Historically, we embedded many of the manifestations of hierarchical control into our physical environment: City Halls, castles, libraries, universities, walls, ditches, astronomies, senates. The layers of authority were both conceptual and physical: you could only enter the spaces of power with the right permissions. And within those spaces, the person who was speaking held sway from thrones, pulpits, mounds and stages. Channels of communication were moderated and controlled by publishers, broadcasters, lawyers and the police.
Today, the pulpits are in our heads, the bastions of publishing have been overrun and the authority is consensual, moderated by the community within a framework of legal decency.
Formal authority still exists, but the types of control it exerts are different. It’s harder to control information, harder to repress knowledge, because the mechanisms of permeation and spread are so embedded in our lives. When every device of consumption is one of production, when we…
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