These discussions of the relationship between new technological phenomena
and freedom/empowerment can be profitably analyzed by using some of the
insights of Herbert Marcuse. Marcuse has written that “under the rule of
a repressive whole, liberty can be made into a powerful instrument of
domination. The range of choice open to the individual is not the
decisive factor indetermining the degree of human freedom, but what can be
chosen and what is chosen by the individual.” To imply that the
computerization of society is aprocess of “demassification” which allows
“every person” to peruse cyberspace in “his or her own way” can be argued
to be a form of repressive tolerance, since the actual formats (languages,
logical constructs, and the like) and norms of computer society are
relatively limited and determined by small, highly centralized nodes of
power.

More importantly, this section takes activities which are of interest to a
relatively narrow strata of people (educated, relatively high disposable
income, and the like) and insists that these underlying conditions are
universals. Thus it lays a series of “false needs” on large sectors of the
population who are being told, for example, that their children must be
computer literate in order to be employable in the future (the US
Department of Labor counts as a computer-related job any work activity
which is associated with the running of a computer including, for instance,
the people at the grocery store checkout stands who drag the bar-coded
items across a laser beam so that a computer can keep track of the
inventory and ring up a price).

Although technologies apparently increase our options, the latter are
usually determined by the technological systems themselves. And if Bruce
Springsteen is now singing “57 Channels and Nothing On,” without
significant institutional change we can predict that his song will not be
all that different when there are 557 channels.


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