTHERS.
HOWEVER, ALONG WITH THIS FORMAL
ATTRIBUTE POLITICAL JUDGMENT
HAS A SUBSTANTIVE ATTRIBUTE AS
WELL.
ITS JUDGMENT BROUGHT TO BEAR ON
CLAIMS ABOUT JUSTICE AND THE
GOOD LIFE, WITH THE LATTER
UNDERSTOOD NOT JUST AS THE
PROSPEROUS LIFE OR THE EASY
LIFE, BUT A LIFE LIVED WELL IN
COMMON WITH OTHERS.
WE MIGHT SAY THEN THAT
POLITICAL JUDGMENT CONCERNS
BOTH WHAT IS GOOD AND WHAT IS
JUST, BOTH ENDS AND MEANS, NOT
JUST, FOR EXAMPLE, WHETHER
TAXES OR TOO -- ARE TOO LOW OR
TOO HIGH, BUT WHETHER
CAPITALISM IS THE BEST WAY TO
LIVE.
ANOTHER WAY TO PUT THIS - AND
THIS IS GOING TO BECOME
IMPORTANT LATER ON WHEN I START
TO TALK ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY
OF POLITICAL JUDGMENT IN THE
MIDST OF TECHNOLOGY - IS TO SAY
THAT IN THE PRACTICE OF
CITIZENSHIP POLITICAL JUDGMENT
IS BROUGHT TO BEAR ON BOTH
MORAL AND ETHICAL CONCERNS.
AND IT'S IMPORTANT THAT I TAKE
SOME TIME TO SPECIFY WHAT I
MEAN BY THESE TERMS BECAUSE THE
WAY I'LL USE THEM IS NOT THE
SAME AS HOW THEY'RE NORMALLY
USED.
IN EVERYDAY LANGUAGE “MORAL.”
REFERS TO BEHAVIOUR THAT
CONFORMS TO SOME ABSTRACT
COMMUNITY STANDARD, PERHAPS
VAGUELY RELIGIOUS IN ORIGIN AND
USUALLY SEXUAL IN ITS TARGET,
WHILE “ETHICAL” REFERS TO
SOMETHING LIKE UPRIGHTNESS OR
INTEGRITY IN INDIVIDUAL CONDUCT
OR ADHERENCE TO SOME KIND OF
PROFESSIONAL CODE.
THIS IS NOT HOW I WILL USE
THESE TERMS.
FOR OUR PURPOSES THIS EVENING,
MORAL CONCERNS WILL REFER TO
QUESTIONS OF WHAT'S RIGHT OR
JUST TO DO CONSIDERED AGAINST A
BACKDROP OF COMMITMENTS THAT WE
GENERALLY SHARE.
SO, LET'S SAY THAT WE ALL SHARE
THE COMMITMENT THAT A GOOD
SOCIETY IS ONE THAT'S
DETERMINED TO CARE FOR ITS
LEAST ADVANTAGED MEMBERS.
THERE'S STILL A GREAT DEAL TO
BE DECIDED WHEN IT COMES TO HOW
EXACTLY TO MEET THAT
COMMITMENT.
THIS SORT OF JUDGMENT IS WHAT I
WILL CALL MORAL JUDGMENT, A
JUDGMENT UNDERTAKEN IN THE
MORAL SPHERE.
ETHICAL CONCERNS REFER NOT TO
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE RIGHT MEANS
TO MEET COMMITMENTS THAT WE ALL
SHARE, BUT, RATHER, TO
QUESTIONS CONCERNING THESE
BASIC COMMITMENTS THEMSELVES.
QUESTIONS OF THE GOOD, WHICH,
IN THE DEBASED PUBLIC
VOCABULARY OF CONTEMPORARY
POLITICS, ARE OFTEN RENDERED AS
QUESTIONS OF “VALUE.”
HERE THE DEBATE IS NOT OVER
WHETHER SOCIETY CAN MOST JUSTLY
MEET ITS OBLIGATION TO THE POOR
IN THIS WAY OR THAT, BUT
INSTEAD OVER WHETHER HELPING
THE POOR IS A GOOD THING AT
ALL, AND, THEREFORE, SOMETHING
TO WHICH WE SHOULD BE
COLLECTIVELY COMMITTED.
THIS IS AN ETHICAL QUESTION; A
QUESTION FOR JUDGMENT IN THE
ETHICAL SPHERE.
LIBERAL SOCIETIES TEND TO BE
BASED ON THE IDEA THAT WHILE
MORAL QUESTIONS ABOUT THE RIGHT
MEANS TO ATTAIN THE GOOD LIFE
ARE PUBLIC QUESTIONS SUBJECT TO
POLITICAL JUDGMENT BY CITIZENS,
ETHICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT THE
ENDS THAT COMPRISE THE GOOD
LIFE ARE PRIVATE, PERSONAL
CHOICES THAT OUGHT TO BE
PROTECTED FROM POLITICAL
INTERVENTION IN THE NAME OF
INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM.
NOW, IN SOCIETIES THAT ARE
BLESSED WITH MULTICULTURAL
PLURALISM, AS MOST CONTEMPORARY
LIBERAL SOCIETIES ARE, THIS CAN
BE A VERY STABILIZING IDEA.
CITIZENS IN MULTICULTURAL
POLITIES HOLD A DIVERSE ARRAY
OF CONCEPTIONS OF THE GOOD LIFE
AND DISAGREE OVER WHICH OF THEM
IS BEST.
AND UNDER THESE CONDITIONS, IF
AN INDIVIDUAL'S RIGHT TO CHOOSE
HIS OWN GOOD, THE BEDROCK
COMMITMENT OF A LIBERAL ORDER
IS TO BE PROTECTED, SUCH
DISAGREEMENTS MUST NOT BE
POLITICIZED.
THE “VALUES” THAT COMPRISE A
GIVEN INDIVIDUAL'S OR
COMMUNITY'S CONCEPTION OF THE
GOOD LIFE ARE PERSONAL AND
PRIVATE, AND POLITICAL
ADJUDICATION BETWEEN THEM RISKS
AN ILLIBERAL IMPOSITION OF ONE
INDIVIDUALS' OR GROUPS'
“VALUES” UPON OTHERS.
LIBERAL STATES THUS STRIVE FOR
INSTITUTIONS AND PROCEDURES
THAT PROVIDE FOR POLITICAL
CONFLICT OVER MATTERS OF
JUSTICE WHILE PURPORTEDLY
REMAINING NEUTRAL AS TO THE
COMPETING CONCEPTIONS OF THE
GOOD LIFE THAT MIGHT ANIMATE
PARTIES TO THOSE CONFLICTS.
BUT OF COURSE LIBERAL STATES
ARE NOT NEUTRAL ON THE QUESTION
OF THE GOOD LIFE.
AT THEIR CORE IS AN ETHICAL
COMMITMENT TO INDIVIDUAL
AUTONOMY, UNDERSTOOD AS
PERSONAL CHOICE AS TO THE GOOD,
SHIELDED FROM POLITICAL
JUDGMENT.
AS I'LL DISCUSS IN A FEW
MINUTES, THIS TENDENCY BECOMES
PARTICULARLY PRONOUNCED WHEN
LIBERALISM, CAPITALISM, AND
TECHNOLOGY ASSEMBLE TO FORM THE
SETTING IN WHICH THE PROSPECT
OF CITIZENSHIP UNFOLDS.
A SOCIAL ORDER THAT
SYSTEMATICALLY EXEMPTS FROM
POLITICAL JUDGMENT THE ETHICAL
COMMITMENTS THAT COMPRISE ITS
OWN ACCOUNT OF THE GOOD LIFE
CANNOT DO JUSTICE TO
CITIZENSHIP.
IT REQUIRES A SETTING IN WHICH
BOTH MORAL AND ETHICAL
QUESTIONS ARE OPEN TO THE
POSSIBILITY OF JUDGMENT.
TECHNOLOGY BEARS ON THE
PROSPECTS OF CITIZENSHIP IN
THREE WAYS: AS A MEANS, AS AN
OBJECT, AND AS A SETTING FOR
POLITICAL JUDGMENT.
AND I'M GOING TO DISCUSS
EACH -- EACH OF THESE IN TURN.
AS MEANS OF CITIZENSHIP,
TECHNOLOGY, ESPECIALLY
COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES, CAN
BE USED TO MEDIATE JUDGMENT
PRACTICED IN A VARIETY OF
MODES.
THIS IS AS TRUE OF THE AEROSOL
SPRAY CAN AS IT IS OF THE
INTERNET, BUT THE LATTER HAS
REALLY BROUGHT THE POTENTIAL OF
TECHNOLOGY AS A MEANS OF
CITIZENSHIP INTO HIGH RELIEF.
IT WOULD BE MISLEADING TO SAY
THAT THE BULK OF WHAT OCCURS
ONLINE IS MOTIVATED BY OR
DIRECTED TO EXPLICITLY
POLITICAL ENDS OR THAT
DEMOCRATIC POLITICS IS SOMEHOW
WHAT THE INTERNET IS ALL ABOUT.
STILL, IT'S UNDENIABLE THAT THE
INTERNET HAS BECOME AN
IMPORTANT INSTRUMENT FOR THOSE
WHO ARE INCLINED TO POLITICAL
JUDGMENT OR ACTION IN ONE FORM
OR ANOTHER.
WHETHER IT'S THE CONVENTIONAL
POLITICS OF OFFICIAL LEADERS,
GOVERNMENTS, ELECTIONS AND
POLITICAL PARTIES, OR THE
MARGINAL POLITICS OF
OPPOSITION, RESISTANCE,
SOLIDARITY AND REFORM, THE
INTERNET IS NOW A STANDARD
MEANS OF POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT
FOR MANY CITIZENS.
AND THE MODES OF ENGAGEMENT
MEDIATED BY THIS TECHNOLOGY ARE
GENUINELY DIVERSE.
THEY INCLUDE THE PRODUCTION,
DISTRIBUTION, AND CONSUMPTION
OF POLITICAL INFORMATION;
MEDIATION OF POLITICAL
DISCUSSION, DEBATE AND
DELIBERATION; ORGANIZATION,
MOBILIZATION, AND PUBLICIZATION
OF OFFLINE POLITICAL ACTION, AS
WELL AS NOVEL FORMS OF TACTICAL
ACTION WITHIN THE SPACES
CREATED BY THE MEDIUM ITSELF.
DIGITAL CIVIL
DISOBEDIENCE, CYBER ACTIVISM,
AND ONLINE CULTURE JAMMING HAVE
ALL EMERGED AS VIABLE AND
PROMISING MODES OF POLITICAL
ACTION AND JUDGMENT.
THE DEMOCRATIC POTENTIAL OF
NETWORKED INFORMATION AND
COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES IS
PARTICULARLY DRAMATIC IN THE
CONTEXT OF AUTHORITARIAN
REGIMES WHOSE POWER IS
SUSTAINED AT LEAST IN PART BY
THEIR ABILITY TO EXERCISE
CENTRALIZED CONTROL OVER ACCESS
TO INFORMATION AND THE MEANS OF
COMMUNICATION.
60 MILLION
MILLION CHINESE BLOGGERS MAY
JUST BE A DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION
IN THE MAKING.
OR MAYBE NOT.
FANG XINGDONG, THE FOUNDER OF
CHINA'S LARGEST BLOG HOSTING
WEBSITE, STARTED OUT WHEN HE
SUSPECTED THAT MICROSOFT HAD
FORCED THE DELETION OF SOME
ARTICLES THAT WERE CRITICAL OF
THE COMPANY THAT HE HAD POSTED
TO THEIR CHAT ROOMS.
NOW HIS COMPANY, BOKEE,
OPERATES WITH THE BLESSING OF
THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT.
PROBABLY BECAUSE HIS EMPLOYEES
COMB THE BLOGS HOSTED BY THE
SITE DAILY, DELETING OBSCENE
AND POLITICALLY OBJECTIONABLE
CONTENT.
AND WHEN MICROSOFT ERASED FROM
ITS OWN MSN SPACE'S SITE THE
BLOG OF THE DISSIDENT
XIAO QIANG, WHICH FOR SEVERAL
MONTHS HAD FEATURED POLITICAL
ESSAYS CRITICAL OF THE
GOVERNMENT, Mr. FANG KNEW
EXACTLY WHICH SIDE HE WAS ON.
IF YOU USE BLOGGING AS A
POLITICAL TOOL, HE SAID, YOU
COULD DESTROY THE DEVELOPMENT
OF BLOGGING IN CHINA.
IN CHINA, WELL-MEANING URBAN
ELITES WHO USE THE INTERNET
MOST FREQUENTLY ARE ALSO THOSE
WHO HAVE BENEFITED MOST FROM
THE COUNTRY'S RECENT ECONOMIC
BOOM.
THEY'RE NOT NECESSARILY
INTERESTED IN USING THE
INTERNET TO SHUT DOWN THE
GOVERNMENT AND THEY'RE
CERTAINLY NOT INTERESTED IN
SUPPORTING DISSIDENT ACTIVITY
THAT MIGHT CAUSE THE GOVERNMENT
TO SHUT DOWN THE INTERNET.
BUT MY POINT HERE IS SIMPLY
THAT ACCESS TO INFORMATION IN
COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY DOES
NOT AUTOMATICALLY EQUATE WITH
POLITICIZATION AND A
REJUVENATION OF CITIZENSHIP.
THERE ARE MANY WAYS IN WHICH
TECHNOLOGY, AND AGAIN
ESPECIALLY COMMUNICATION
TECHNOLOGY, CAN BE AS MUCH A
MEANS OF ANTI-CITIZENSHIP AS IT
IS OF CITIZENSHIP.
WE ARE CULTURALLY PREDISPOSED
TOWARDS THINKING THAT ANY
TECHNOLOGY THAT INCREASES
ACCESS TO INFORMATION AND
FACILITATES NEW AND EXTENSIVE
WAYS FOR PEOPLE TO COMMUNICATE
WITH EACH OTHER MUST BE GOOD
FOR DEMOCRACY.
HOWEVER, THE COMBINATION OF
EXPANDING ACCESS TO INFORMATION
AND PROLIFERATING MEANS OF
COMMUNICATION HAS NEVER BEEN
ENOUGH TO PRODUCE ENGAGED
CITIZENSHIP ON A BROAD SCALE.
AS MANY WRITERS HAVE OBSERVED,
EACH OF THE TELEGRAPH, THE
TELEPHONE, THE RADIO, AND
TELEVISION WAS ACCOMPANIED BY
ITS OWN HEROIC RHETORIC OF
DEMOCRATIC TRANSFORMATION AND
REINVIGORATED CIVIC ENGAGEMENT.
NONE HAVE DELIVERED FULLY ON
THIS PROMISE, BUT EACH HAS BEEN
CRUCIAL FOR THE MAINTENANCE OF
A SYSTEM OF POLITICAL AND
ECONOMIC POWER IN WHICH MOST
PEOPLE ARE SYSTEMATICALLY
DISTANCED FROM THE PRACTICE OF
CITIZENSHIP MOST OF THE TIME.
FOR THE MOST PART THESE
TECHNOLOGIES HAVE BEEN MEANS OF
ANYTHING BUT CITIZENSHIP.
SPECTACULAR ENTERTAINMENT,
DOCILE RECREATION, HABITUATION
TO THE RHYTHMS OF CAPITALIST
PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION,
CULTURAL NORMALIZATION.
THE INTERNET, AS A RADICALLY
DECENTRALIZED MEDIUM WHOSE
CAPACITY FOR PUBLICATION AND
CIRCULATION FAR SURPASSES THAT
OF ITS BROADCAST PREDECESSORS,
HAS CERTAINLY PROVIDED THE
MEANS BY WHICH POLITICALLY
ENGAGED CITIZENS CAN ACCESS AND
PRODUCE POLITICALLY CHARGED
INFORMATION THAT WOULD NEVER
HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT OF DAY
UNDER THE REGIMES OF THE
TELEVISION AND THE NEWSPAPER.
THIS INFORMATION CAN BE A VERY
IMPORTANT RESOURCE FOR THE
PRACTICE OF POLITICAL JUDGMENT.
BUT THE INTERNET ALSO SURPASSES
ITS PREDECESSORS AS AN
INTEGRATED MEDIUM OF ENROLLMENT
IN THE DEPOLITICIZED ECONOMY
AND CULTURE OF CONSUMER
CAPITALISM.
THIS IS WHY WE SHOULD BE WARY
OF EQUATING MORE AND BETTER
ACCESS TO INFORMATION AND
COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY WITH
ENHANCED CITIZENSHIP.
WHENEVER I TELL PEOPLE THAT I'M
INTERESTED IN TECHNOLOGY AND
CITIZENSHIP, THEY AUTOMATICALLY
ASSUME THAT WHAT I MEAN IS THAT
I AM INTERESTED IN HOW
GOVERNMENTS AND POLITICAL
PARTIES AND ACTIVISTS USE
TECHNOLOGY AS A MEANS FOR
PRACTICING POLITICS.
THEY HAVE A HARD TIME
UNDERSTANDING WHAT I MEAN WHEN
I TELL THEM THAT I'M MORE
INTERESTED IN HOW PEOPLE ARE
USED BY TECHNOLOGY.
WHAT I SHOULD SAY IS THAT HOW
WE USE TECHNOLOGIES AS
INSTRUMENTS OR MEANS REALLY
REPRESENTS JUST ONE WAY IN
WHICH TECHNOLOGY BEARS ON
CITIZENSHIP.
AND IF WE FOCUS TOO EXCLUSIVELY
ON THAT, WE RUN THE RISK OF
IGNORING OTHER PROBABLY MORE
SIGNIFICANT ASPECTS OF THIS
RELATIONSHIP.
ONE OF THESE OTHER ASPECTS IS
THE STATUS OF TECHNOLOGY AS AN
OBJECT OF POLITICAL JUDGMENT.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO SAY THAT
TECHNOLOGY OUGHT TO BE AN
OBJECT OF POLITICAL JUDGMENT?
IT MEANS THAT BECAUSE
TECHNOLOGICAL DEVICES AND
SYSTEMS HAVE SUCH DRAMATIC
CONSEQUENCES FOR HUMAN, SOCIAL,
ECONOMIC, AND CULTURAL
RELATIONSHIPS AND PRACTICES,
THEIR DEVELOPMENT, DESIGN, AND
REGULATION SHOULD BE SUBJECT TO
THE POLITICAL JUDGMENT OF
CITIZENS.
TECHNOLOGIES ARE NOT JUST
NEUTRAL INSTRUMENTS OR MEANS.
THEY ARE, RATHER, INTIMATELY
BOUND UP IN THE ESTABLISHMENT
AND ENFORCEMENT OF PROHIBITIONS
AND PERMISSIONS, THE
DISTRIBUTION OF POWER AND
RESOURCES, AND THE STRUCTURE OF
HUMAN PRACTICES AND
RELATIONSHIPS.
IT'S TRUE THAT CERTAIN
TECHNOLOGIES ARE SUBJECT TO
REGULATORY OVERSIGHT WITH
RESPECT TO QUESTIONS OF SAFETY,
HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT, BUT
FOR THE MOST PART WE CITIZENS
JUST TAKE WHAT WE GET WHEN IT
COMES TO TECHNOLOGY.
WE LIVE IN THE WORLD OF THE
CELL PHONE, THE AUTOMOBILE, THE
JET AIRLINER, PHARMACEUTICALS,
PLASTIC, VIDEO SURVEILLANCE,
THE COMPUTER, GAS PIPELINES,
THE SUPERMARKET, AND ENDLESSLY
PROLIFERATING SCREENS WHETHER
WE LIKE IT OR NOT.
NOBODY ASKED US.
BUT HOW COULD THEY POSSIBLY
HAVE ASKED US?
THE NORMATIVE ARGUMENT FOR
MAKING TECHNOLOGY AN OBJECT OF
POLITICAL JUDGMENT IS FAR
EASIER TO SUPPORT THAN THE
PRACTICAL ONE.
LET'S TAKE THE EMERGING FIELD
OF NANO TECHNOLOGY, FOR
EXAMPLE.
NANO TECHNOLOGY RESIDES AT THE
CROSSROADS OF PHYSICS, BIOLOGY
AND CHEMISTRY, AND IT REFERS TO
THE MANIPULATION OF MATERIALS
AND THE FABRICATION OF DEVICES
AT THE SCALE OF ONE-BILLIONTH
OF A METER.
IF ITS
PROMISES COME TRUE, NANO
TECHNOLOGY WILL PRODUCE
COMPUTER CHIPS WHOSE SPEED WILL
LEAVE EVEN TODAY'S FASTEST
PROCESSORS IN THE DUST; TINY
VESSELS THAT ARE CAPABLE OF
DELIVERING PHARMACEUTICALS
DIRECTLY TO SICK CELLS;
LIGHTWEIGHT SUPER STRENGTH
MATERIALS THAT WILL ENABLE US
TO TRAVEL FARTHER AND FASTER
THAN EVER BEFORE; WEAPONS AND
ARMOR THAT WILL MAKE SHORT WORK
OF ENEMIES, BOTH MILITARY AND
DOMESTIC; PHOTOVOLTAIC CELLS
FOR CONVERTING THE SUN'S RAYS
INTO ELECTRICITY AT RATES OF
EFFICIENCY THAT JUST MIGHT SAVE
THE PLANET.
NOT SURPRISINGLY, GOVERNMENTS
AROUND THE WORLD HAVE BEEN
INVESTING BILLIONS OF DOLLARS
INTO RESEARCH IN THIS AREA.
YOUR DOLLARS.
WHICH RAISES THE QUESTION: DID
ANYBODY ASK YOU?
OF COURSE THEY DIDN'T.
WHAT WOULD THEY ASK?
“SHALL WE PURSUE RESEARCH INTO
TECHNOLOGIES THAT MIGHT CURE
CANCER AND SOLVE THE WORLD'S
ENERGY AND POLLUTION PROBLEMS?”
CAN YOU IMAGINE AN ANSWER TO
THAT QUESTION THAT WOULD BE
ANYTHING OTHER THAN AN EMPHATIC
YES?
AND WHAT QUESTIONS MIGHT YOU
HAVE ABOUT THESE TECHNOLOGIES?
WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES?
WILL SOME PEOPLE BENEFIT MORE
THAN OTHERS?
HOW COULD THEY POSSIBLY KNOW?
AND WHAT VENUE WOULD BE RIGHT
FOR ASKING THESE QUESTIONS?
AN ELECTION?
A COMMITTEE MEETING?
AN ONLINE OPINION POLE?
THE CHALLENGE THAT TECHNOLOGY
POSES FOR CITIZENSHIP IS NOT
JUST THAT WE DO NOT TREAT
TECHNOLOGY AS AN OBJECT OF
POLITICAL JUDGMENT, BUT THAT
IT'S DIFFICULT TO IMAGINE HOW
WE POSSIBLY COULD.
THERE ARE TWO OBJECTIONS
COMMONLY BROUGHT AGAINST THE
IDEA OF SUBJECTING SCIENCE AND
TECHNOLOGY TO DEMOCRATIC
POLITICAL JUDGMENT.
THE FIRST IS THAT EVERYDAY
PEOPLE LACK THE EXPERTISE AND
THE LITERACY NECESSARY TO MAKE
INFORMED REASONABLE JUDGMENTS
ABOUT HIGHLY SPECIALIZED AND
COMPLICATED TECHNOLOGICAL
CONTROVERSIES.
THE SECOND COMMON OBJECTION TO
TREATING TECHNOLOGY AS AN
OBJECT OF POLITICAL JUDGMENT IS
THAT IF EVERY TECHNOLOGICAL
DEVELOPMENT REQUIRED
ENDORSEMENT BY CITIZENS AFTER
SOMETHING RESEMBLING A PROCESS
OF DEMOCRATIC DEBATE AND
DELIBERATION, THE WORLD WOULD
BE FULL OF A LOT OF VERY BAD
TECHNOLOGY OR PERHAPS NONE AT
ALL.
THE WHEELS OF INNOVATION TURN
MUCH MORE QUICKLY THAN THOSE OF
DEMOCRATIC DELIBERATION AND
REQUIRE A MUCH HIGHER TOLERANCE
OF RISK THAN THE EVERYDAY
PUBLIC IS WILLING TO BEAR.
BOTH OF THESE OBJECTIONS ARE
BASED ON A PREJUDICIALLY LOW
ESTIMATE OF WHAT EVERYDAY
CITIZENS ARE CAPABLE OF AND SO
DON'T REALLY CONSTITUTE
PERSUASIVE REASONS FOR
SHIELDING TECHNOLOGY FROM
POLITICAL JUDGMENT.
PEOPLE ARE SMARTER THAN WE
SOMETIMES THINK THEY ARE, AND
THEY'RE PERFECTLY CAPABLE OF
MAKING GOOD JUDGMENTS ABOUT
COMPLICATED THINGS, ESPECIALLY
UNDER THE RIGHT CONDITIONS.
PERHAPS THE PROBLEM WITH MAKING
TECHNOLOGY AN OBJECT OF
POLITICAL JUDGMENT LIES NOT IN
THE LIMITED CAPACITIES OF THE
PEOPLE, BUT IN THE NATURE OF
TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT
ITSELF.
IF WE WERE TO AGREE THAT
TECHNOLOGY OUGHT TO BE MADE THE
OBJECT OF POLITICAL JUDGMENT,
ON WHAT BASIS SHOULD WE DECIDE
WHICH TECHNOLOGIES SHOULD BE
SINGLED OUT FOR POLITICAL
SCRUTINY?
SOME TECHNOLOGICAL
INTERVENTIONS, THE BUILDING OF
A GAS PIPELINE THAT WILL
INTERRUPT IMPORTANT ECOSYSTEMS
AND MIGRATION ROOTS; THE
MARKETING AND SALE OF
GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS
AS FOOD IN SUPERMARKETS, A NEW
HYDROELECTRIC DAM, THESE KINDS
OF PROJECTS OF SUCH A SCALE AND
MAGNITUDE AND POTENTIAL IMPACT
THAT IT SEEMS OBVIOUS THAT
THEIR DEVELOPMENT WOULD BE
PROPERLY POLITICIZED.
ON THE OTHER HAND, MANY OTHER
INTERVENTIONS, COMPOSITE FIBER
HOCKEY STICKS, USB KEYS FOR
PORTABLE DATA STORAGE, TABLETOP
BREADMAKERS, SEEM SO MINOR THAT
THEY ARE UNLIKELY TO INSPIRE
ANYBODY TO RUN OUT AND START UP
A COMMITTEE.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE BROAD RANGE
OF TECHNOLOGIES THAT EXISTS
BETWEEN THESE OBVIOUS EXTREMES?
AUTOMOBILES, SUBURBAN
CINEPLEXES, HIGH THROUGHPUT
GRAIN TERMINALS, VIDEO
SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS, RADIO
FREQUENCY IDENTIFICATION TAGS,
BIOMETRIC SCANNING DEVICES,
INDUSTRIAL HOG AND POULTRY
MANUFACTURING PLANTS,
SUPERCONDUCTING PARTICLE
COLLIDERS, WAL-MARTS, WIFI
INFRASTRUCTURE,
PHARMACEUTICALS.
HOW, FROM THIS BROAD ARRAY OF
TECHNOLOGIES, WHICH EITHER
ALONE OR TOGETHER HAVE DRAMATIC
IMPLICATIONS FOR HOW WE LIVE,
ARE WE TO DETERMINE WHICH IS TO
BE NOMINATED AS AN OBJECT OF
POLITICAL JUDGMENT BY CITIZENS?
NOW, LET ME ASK YOU SOMETHING.
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOUR
GOVERNMENT ASKED YOU FOR YOUR
JUDGMENT, NOT JUST YOUR PRIVATE
OPINION AS A CONSUMER GAUGED BY
SOME SURVEY ON THE TELEPHONE IN
THE MIDDLE OF DINNER, BUT YOUR
THOUGHTFUL CONSIDERED PUBLIC
JUDGMENT AS A CITIZEN ON
QUESTIONS LIKE THESE?
I'LL GO OUT ON A LIMB AND
ASSUME THAT THE ANSWER IS NOT
LATELY.
NOW, THIS SPEAKS VOLUMES ABOUT
THE DISTANCE BETWEEN OUR
SOCIETY'S DEMOCRATIC SELF-IMAGE
AND ITS ACTUAL POLITICAL
PRACTICES.
WE HAVE TO KEEP IN MIND THAT IN
OUR CULTURE POLITICS IS NOT
UNDERSTOOD AS THE PRACTICE OF
JUDGMENT THAT I HAVE DESCRIBED
THIS EVENING, BUT, RATHER, AS A
VAGUELY DISHONORABLE PRIMARILY
STRATEGIC GAME IN WHICH PEOPLE
SEEK TO SECURE THEIR OWN
PRIVATE INTERESTS AGAINST THOSE
OF OTHERS.
IN THIS CONTEXT POLITICIZATION
DOES NOT MEAN EXPOSING
QUESTIONS OF JUSTICE AND THE
GOOD LIFE TO PUBLIC JUDGMENT.
IT IS, RATHER, A DIRTY WORD
SIGNIFYING THAT FROM WHICH THE
THINGS THAT REALLY MATTER
SHOULD BE INSULATED.
IN OUR SOCIETY, ONE OF THE
THINGS THAT REALLY MATTERS IS
TECHNOLOGY.
WHEN IT COMES TO MATTERS OF
TECHNOLOGICAL DESIGN,
DEVELOPMENT AND REGULATION, THE
STAKES ARE TOO HIGH, THE RISKS
TOO GREAT, AND THE PROMISES TOO
GOLDEN TO SUBJECT TECHNOLOGY TO
SOMETHING AS UNPREDICTABLE AS
POLITICS, PARTICULARLY THE
POLITICS OF A DEMOCRATIC
CITIZENRY.
TECHNOLOGY IS DEEPLY POLITICAL.
IT PROVIDES INSTRUMENTS THAT
CAN AT LEAST POTENTIALLY BE
USED IN POLITICAL PROJECTS.
THE DEVELOPMENT AND DESIGN OF
TECHNOLOGICAL DEVICES AND
SYSTEMS ALWAYS REFLECT
PARTICULAR COMBINATIONS OF AND
CONTESTS BETWEEN ACTORS AND
INSTITUTIONS THAT REPRESENT
PARTICULAR POLITICAL INTERESTS.
AND THE OUTCOMES OF
TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT AND
DESIGN ARE ALWAYS POLITICAL
BECAUSE POWER, JUSTICE, AND THE
GOOD LIFE ARE ALWAYS AT STAKE
IN THEM.
TECHNOLOGY IS POLITICAL TO ITS
CORE.
WHY THEN IS TECHNOLOGY ONE OF
THE MOST DEPOLITICIZED AND
DEPOLITICIZING FORCES AT WORK
IN CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY?
I THINK THE ANSWER HAS
SOMETHING TO DO WITH A THIRD
WAY IN WHICH TECHNOLOGY BEARS
ON CITIZENSHIP.
TECHNOLOGY IS NOT JUST
SOMETHING WE MIGHT USE IN
PRACTICING CITIZENSHIP AND IT'S
NOT JUST SOMETHING AGAINST
WHICH THE JUDGMENT OF CITIZENS
MIGHT CONCEIVABLY BE BROUGHT TO
BEAR.
IT'S ALSO AN IMPORTANT PART OF
THE MATERIAL AND CULTURAL
CONTEXT IN WHICH THE MEANING OF
CITIZENSHIP IS MADE MANIFEST.
THE CHALLENGES
THAT TECHNOLOGY POSES FOR
CITIZENSHIP AS A MEANS AND AS
AN OBJECT OF POLITICAL JUDGMENT
ARE FORMIDABLE, BUT THEY PALE
BY COMPARISON TO THE CHALLENGE
POSED BY TECHNOLOGY AS THE
SETTING IN WHICH THE
POSSIBILITY OF POLITICAL
JUDGMENT IS CONTAINED.
WHAT DOES IT
MEAN TO SAY THAT TECHNOLOGY IS
THE SETTING FOR CITIZENSHIP?
WELL, WHATEVER ELSE YOU MAY
WISH TO CALL IT, OURS IS A
TECHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY.
A TECHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY IS ONE
THAT'S SATURATED BY
TECHNOLOGICAL DEVICES AND
SYSTEMS, MANY OF THEM
FUNCTIONALLY INTEGRATED.
IT'S A SOCIETY WHICH
EXPERIENCES TECHNOLOGICAL
DYNAMISM AND CHANGE AS A
CONSTANT CONDITION.
IT'S A SOCIETY IN WHICH AN
EXPANSIVE RANGE OF HUMAN
ACTIVITY AND ATTENTION, BOTH
INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE, IS
MEDIATED BY THESE DEVICES AND
SYSTEMS.
TO LIVE IN A TECHNOLOGICAL
SOCIETY SUCH AS OURS IS TO BE
COMMITTED TO A COLLECTIVE
PROJECT IN WHICH THE PROGRESS
OF TECHNOLOGY IS CLOSELY
ASSOCIATED WITH THE POSSIBILITY
OF WELL-BEING AND
SELF-REALIZATION.
WHEN IT COMES TO TECHNOLOGY,
WE'RE IN IT TOGETHER.
THIS HAS CERTAINLY BEEN THE
CASE HISTORICALLY IN CANADA.
THE STORY OF THE ACHIEVEMENT OF
THE CANADIAN NATION IS OFTEN
TOLD AS A STORY IN WHICH
TECHNOLOGY HAS BEEN THE MEANS
TO OVERCOME THE VARIOUS
ADVERSITIES THAT NATURE AND
CIRCUMSTANCE HAD PLACED BEFORE
US: THE SPATIAL AND TEMPORAL
EXPANSE OF THE TERRITORY; THE
BRUTALITY OF ITS GEOGRAPHY; THE
YOKE OF COLONIAL DEPENDENCY;
THE THREAT OF CONTINENTAL
INTEGRATION; THE DIVERSITY OF
OUR LINGUISTIC AND REGIONAL
POLITICAL CULTURES.
TECHNOLOGY OVERCAME THESE
OBSTACLES NOT JUST
MECHANICALLY, BUT ALSO AS AN
IDEA.
IF ALL MODERN NATIONS ARE
IMAGINED COMMUNITIES, THEN
TECHNOLOGY HAS BEEN A CENTRAL
PART OF THE HISTORICAL
IMAGINATION OF CANADA.
TECHNOLOGY SUCH AS THE CANADIAN
PACIFIC RAILWAY AND
SUBSEQUENTLY THE TELEGRAPH, THE
TELEPHONE, BROADCASTING, AND
THE INTERNET PROVIDED MATERIAL
LINKS BETWEEN FAR-FLUNG
COMPATRIOTS.
MORE IMPORTANTLY, THESE AND
OTHER TECHNOLOGIES HAVE
PROVIDED THE LANGUAGE OF A
SYNTHETIC COMMON PURPOSE THAT
HAS INSPIRED AND BOUND US
POLITICALLY AND PERHAPS EVEN
SPIRITUALLY DESPITE OUR MANY
DIFFERENCES.
WE MAY BE THE MOST
MULTICULTURAL COUNTRY ON EARTH
AND WE MAY BE DIVIDED BY
DIFFERENCES OF RACE, CLASS,
LANGUAGE AND GENDER, BUT WE CAN
BE ONE NATION UNDER Google.
IT'S NOT JUST THAT, AS MAURICE
CHARLAND WRITES, CANADA OWES
ITS EXISTENCE TO TECHNOLOGIES
WHICH BIND SPACE, BUT ALSO
THAT, “THE IDEA OF CANADA
DEPENDS UPON A RHETORIC ABOUT
TECHNOLOGY.”
TECHNOLOGY EXTENDS THE CANADIAN
PRESENCE ACROSS TERRITORY, BUT
IT ALSO ENFORCES DOMINION OVER
THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF ITS
INHABITANTS.
AS CHARLAND PUTS IT, “THE
POPULAR MIND, LIKE THE LAND,
MUST BE OCCUPIED.”
TECHNOLOGY OCCUPIES THE LAND,
BUT IT ALSO SERVES AS A
UNIFYING COMMON PROJECT THAT
LENDS COHERENT PURPOSE TO A
DIVERSE PEOPLE AND DEMANDS
THEIR COMMITMENT AND
IDENTIFICATION.
THE MOST RECENT EXAMPLE OF THIS
SORT OF TECHNOLOGICAL
NATIONALISM IN CANADA HAS BEEN
THE SO-CALLED INNOVATION AGENDA
PROMOTED BY THE CANADIAN
GOVERNMENT SINCE 2001 AS THE
SUBSTANCE OF A NEW NATIONAL
DREAM.
THE NEW NATIONAL DREAM IS THE
COLLECTIVE PROJECT OF ECONOMIC
RESTRUCTURING TO WHICH
CAPITALIST AND STATE ELITES IN
CANADA HAVE BEEN COMMITTED FOR
AT LEAST THE PAST TWO DECADES.
THIS RESTRUCTURING HAS RELIED
HEAVILY ON A MASSIVE COMMITMENT
TO THE DEVELOPMENT AND
DEPLOYMENT OF NEW TECHNOLOGIES
ACROSS ALL SECTORS AND TO THE
CULTIVATION OF AN ECONOMIC
CLIMATE OF ENTERPRISE,
FLEXIBILITY AND INNOVATION, AND
CRUCIALLY IT'S DEPENDENT UPON
THE LEGITIMIZATION OF A
PARTICULAR RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN
THE STATE AND THE MARKET
VIS-A-VIS TECHNOLOGICAL
DEVELOPMENT IN WHICH THE
STATE'S ROLE AS A REGULATOR AND
DISTRIBUTOR OF RESOURCES IS
REDUCED AND ITS ROLE AS A
FACILITATOR, SPONSOR, AND
PROMOTER OF CAPITAL
ACCUMULATION IS ENLARGED.
THE FUNDAMENTAL RESTRUCTURING
OF THE CANADIAN ECONOMY IN
RECENT YEARS AROUND THESE
PRIORITIES HAS HAD SIGNIFICANT
MATERIAL AFFECTS ON THE
DISTRIBUTION OF POWER AND
SECURITY IN CANADIAN SOCIETY
AND ON THE WORKING AND SOCIAL
LIVES OF MOST CANADIANS.
MANY OF THESE AFFECTS HAVE
ENTAILED REAL SACRIFICE,
ESPECIALLY ON THE PART OF
CANADIANS AT THE BOTTOM END OF
THE VARIOUS POLARIZATIONS THAT
ARE CHARACTERISTIC OF
POST-FORDIST ECONOMIES.
IN OTHER WORDS, IT'S A HIGHLY
CONTENTIOUS POLITICAL PROJECT
IN WHICH SOME INTERESTS MIGHT
BE SERVED BETTER THAN OTHERS.
HOWEVER, IN PRESENTING THE
INNOVATION AGENDA AS A
TECHNOLOGICAL PROJECT,
CONNECTED SEAMLESSLY WITH
CANADA'S HISTORICAL DESTINY AS
A TECHNOLOGICAL NATION,
CANADIAN ELITES HAVE MORE OR
LESS SUCCEEDED IN EFFACING THE
DEEPLY POLITICAL NATURE OF THIS
PROJECT, INSULATING IT FROM
CONTEST AND OPPOSITION, FOR WHO
AMONG US, AFTER ALL, WOULD
STAND UP AGAINST INNOVATION?

A male audience member says
I WOULD.

Darin says GOOD FOR YOU.

(laughing)

He continues
AGAINST A STRONG AND GLOBALLY
COMPETI-- COMPETITIVE ECONOMY.
WHO WOULD STAND UP AGAINST THE
IMPERATIVE FOR CANADA TO BE A
LEADER IN THE RACE FOR
TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANTAGE,
AGAINST OUR OWN HISTORY AS A
NATION OF INNOVATORS?
ARE WE TO LET MERE POLITICS
BRING DOWN THE TECHNOLOGICAL
REPUBLIC?
NOW, EARLIER THIS EVENING I
SAID THAT CITIZENSHIP IS
POLITICAL JUDGMENT EXERCISED IN
BOTH THE MORAL AND THE ETHICAL
SPHERES.
JUDGMENT ABOUT MEANS AND ENDS;
JUDGMENTS ABOUT JUSTICE AND THE
GOOD LIFE.
THIS SUGGESTS THAT FOR THE
POSSIBILITY OF CITIZENSHIP TO
BE REALIZED THE ETHICAL CLAIMS
EMBODIED IN THE TECHNOLOGICAL
FORMS OF LIFE TO WHICH WE HAVE
BEEN COMMITTED MUST BE OPEN TO
POLITICAL JUDGMENT.
THIS IS A MUCH HARDER CONDITION
TO SATISFY THAN EVEN SUBJECTING
THE MORAL DIMENSIONS OF
TECHNOLOGY TO POLITICAL
JUDGMENT.
WE CAN ENGAGE IN JUDGMENT ABOUT
THE MORAL DIMENSIONS OF THE
TECHNOLOGICAL CONTROVERSY.
FOR EXAMPLE, OVER WHETHER IT'S
RIGHT FOR THE STATE TO HAVE
UNFETTERED ACCESS TO THE
RECORDS OF INTERNET SERVICE
PROVIDERS.
WE CAN ENGAGE IN THAT KIND OF
JUDGMENT WITHOUT CALLING INTO
QUESTION THE ETHICAL COMMITMENT
TO TECHNOLOGY AS THE GOOD LIFE.
ONE NEED NOT CONTEST THE
ETHICAL DISPENSATION OF THE
TECHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY IN ORDER
TO MAKE A JUDGMENT ABOUT THE
UNJUST DIRECTION IMPOSED UPON
IT BY MICROSOFT, AT and T, VERIZON,
AND THE PENTAGON.
INDEED, IT'S MORE LIKELY THAT
THOSE WHO ARE MOTIVATED TO
ENGAGE IN CONTROVERSIES LIKE
THIS ON A MORAL LEVEL WILL BE
THOSE WHOSE ETHICAL COMMITMENT
TO TECHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY IS
ALSO THE STRONGEST.
IN THIS ECLIPSE OF THE ETHICAL
DIMENSION OF POLITICAL
JUDGMENT, CONTEMPORARY
LIBERALISM CONSPIRES WITH
TECHNOLOGY AGAINST THE
POSSIBILITY OF CITIZENSHIP.
IT DOES SO NOT ONLY BY
RECOMMENDING STRONGLY AGAINST
THE POLITICIZATION OF ETHICAL
QUESTIONS, BUT BY GIVING AN
ACCOUNT OF THE GOOD LIFE THAT
RESEMBLES VERY CLOSELY THE
ACCOUNT GIVEN IN TECHNOLOGY.
EARLIER I DESCRIBED THE
PREVAILING ETHIC OF LIBERALISM
AS COMMITMENT TO THE PRINCIPLE
OF CHOICE.
BUT WHEN LIBERALISM IS HELD
TOGETHER WITH TECHNOLOGY, IT
BECOMES CLEAR THAT THIS
COMMITMENT IS THE TOKEN OF AN
EVEN DEEPER DEVOTION TO WHAT
GRANT HAS CALLED THAT PRIMAL
WESTERN AFFIRMATION, THE
AFFIRMATION OF HUMAN BEINGS AS
WILL.
UNDER THE LIBERAL DISPENSATION,
THE GOOD LIFE IS UNDERSTOOD AS
INDIVIDUAL AUTONOMY AND
SELF-REALIZATION ACHIEVED
THROUGH FREE EXERTION OF THE
WILL, AN ACCOUNT THAT COMPORTS
VERY WELL WITH THE
TECHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY'S PROMISE
OF FREEDOM, MASTERY,
CONVENIENCE, AND CHOICE.
THIS IS THE ETHICAL COMMITMENT
TO WHICH A RADICAL PRACTICE OF
CITIZENSHIP IN TECHNOLOGICAL
SOCIETY MUST ADDRESS ITSELF AND
THIS PRESENTS A CONSIDERABLE
CHALLENGE, FOR LIBERALISM AND
TECHNOLOGY FORM A CIRCLE OF
MUTUAL RE-ENFORCEMENT THAT'S
DIFFICULT TO INTERRUPT.
TAKEN TOGETHER, TECHNOLOGY AND
LIBERALISM CAST A SORT OF SPELL
UNDER WHICH THE SPACE OF
POLITICAL JUDGMENT SHRINKS FROM
VIEW OR AT LEAST THAT PORTION
OF IT IN WHICH ETHICAL CLAIMS
ABOUT THE SUBSTANCE OF THE GOOD
LIFE MIGHT BE CRITICALLY
ENGAGED.
THIS, OF COURSE, IS A CURIOUS
AND PARADOXICAL OUTCOME FOR AN
ETHICAL SYSTEM BASED ON THE
PRINCIPLES OF CHOICE AND
FREEDOM, BUT SUCH IS THE RIDDLE
OF TECHNOLOGY.
EARLIER I SAID THAT A SOCIETY
THAT EXEMPTS ITS OWN BASIC
ETHICAL PRINCIPLES FROM
POLITICAL JUDGMENT CAN'T
PROVIDE THE SETTING FOR A
ROBUST PRACTICE OF CITIZENSHIP,
BUT IT WOULD APPEAR THAT THIS
IS PRECISELY THE SORT OF
SETTING PROVIDED BY
TECHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY.
AND THIS IS A CHALLENGE FOR
CITIZENSHIP THAT IS PERHAPS
EVEN MORE FUNDAMENTAL THAN THAT
POSED BY TECHNOLOGY AS A MEANS
OR AS AN OBJECT OF POLITICAL
JUDGMENT.
I WANT TO END BY TALKING ABOUT
THAT WORD FUNDAMENTAL.
THE WORD FUNDAMENTAL, OF
COURSE, IS AN INTERESTING ONE.
LISTENING TO ME OVER THE LAST
HOUR OR SO, YOU MAY HAVE BEEN
GROWING INCREASINGLY UNEASY
ABOUT THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE
CRITIQUE THAT I HAVE BEEN
PRESSING.
YOU MIGHT BE WONDERING WHICH
SIDE I AM ON.
AFTER ALL, IF TECHNOLOGY IS
PROGRESSIVE AND THE OPPOSITE OF
BEING PROGRESSIVE IS BEING
CONSERVATIVE, THEN I MUST BE
CONSERVATIVE.
AND AM I SERIOUSLY OPPOSED TO
AN ETHICS BASED ON THE
PRINCIPLE THAT INDIVIDUAL
CHOICE IS THE HIGHEST GOOD?
WELL, THE
ANSWER TO THAT LAST QUESTION IS
YES, BUT YOU'D BE SURPRISED AT
THE SORT OF POLITICAL POSITIONS
YOU CAN STILL ARRIVE AT EVEN
AFTER YOU HAVE DISPLACED CHOICE
AS A SOVEREIGN VALUE.
AND THAT, I SUPPOSE, IS MY
POINT.
ANY SYSTEM THAT SHUTS DOWN THE
ETHICAL SPHERE TO POLITICAL
JUDGMENT ON THE QUESTION OF THE
GOOD LIFE IS A SYSTEM THAT'S
HOSTILE TO CITIZENSHIP.
SUCH SYSTEMS,
AND I BELIEVE TECHNOLOGY IS
SUCH A SYSTEM, ARE THE VERY
DEFINITION OF FUNDAMENTALISM.
BUT THE SOLUTION TO
TECHNOLOGICAL FUNDAMENTALISM IS
NOT SIMPLY TO REPLACE IT WITH
AN ALTERNATIVE BUT EQUALLY
DEPOLITICIZING FUNDAMENTALISM.
SUCH A RESPONSE WOULD BE MORE
REACTIONARY THAN CRITICAL AND
ULTIMATELY FUTILE.
AND THIS IS WHY SO MANY RECENT
JEREMIADS AGAINST TECHNOLOGY
ARE SO POLITICALLY FRUSTRATING,
INSOFAR AS THEY COMPOUND RATHER
THAN RELIEVE THE CONDITION THAT
I'VE TRIED TO DESCRIBE THIS
EVENING.
A GOOD EXAMPLE WOULD BE
MARGARET SUMMERVILLE'S 2006
MASSEY LECTURES IN WHICH SHE
SOUNDS THE ALARM REGARDING THE
ETHICAL CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING
NEW GENETIC AND REPRODUCTIVE
TECHNOLOGIES.
I'M ALL FOR SOUNDING ALARMS
WHERE TECHNOLOGY IS CONCERNED,
AND I THINK SHE'S CORRECT THAT
NEW GENETIC AND REPRODUCTIVE
TECHNOLOGIES PRESENT US WITH
ETHICAL CHALLENGES THAT WE'RE
ONLY BEGINNING TO APPRECIATE.
JUSTICE AND THE GOOD LIFE ARE
DEFINITELY AT STAKE IN THESE
TECHNOLOGIES, BUT THE RESPONSE
THAT PROFESSOR SUMMERVILLE
PROPOSES IS AS INADEQUATE TO
THE DEMANDS OF CITIZENSHIP AS
IS THE TECHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY
AGAINST WHICH SHE PURPORTS TO
SPEAK.
AND I'M NOT SURE THAT AN
ETHICAL SYSTEM THAT AMOUNTS TO
LITTLE MORE THAN JUSTIFICATION
OF PARTICULAR PREJUDICES BY
RECOURSE TO A MYTHICAL A PRIORI
IS SOMETHING THAT WE SHOULD BE
TOO KEEN TO GET BEHIND.
AT LEAST NOT IF WE CARE ABOUT
CITIZENSHIP.
PROPOSALS LIKE THIS BASICALLY
AMOUNT TO SUBSTITUTING ONE
POLITIC-- DEPOLITICIZING
ETHICAL SYSTEM FOR ANOTHER,
NEITHER OF WHICH LEAVES MUCH
ROOM FOR POLITICAL JUDGMENT ON
THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTIONS.
ALTERNATIVES SUCH AS PROFESSOR
SUMMERVILLE'S ARE REALLY NOT
ALTERNATIVES AT ALL BECAUSE
THEY SIMPLY REPRODUCE THE BASIC
ETHICAL IMPERATIVE OF A
TECHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY, WHICH IS
TO EXCLUDE THE QUESTION OF THE
GOOD LIFE FROM POLITICAL
JUDGMENT.
AS WITH TECHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY,
SO WITH PROFESSOR SUMMERVILLE'S
ETHICAL IMAGINATION, SOME
THINGS ARE JUST TOO FUNDAMENTAL
TO BE LEFT TO THE POLITICAL
JUDGMENT OF CITIZENS.
WHETHER THE GOAL IS TO ADVANCE
THE TECHNOLOGICAL JUGGERNAUT OR
TO STOP IT, THE OUTCOME IS THE
SAME: NO POLITICS, NO
CITIZENSHIP.
IN MY VIEW, THE ONLY
ANTIFUNDAMENTALIST ALTERNATIVE
IS TO ASSUME THE RISK OF
OPENING QUESTIONS ABOUT WHAT'S
JUST AND WHAT'S GOOD IN
TECHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY TO THE
POLITICAL JUDGMENT OF CITIZENS.
WHAT WE NEED IS NOT AN ETHI--
AN ETHICIZATION OF POLITICS,
BUT A POLITICIZATION OF THE
ETHICS OF TECHNOLOGY.
THIS WOULD BE A MASSIVE
UNDERTAKING AND IT WOULD
DEFINITELY COME WITH ITS SHARE
OF RISKS.
WE WILL BE UNABLE TO PREDICT IN
ADVANCE WHAT THE ANSWERS TO
THESE MORAL AND ETHICAL
QUESTIONS WILL BE AND WE WILL
HAVE TO ENGAGE WITH PEOPLE WITH
WHOM WE RADICALLY DISAGREE.
THEY MIGHT EVEN WIN SOMETIMES
AND WE WILL MAKE MISTAKES.
STILL, YOU EITHER BELIEVE IN
CITIZENSHIP OR YOU DON'T.
TO PRACTICE POLITICS IS TO JOIN
WITH OTHERS AND TO JUDGE WITH
COURAGE IN THE FACE OF
OPPOSITION AND UNCERTAINTY.
THE ALTERNATIVES ARE THE
FUNDAMENTALISM OF TECHNOLOGY OR
THE FUNDAMENTALISM OF ITS -- OF
ITS OPPONENTS.
BOTH OF THESE MAY BE LESS RISKY
AND THEY'RE CERTAINLY LESS
WORK, BUT THEIR PRICE MAY BE
THE VERY POSSIBILITY OF
CITIZENSHIP ITSELF, AND THAT
PRICE IS TOO HIGH TO PAY.
THANK YOU.

[Long applause]

The clip ends and Andrew reappears in the studio with a caption that reads "Andrew Moodie."

He says AS BARNEY
STATES, CITIZENSHIP IS ABOUT
ENGAGING IN POLITICAL JUDGMENT
AND YET HE WONDERS WHY WOULD
TECHNOLOGY BE EXEMPT FROM IT?
I ADMIT THAT
AT FIRST HEARING I DIDN'T
REALLY UNDERSTAND HOW
TECHNOLOGY IS POLITICAL, BUT IF
YOU LOOK AT HOW STEAM
TECHNOLOGY PREDICATED THE
BUILDING OF THE TRANS-CANADA
RAILROAD OR THE TECHNOLOGY THAT
MADE ABORTIONS SAFER FOR WOMEN,
THEN YOU COULD SAY THAT
TECHNOLOGY IS
DEEPLY
POLITICAL.
WHY?
BECAUSE IT DISTRIBUTES POWER.
THERE ARE MANY NEW TECHNOLOGIES
ON THE HORIZON THAT WILL FORCE
US TO MAKE SOME DIFFICULT
CHOICES, AND BARNEY ASSERTS
THAT ALL OF SOCIETY SHOULD BE A
PART OF MAKING THOSE CHOICES.
FOR SOME REASON IT BRINGS TO
MIND THE WITTICISM THAT THE
PROBLEM WITH SOCIALISM IS THAT
IT INVOLVES TOO MANY MEETINGS.
TO FIND OUT
WHAT IS COMING UP ON OUR
PROGRAM, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO
ATTEND ANY MEETINGS.
IT WILL BE ENOUGH IF YOU SEND
US AN E-MAIL AT
bigideas@tvo.org
FOR
BIG IDEAS,
I'M ANDREW
MOODIE.

[Theme music plays]

The end credits roll.

bigideas@tvo.org

416-484-2746

Big Ideas. Producer, Wodek Szemberg.

Producers, Lara Hindle, Mike Miner, Gregg Thurlbeck.

Logos: Unifor, Canadian Media Guild.

A production of TVOntario. Copyright 2007, The Ontario Educational Communications Authority.

Watch: Darin Barney on Citizenship in the Technological Republic