As the title of this study and its opening quote imply, my hope is to provide the foundation for a long-overdue discussion about the ways power is being utilized and consolidated online.
When Norbert Wiener was developing his theory of cybernetics during the late 1930s and early 1940s he thought on his feet, wandering the halls of MIT while deep in concentration (Rogers, 1994, p. 392). To keep from zigzagging and bumping into students during these “Wiener-wegs,” he would run his right index finger along the wall as he walked. In essence, Wiener was not only theorizing cybernetics but also practicing it. One day, a class at MIT watched in astonishment as Wiener wandered into the room through the open door, silently ran his finger along all four walls, and walked back out without a glimmer of cognizance.
Similarly, most of us have been thinking of other things while the Internet has evolved around us, seemingly at random. But now, the development of online communication has reached a formative stage. We stand at an open door. We can go through it and begin a conversation with people all over the world about how to make this powerful new medium fulfill its promise for individual empowerment. Or we can continue to unconsciously run our fingers along the walls of hegemony online.