Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Virtual socialism?  §

Watching online communities in recent weeks as the economy creeps downward and people fall into poverty, I’ve seen instances in which online communities rallied to help a single member and in which people have talked about leveraging the power of online communities to ensure that none of their own suffer too greatly.

My thoughts about this began with the notion of an online system that would automate peoples’ guarantees to one another within a community, or that would automate the “helping” via a kind of group-powered redistribution (a little from a lot adds up to a lot). It’s only a small jump from something like that to the notion of a “voluntary virtual socialism,” a kind of social union in which people “buy in” with membership dues and gain virtual support. Expand it beyond career/vocation/locality following the logic of the online world and what you quickly have is the notion once more that virtual community might be able to operate below the radar of the nation state and/or well in advance of its legal evolution.

Is socialism destined in the end to arrive by virtual community? A facile thought, but an interesting one nonetheless. No doubt not novel, but something that never really hit me before; I’ve tended still to conceptualize the online world as a forum for the critique of and power dialogue with the nation state. In “professional” work I’ve clearly made the case that new political geographies that are completely and entirely incongruous with and uninterested in the nation-state are enabled by virtual community but I suppose this is the first time it’s hit me at the personal, gut level: online is not a new locus of power in opposition to the state; online is the increasing utter irrelevance of the state for future and coming world-historical transformations.

The unity of representation and operation means that free speech ultimately implies socialism; that socialism will arrive in the form of communications and can’t be stopped without limiting speech—not just action-oriented speech, but mere speech as such. In an algorithmic, representative-operational world, truly free speech is socialism.