Jacques Lacan, a French psychoanalyst, has coined the phrase
“floating signifier” to describe language unanchored by referents.
The term “people” is a floating signifier in this document. In some
passages, “people” appears to mean the collective, as in “power is
vested in the people.” But the authors do not so much mean a
collective–a nation bound together by common interests and
identity–as a collection of individuals, each driven by a profit
motive, intent on reconfiguring cyberspace in the image of
capitalism and private property. In the rush toward privatization
that this document urges, the attitude seems to be the devil take
the hindmost; those who get trampled will be left behind. Hence the
revealing sentiment that cyberspace will allow “people” to “live
further away from crowded or dangerous urban centers.” By
definition, urban areas are crowded because a lot of folks live
there. Yet these inhabitants apparently do not count as “people.”
In Third Wave “demassification,” they have conveniently become so
airy and light that “we” (the people) don’t need to see “them”
anymore. Is it a coincidence that many of “them” come in rainbow
hues other than white?


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