O meio associado do ciberespaço eletrônico segundo Saskia Sassen (Gane 2004)

O meio associado do ciberespaço eletrônico segundo Saskia Sassen (Gane 2004)

Seguem abaixo as duas últimas perguntas e respostas de Saskia Sassen em uma entrevista com Nicholas Gane, publicada em: GANE, Nicholas. 2004. Saskia Sassen: space and power. In: The future of social theory. London: Continuum, pp. 125-42.

Nicholas Gane: You have also written about ‘electronic space and power’ (Sassen, S. Globalization and Its Discontents: Essays on the New Mobility of People and Money. New York: New Press, 1998: 177-94). You say that we are witnessing the ‘spatialization of inequality’ in both the ‘geography of the communications infrastructure’ and in ‘the emergent geographies in electronic space itself (1998: 182). Does this mean that electronic space to some extent mirrors the political terrain of physical space? And is digital power simply a mirror image of other non-digital forms?

Saskia Sassen: Yes, digital space is partly inscribed by the larger power dynamics and cultural forms of the institutional orders or larger societies within which it is embedded. But digital power is not simply a mirror image of that world. […] Let me elaborate on this. These new types of networks and technologies are deeply imbricated with other dynamics; in some cases the new ITs are merely derivative – a mere instrumentality of these dynamics – and in other cases they are constitutive. Yet, even when partial, digitization is contributing to the rescaling of a variety of processes with resulting implications for, among others, territorial boundaries, national regulatory frames and, more generally, the place of inter-state relations in the expanding world of cross-border relations. […] The widespread practice of confining interpretation to a technological reading of the technical capabilities of the new technologies is very problematic. Such an interpretation neutralizes or renders invisible the material conditions and practices, place-boundedness, and thick social environments within and through which these technologies operate. Another consequence of this type of reading is to assume that a new technology will ipso facto replace all older technologies that are less efficient, or slower, at executing the tasks the new technology is best at. We know that historically this is not the case. Such readings also lead, ironically, to a continuing reliance on analytic categorizations that were developed under other spatial and historical conditions, that is, conditions preceding the current digital era. Thus, the tendency is to conceive of the digital as simply and exclusively digital and the non-digital (whether represented in terms of the physical/material or the actual, which are all problematic though common conceptions) as simply and exclusively that, non-digital. These either/or categorizations filter out alternative conceptualizations, thereby precluding a more complex reading of the intersection and/or interaction of digitization with social, material and place-bound conditions. […] We can illustrate this using one of the key effects of these technologies: the enhanced mobility of capital and the growing dematerialization of economic activities. Both mobility and dematerialization are usually seen as mere functions of the new technologies. This understanding erases the fact that it takes multiple material conditions, including infrastructural and legal, to achieve this outcome. Once we recognize that the hypermobility of the instrument, or the dematerialization of the actual piece of real estate, had to be produced, we introduce non-digital variables into our analysis of the digital. One of the implications for resource-poor states or organizations in an international system with enormous diversity in resources is that simply having access to these technologies does not necessarily alter their position in that system because it takes a wide array of other resources to maximize the economic benefits of these technologies. […] Obversely, much of what happens in electronic space is deeply inflected by the cultures, the material practices, the legal systems and the imaginaries that take place outside electronic space. Much of what we think of when it comes to cyberspace would lack any meaning or referent if we were to exclude the world outside cyberspace. Thus, much of the digital composition of financial markets is inflected by the agendas that drive global finance which are not technological per se. Digital space and digitization are not exclusive conditions that stand outside the non-digital. Digital space is embedded in the larger societal, cultural, subjective, economic, imaginary structurations of lived experience and the systems within which we exist and operate.

Nicholas Gane: Finally, are new social forms emerging as life itself becomes increasingly digitalized, or does digitalization spell not only the end to all distinctions between public and private space, but to the very idea of ‘the social’?

Saskia Sassen: For this type of analysis we need to go beyond the impacts of these technologies on society. Impacts are only one of several forms of intersection. In the social sciences most of the focus has been on impacts, with the new technologies functioning as the independent variable that variously alters the dependent variable (organization of work, social practices, whatever the social condition under study). But there are other forms of intersection, including the constitution of new domains (for instance, electronic financial markets, large-scale Internet-based conversations) and major transformations in old domains (e.g. computer-aided design or surgery). […] Understanding the place of these new computer-centred network technologies and their capabilities from a social science perspective requires avoiding a purely technological interpretation, and recognizing (a) the embeddedness and (b) the variable outcomes of these technologies for different economic, political, and social orders. They can indeed be constitutive of new social dynamics, but they can also be derivative or merely reproduce older conditions. Further, some of their capabilities are distinct and exclusive to these technologies, and others simply amplify the effects of older technologies. […] The issue is not to deny the weight of technology, but rather to develop analytic categories that allow us to examine the complex imbrications of technology and society. We want to go beyond the very common notion that understanding this interaction can be reduced to the question of impacts – more precisely, the impacts of these technologies on the specific domains constructed as objects of study in the various social sciences. These technologies have also shaped whole new socio-technical systems and practices. It also means examining the specific ways in which these technologies are embedded in often very specialized and distinct contexts. And it requires examining the mediating cultures that organize the relation between these technologies and the users or the objectives of their use. These mediating cultures can be highly diverse and specific; for example, when the objective is control and surveillance the practices and dispositions involved are likely to be different from those involved in using electronic markets or engaging in large-scale computer-based conversations. […] We can start with the recognition that these new technologies and their associated information and communication dynamics are characterized by variability and specificity. That is, they are likely to be present in ways that are uneven and contradictory across sectors, unfolding in particular contexts, and hence difficult to generalize. The uneven and often contradictory character of these technologies and their associated information and communication structures also signal that these technologies should not be viewed simply as factor endowments. This type of view is present in much of the literature, often implicitly, and presents these technologies as a function of the specifics of a region or an actor – ranging from regions and actors fully endowed or with full access, to those without access. Rather, we can view these technologies also as a function of the operational logics of social forms such as networks and markets. Technologies relating, for instance, to the Internet, satellite surveillance, and data banks can be strongly associated with cooperative policies and practices (e.g. transborder access to IT infrastructures, data, and human capital or greater transparency), or they can be linked to conflict, such as applications of IT in the military, the identity politics of ethnic groups involved in violent conflicts, the contentious politics of activists, and the competition for economic supremacy among states.

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