Up for Debate: Can Social Media Solve Real-World Problems?
Original story at New Republic• 3 mentions • 1 year ago
New Republic 1 year ago
In the current issue of The New Republic, Evgeny Morozov offers a critical take on Steven Johnson's Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age, lamenting the “quasi-religion” of “Internet-centrism.” In his response below, Johnson says his book "actually goes out of its way to avoid that kind of naive techno-determinism." And Morozov, in a rebuttal, concludes that "Johnson doesn't understand the substance of my critique."Anyone worried that Chris Hughes’ ownership of The New Republic would turn the venerable publication into a vehicle for Internet boosterism will be delighted to read Evgeny Morozov’s new essay, “Not By Memes Alone,” running this week in the first official issue of the Hughes reign. Morozov’s essay is ostensibly a ten-page dismantling of my argument for “peer progressive” politics in Future Perfect, and like almost everything Morozov writes, it’s a smart and entertaining piece. He has a very astute riff on the dangers of what he calls “solutionism” in my work, and rightly observes that Future Perfect contains very little discussion of struggle or conflict—both of which strike me as being important critiques of the book. Unfortunately, the bulk of the essay is a screed against what Morozov calls the “quasi-religion” of “Internet-centrism,” a movement that won’t be content until every institution is reinvented as a decentralized network fashioned after the Web or Wikipedia. This is not a new theme for Morozov, but it’s the first time he has targeted my work as a proponent of this dangerous new faith. I have to admit, everything that Morozov says about the dangers and limitations of the Internet centrists seems utterly convincing to me, and if I ever get a chance to meet some of these cultists, I will be sure to persuade them of the error of their ways. But using Future Perfect as a launchpad to renounce Internet centrism is a strange choice, since the book actually goes out of its way to avoid that kind of naive techno-determinism. This forces Morozov to do a number of awkward and misleading moves to make the book sound more doctrinaire than it actually is.