Garrett Pierman argues that the Internet, as it is structured today, is inhospitable to democracy. What began as a government-funded defense project became, with the commercialization of the Internet in the early 1990s, a network that makes it simultaneously easier for falsehoods to spread and more difficult for people to lose touch with reality. Many millions of Internet users have not encountered the online world as many scholars had hoped, as a place for careful democratic deliberation. The Internet is now a platform in which their fears and anxieties are exploited by corporations that have carved up digital fiefdoms. In these digital fiefdoms, fake news and lies are shared and consumed at speeds that far exceed our ability to sort fact from fiction, leading to instances of political violence once people’s lie-based fears overcome their better judgement. It should be of no surprise that the current Internet enables and encourages political violence: scared and overwhelmed users are the ideal denizens of digital fiefdoms.
Garrett Pierman received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Florida International University in 2022. . He has taught in the departments of Politics and International Relations, Computer Science, and for the Honors College.
Chapter One: A Critical Digital History
Chapter Two: Compressed Political Temporalities in a Feudalized Internet as a Threat to Peaceful Democratic Participation
Chapter Three: Thinking Politically Through Digital Task Saturation
Conclusion: The Future of The Internet: New Actors and an Invitation for Empowering Activism
“Garrett Pierman’s timely and accessible book calls on readers to pay attention not just to how we use digital technologies but why we use them the way we do. Developing an original framework that blends Actor Network Theory with insights from new materialist scholarship, Pierman draws attention to the often obscure but impactful power dynamics at work in the very structure of the internet. Drawing inspiration from an eclectic mix of thinkers from Gilles Deleuze and Jean Baudrillard to Paul Virilio and Hannah Arendt, Pierman helps us understand why digital technologies have failed to fulfill the promise of a more egalitarian and emancipatory politics and have instead become profit-driven tools of disempowerment and disinformation. This sobering book urges us to rethink how the internet is used if we are to preserve democracy in the long run.”