Can East Timor go with the flow? : A critical discussion on Manuel Castells' concepts of Network and Flows

Bertil Rolandsson


Frequently, when the social impact of cyberspace is discussed, difficulties in controlling communication are stressed. It is said that our social interaction in cyberspace is dictated by networked information flows beyond any actor’s control. However, arguments are usually vague, it becomes difficult to grasp what these cyber-flows really consist of. In this article, some critical thoughts concerning the matter are therefore presented. Manuel Castells’ trilogy, The Information age: Economy, Society and Culture is used as a theoretical frame; important notions about the concepts of networks and flows are made by elaborating with his sociotechnological perspectives. The discussion is limited to the context of cyberspace, and an article about the virtual independence of East Timor illustrates the arguments. In many aspects the question of flows is seen as a question of power, i.e. it is a matter of who has the power to influence and is not just exposed to other actors or to other unpredictable consequences. Accordingly, the article focuses on how we can understand social actors’ power (or lack thereof) in influencing a global cyberspace.

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