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Home arrow Political science arrow Cosmopolitanism in Twenty-First Century Fiction


  • 1. See Rheingold 2000.
  • 2. Significantly, most of the current terminology for forms of connectivity and community derive from the digital domain - circuits, networks, webs, matrixes.
  • 3. A similar tactic was recently promoted by Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, who claimed that possessing ‘two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity’ (Kirkpatrick 2010: 199).
  • 4. As Tim Wu, who created the term Net Neutrality, argues: ‘[w]ith every sort of political, social, cultural, and economic transaction having to one degree or another now gone digital, this proposes an awesome dependence on a single network, and no less vital need to preserve its openness from imperial designs’ (2010: 318).
  • 5. As Zadie Smith warns, when a human being is reduced to ‘a set of data [... ] our denuded networked selves don’t look more free, they just look more owned’ (2010: n.pag.). This commodification of community is equally apparent in Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story (2010), a bleak vision of the near-future in the US, where individuals use digital devices to constantly rank others around them. The middle-aged Luddite protagonist, Lenny Abramov, laments that strangers can use a program called ‘RateMe’ to assess his ‘MALE HOTNESS as 120 out of 800, PERSONALITY 450’ while simultaneously browsing his financial records, consumer purchases and social contacts (Shteyngart 2010: 90). Lenny’s friend Vishnu informs him that these digital applications allow individuals to ‘Form A Community [... ] It’s, like, a way to judge people. And let them judge you’ (2010: 88).
  • 6. The Circle’s public mission statements echo those issued by Facebook in its formative years. Barry Schnitt, director of corporate communications for Facebook, stated in an interview: ‘[b]y making the world more open and connected, we’re expanding understanding between people and making the world a more empathetic place’ (van Dijck 2013: 45).
  • 7. In 2013, Eggers joined a group of international writers, Writers Against Mass Surveillance, to criticise the progressive spread of governmental surveillance and call for the creation of a digital bill of rights for citizens across the globe. The petition, signed by 562 writers of different nationalities, states that: ‘[a] person under surveillance is no longer free; a society under surveillance is no longer a democracy. To maintain any validity, our democratic rights must apply in virtual as in real space’ (Taylor and Hopkins 2013: n.pag.). The Circle can therefore be positioned as Eggers own revision of democracy for a digital age. Eggers has also called for tighter regulation on governmental surveillance by the NSA, fearing that control on freedom of expression would lead to ‘an intellectual ice age’ - the brutal reality of the Circle’s ‘completion’ (2014c: n.pag.). In this sense, the Circle’s location- awareness applications offer a corporate parody of the NSA’s digital surveillance program.
  • 8. Kunzru concurs with Eggers in perceiving the removal of privacy and advent of unprecedented surveillance through digital technology to be features of an authoritarian state. He claims that by enforcing ‘extraordinary levels of surveillance and control’, technology limits ethical freedoms and becomes ‘intrinsically oppressive’ (1997: n.pag.). He goes on to argue that digital technologies which allow: ‘vast quantities of data to be collected and analysed’, involving the ‘tracking of people and materials through physical and data space’, and a ‘prosthetic for projects of direction and control’, are the ‘most powerful tools for the auto-reproduction of centralised power yet seen on earth’ (1997: n.pag.). Although Kunzru considers this centralisation of digital culture to be the cause of ‘our technocultural ills’, like Eggers he remains optimistic that the future of digital technology offers ‘immensely positive, liberating effects, not just for some angelic info-elite, but throughout societies at all economic levels’ (1997: n.pag.).
  • 9. By maintaining a sustained focus on networked global culture, Kunzru returns to digital concerns first raised in Noise (2005), a collection of short stories exploring the blurring boundaries between the digital and the human, as individual agency rallies against technological imposition.
  • 10. See Bhabha: 2001; Werbner: 2008b.
  • 11. As Zuckerman notes, in 2009 ‘about 663 million passengers departed from US airports. Only 62.3 million disembarked in other countries’ (2013: 68).
  • 12. As argued earlier, the virus, like Arjun, is simultaneously a carrier of vernacular cosmopolitanism, infecting individuals and forcing them to acknowledge the global-local relations that sustain globalised digital culture.
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