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Home arrow Communication arrow How Digital Communication Technology Shapes Markets: Redefining Competition, Building Cooperation
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My Take

To understand the implications of connectivity we need to grasp what its absence means. It would mean isolation, anonymity and obscurity. Consider the following question: if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound? In the same vein, if one’s very presence is unknown or not acknowledged, do we exist? Connections provide context for our lives and legitimate our existence. And so we share in a quest for identity and confirmation of membership in a social group. Digital technology has contextualized us in a universal social group that spans the globe.

Along the spectrum of anonymity and identity is also the parallel line of control. With anonymity comes complete freedom while with identity in cyberspace, there is potential for control. While identity facilitates commerce, it can also be used for centralized authority. At the other extreme, anonymity not only permits free speech, but also enables malignant behavior and could end up destroying the social fabric of the community.

Fukuyama makes the case that never in history were humans isolated. Identity politics was based on recognition of one’s identity and a desire for the freedom “to not be ruled by those who are inferior or less worthy” and to govern one’s own group. Nation building then became a search for identity [129]. In a connected world, as our identities become intertwined, perhaps the concept of nation itself will become amorphous. With a global identity, global institutions then arise to form the core of the global state itself. The Internet is one of them.

The other global institution is social capital, which undergirds the digital economy. Connectivity is taking us into human socialization beyond kinship ties, religion and national identity. Culture determines which ties are formed and whether they are strong or weak and directional or not and thereby creates social capital. This strong global institution is a culture of TRR&R among individuals. The global democratization of culture, made possible by DCT, undergirds the digital economy.

These global institutions are the pillars upon which the worldwide network economy rests.

We are moving to a social structure, economic and political institutions, culture and values which is similar in its manifestation to the forager society where equality trumped hierarchy. Morris writes,

Foraging groups sometimes have to make important collective decisions, particularly about where to move next in the endless quest for food, but most groups have developed methods that make it difficult for one person or even one small group to seize control of the decision-making process. The most popular solution is to discuss every decision over and over again in subgroups, until a consensus begins to take shape, and at that point, even the strongest-willed dissenters tend to turn into yes-men and get on board with majority opinion [127].

Cooperation and consensus prevail today, because the alternative would be mutually destructive. Technology has outrun the limits of the law and our ability to comprehend its global outcomes. We cooperate in order to better comprehend.

 
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