Netologia : 1, 2, 3, 4
THE NEW MORALITY OF THE DIGITAL
ERA: THE NETHOS
|Any kind of
community (being it either a virtual or a real one), apart from certain, unwritten law
(the nomos) that preserves the health of its morality, concludes its own specific
communication way, which ensures the survival at the verbal level and, subsequently, at
the text level. The myths, the legends and the fairy-tales come to light and organize the
world as "order", as logos. One of the most important social parts in a
primitive society is played by the one who repeats, every time when needed, certain
episodes of the history. This one may be the shaman or "the one who narrates".
Thus, it is achieved a perpetual consolidation of the "tough memory" of the
Some of you could be shocked by the analogy I create between some primitive society and a virtual community, geographically situated everywhere and nowhere, in "the semblance and the simulation" of the monitor-space. The analogy is not at all a forced one because - let's admit this - the community-like communication in virtual is, still, in the incipient stage of an oral communication that is, however, written. This oral communication is preserved at the verbal level as well as at the one of the ideas. Likewise, certain social parts maintain their archetypal functions. Among them, the netologist probably has the most important one from the normative point of view, as he remarks already existing realities, makes connections with the already present forms and performs new concepts and formulas that more or less determine, indirectly or not, the future directions of the electronic logos.
The Internet sets in motion actually it creates a space, a motional environment of a (impossibly to control) multidirectional transfer for many common places and folkloric truths and, as we'll see, many times a populist one. Many sites have the general tendency of answering, by their content, to those famous FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions), which transforms them in spreading centers of the new mythologies. So emerges the nethos as domain of the morality on-line, morality that imposes new rules and behavioral norm in the cultural act of the circulation of information or at least it starts to, willing to impose it. When it comes to a digital culture - which proves to be "oral" in its essential premises - the main issue is that of an ethic of the information. How do we react when confronting to such situation, how do we establish the axiology and the criteria of differentiation between the new "folklore" and the "written" culture, between traditional and cultural, between the handy, ready-made truth and pure information, in an originary state? This is a real problem of the contemporary world that should seriously be considered, by perfecting, first of all, our methodology and our critical sense of value
Returning to the problem of oral communication as mode of perceiving the reality (as it isn't at all an explicit oral communication!), we'll remark an worrying tendency of the net culture to head towards a epistemological "cheapening" of the information, which turns it up into a space of banal values. The Internet, as space, is open to anyone; those who are somehow "rejected" by the official culture or simply, are not accepted, access the digital in order to see their names "published", integrated into a system of values. "Seen on the screen" fully develops the pride here but unfortunately, the real value is prejudiced. I refer not to those sites, dubious in form and content but to the false multiplication and the diversity of the information. Let us take, for instance, one of my favorites: Jimi Hendrix. Searching with a banal browser, one may find him on the web in over 200 locations. Actually, the basic information is in less then 20-30 sites, the others being their clones. An illusion of diversity is therefore created and the "dizziness" of the ones accessing these sites leads from the dilution of the information up to its forgery. The example has been chosen at random, being at hand, but the generalization of the principle of false transmission of an information can also be used in computing, arts, and philosophy.
Once gone the monopoly of the book over the written culture, died out one of the most essential laws for the spreading and the authenticity of the information, the law of copyright. Now, with a simple mouse-click we can copy from the web what we want, sampling and rearranging the modules of information (texts, sound files, images) and, at the end, to portrait ourselves as the authors. In the logic of the netics, we are following the reasoning of a theoretician and critic of new media, Lev Manovich (professor assistant at the Visual Arts Department of the University of California) who pretends that, in digital culture, the act of creation has been replaced by the one of selection (and re-assembling, I should add). The new morality of the information, if we also listen to Roland Barthes's words (The Death of the Author, 1977) is inevitably linked to the principle of the fact that "the text is a tissue of quotations drawn from innumerable centers of culture". It is a culture of re-assembling, therefore, one of permanent quotations without a mention, unfortunately, of their source, which does not transform us in authors but in copiers lacking any nethical principles. As virtual citizens, receptors and producers of information at the same time, in order to survive in the informational jungle, we have to submit to some minimal ethical principles, which depend even on a certain respect towards the authors' authority and towards the core of truth in what we communicate. In the same way we reject the counterfeited drinks, accepting only the "controlled origin", we shall start to select also the information on authenticity and origin criteria.
The nethos domain is only at the beginning, as a possible
branch of what it starts to be the nethology. New types of knowledge, new concepts which
has to be named, new categories and new moralities. New directions of performing and new
artificial paradises, which has to be named in order to exist. Even if sometimes in a
hurry, the author of these lines tries to impose new forms for new founds, words for new
ideas, looking forward to natural reactions and virtualizations of his attempts.