A time to build barriers

Countries like Japan thrive on barriers to information flow. It is hard to overstate how deep and wide the rift caused by linguistic differences between Japanese and Indo-European languages is. The number of people who speak both very good English/German/French etc and very good Japanese is small and unlikely to grow dramatically. Yet there is a willingness from both sides to learn about the other side and push/pull information through that narrow channel.

One important consequence of this situation is that heterogeneity can develop and be preserved. Customs, the general way of thinking, the public sphere in Japan are different to their counterparts in the West. Among Western countries, these things are becoming increasingly homogenous thanks to ease of communication and the Internet. Not only will there be things on both sides of the divide that will never flow through the connecting conduit: the smaller partition, Japan in this case, can also act as a kind of catalyst and refinery for whatever comes in through the conduit, developing its own, highly refined versions of absorbed impressions. This is not possible if one has instant access to all information on the other side.

The Internet may yet turn out to be the greatest homogenising force mankind has ever known. For this reason, it is now an urgent task to erect new barriers on the internet and to restrict information flow. The wide open space must be partitioned into rooms with walls, doors and windows. The new barriers do not need to correspond to the old ones — it might even be preferable if they did not. Because the new barriers can be different from the old ones, the internet as a whole becomes a constructive step that we can endorse, and not something we are forced to react against. It is a stepping stone into a new world. Through restriction, we will be liberated.

An afterthought: barriers would be a negative addition that paradoxically has the potential to generate something new. But the negative aspect is certainly distasteful at first sight. If there is another way of achieving heterogeneity, which does not require barriers, then let’s hear it.

Category: Philosophy | Tags: , , , 2 comments »

2 Responses to “A time to build barriers”

  1. fri intellektuell

    Isn’t Facebook a sign that the old world’s partitions are increasingly moving into the internet? People interact with friends from the old world and create groups along the political and social dividing lines of the old world…

  2. Johan

    Yes, exactly. So far, the Internet has shown a dangerous tendency to absorb the structures and boundaries of the “old world” as you aptly put it. This is where one of the new really important power struggles will take place, and maybe it’s already happening. There’s still a chance to carve out space that is independent of old powers, but that chance is slowly going away. So maybe we need to not just erect barriers on the internet, but also around the internet to protect it from undesirable colonisation…


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