The Political Economy of Information in an Age of Speed and Excess

When information explodes, systems fail. In our current age, the ability to govern is predicated on the control and distribution of information. This paper confronts the inability to do that, it examines the techniques and systems of informational governance, notes some their defects, demonstrates the incapacities and draws the conclusion parallel to Virilio’s Information Bomb, we are due for a failure.

Informational power is a power of control, control of distribution, control of origination. It is a power of establishing borders, territories, and limiting access. It is predicated on assumptions of normality, and when the normal becomes too fast, too informationally productive, and generates enormous surpluses of capacity, like a bomb, the excessive power; the excessive information explodes. It breaks the boundaries, overwhelms the territory, and forces humans to develop new tactics for management, for governance. I argue that this is the state we are in, a state of excess, of being overwhelmed by information and power, because we have built an informational infrastructure based on speed and power.

There is no end in sight for the progressive development of this infrastructure. With terabit/sec speeds already in place, it is likely already beyond the limits of real human understanding, and we are beginning to see how it manifests itself as a tool of transformation or weapon of destruction of the institutions built on fordist and post-fordist understandings of information, such as music, movies, banking, which have strong informational ties, but this is just the start of a more pervasive creative destruction.

Faced with these issues and their immanent explosion, I look at the proposals for governance, for creating a sustainable political economy that governments are using around the world, such as defining information as artifacts and allowing patents, redefining copyrights, and developing international trade regimes surrounding information. I contrast the governmental systems with the growing cultural awareness of the issue and introduce the question: what if governments fail? how does society reterritorialize information, and what cultural toolkits seem to be arising in the face of speed and excess, such as open source, open content, and related movements that arise out of and restructure the excess into new cultural systems.