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Microspheres

by Andrea Pitasi [1], 13 February 2012

Institutions, markets and individuals in the world of digital capitalism

Which characteristics will institutions and public bodies assume in the emerging scenarios of digital capitalism - that is to say, scenarios of the so-called new economy?

In which way and to what extent will the public sphere play a main part in its own process of innovation and in which way and to what extent will it offer innovative contributions to society as a whole? On the other hand, in which way and to what extent will the public sphere be the cause of slowing down, delays, destruction of resources be it regarding the procedure itself or regarding society as a whole? How will the European Union affect these dynamics, taking into consideration that by now the marvellous European project of free circulation of ideas, capital, people etc. has been tragically betrayed in the name of a comeback of an old-fashioned "statalism" that wants Brussels today to be the grey and bureaucratic capital of a state of states unaware that so much united weakness does not create a great strength but rather a severe financial-political flop.

With these, my initial reflections, I would therefore like to open a discussion with all those who are sensitive to the reform of the public sphere. The aim of such a dialogue would be to analyse innovative processes of institutions, as events of great change that is to say the insertion of significant, but not radical, changes in a framework that is nevertheless static.

The essential idea is that today neither public institutions nor politics can guide change and innovation in any way, on the contrary often the public sphere halts the process of innovation. Today the importance of the public sphere has been downsized before other realities, for example; the multinationals and the public sphere (which today is only one of the many microspheres of daily life) only have negative power at their disposal. That is to say, neither creativity nor know-how nor intellectual innovative-strategic capital, and can only obstruct, through dark and inconclusive bureaucracy, other microspheres that on the contrary do have such resources at their disposal. Destroying the resources of other microspheres is often a tactic through which the public sphere tries to preserve itself. After all, destroying is infinitely easier than creating. And the average level of competence, intelligence and know-how of the public sphere tends to be a work of mere destruction save some fortunate exceptions such as the type that is trying to debureaucratize the institutions, bringing them closer to the citizen through public communication.

Michel Crozier [2] has always maintained that it is necessary to change society, but that wanting to change it by decree of law is simply ridiculous (Crozier 1987, 1996) and I uphold his point of view.

The perspective from which I briefly outline my thoughts is that of one who is researching into communicative strategies applied to the socio-economic-cultural changes underway in this hazy dawn of the third millennium.

I believe that the strategic advantages of organizational innovations, made easier by telematic and multimedia technology, can be valued, leaving behind demagogical rhetoric of the community in general and virtual in particular.

Personally, I am extremely suspicious of those theories that cling to slippery dicotomies like the theory of the abstract versus the theory of empathy. (Worringer 1986, Ardigò 1998, Maffesoli 1998) Such theoretical approaches essentially maintain that some "intervention politics" render human relations and social dynamics more formalized, abstract, cold, impersonal (the world of the abstract) whilst others would develop a sense of belonging and a community identity richer and capable of allowing the Ego (in non-scientific terms) to put himself in others' shoes (the world of empathy).

In my opinion, in the world of empathy, the way of politically managing the technological innovations of multimedia has revealed the effects of a certain rhetoric typical of he who already has a prefabricated theoretical picture and applies it to all the changes in progress. It is enough just to recall Worringer's study which was written at the beginning of the 20th century and inspires, albeit in a critical manner, these theories on community and empathy. Personally, I consider that the new technologies of multimedia applied to public communication should develop functions that are less demagogical and rhetorical than the developments of the community sense, be they virtual or not.

In my opinion such functions should be:

A) To bring down the costs of transactions (economic, organizational and contractual) related to Public Administration activity consequently reducing public spending and taxation.

B) To develop the strategies of management of the awareness functionally differentiated between human capital, structural capital and client capital. (cfr. Stewart, 1999)

C) To help each individual in his own evolutional project simplifying the method of access to public resources, eliminating therefore the cases of denied access, self exclusion and improper appeal to communicative, uncentralized, heterarchic strategies aware of the intrinsic self-reference of every human being. (cfr. Pitasi, 1999a)

D) To reduce the power of politicians (Laszlo 1992, Pitasi 1996), the last form of power that is not specific nor evolutionally strategic.

E) To enable a culture of power to become a service and ongoing maintenance (Hillman 1996) aimed at optimising management thereby keeping entropy to a minimum.

F) To promote every possibility of functional downsizing of powers and of knowledge through polycentric communication strategies.

G) Assume the dynamics of the exchange of reciprocal interests that are the basis of every social dynamic, interests that studious types such as Homans and Blau have very well conceptualised (for a synthesis refer to Pitasi 1999a).

H) To enable the moral privatisation of cultural values against every pretext of ethical universalism, to spread (in the world of multimedia) and define only a few precise and clear negative limits to individual liberty.

I) Last but not least, the development of interdisciplinary studies, the type of studies that concern intellectual property. The nonsense of this age, more specifically collective intelligence that arises from a shared knowledge, communitary and therefore without an owner. The more businesses on the hunt for data banks for direct marketing, the more political institutions on the hunt for human resources to exploit, at a minimum cost, often playing on the myth of collective intelligence in order to "impersonalize" the source of knowledge which they have acquired in order not to feel any obligation towards it, but rather rendering the source obliged to the institutions or the community to which it belongs, after all the tragic meaning of the word "community" is derived from the Latin root cum munus (Esposito 1998) and refers to the obligation that individuals, themselves insignificant, have to the community - to give themselves in parts or as a whole, (so far as extreme sacrifices and nearly always useless death in war) given that the community permits them to exist, reminding them that without superior instances (the reason of state, the awareness of class, the nation, ethnic identity, religious dogma, a more or less millennium historical project etc) their lives as an individual have no meaning.

The scenarios of the third millennium which speak of individuals in environments above all mentally-built, highly personalized in microcosms dense with complex and varied social relationships that are more flexible, lucid, hedonist, relaxed, highly organized and optimised to an extent that they no longer need imaginary collectivity, ideology, ethics, values that have arisen more or less from cultural traditions bound together. Politics, institutions of the state and history are becoming a wreck of the socio-cultural storm at the end of the 20th century and multimediality is becoming one strategic prioritary instrument to offer citizens - clients, patients, consumers etc. - those microspheres of meaning in which each individual can build and rebuild himself - psychologically and "bionically" until he does not feel completely satisfied to be the person he has become through thousands of psycho-experimental games.

As long as the institutions do not understand that it is in their interests to turn towards the interests of the microsphere citizens, every institutional reform project will be, in my opinion, merely demagogical and rhetorical.


Andrea Pitasi [3]

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Bibliography

A.Ardigò, Per una sociologia oltre il post moderno, Laterza editore, Bari-Roma 1988

M.Crozier, Stato moderno, stato modesto, EL, Roma 1987

M.Crozier, La crisi dell'intelligenza, EL, Roma 1996

R.Esposito, Communitas, Einaudi, Torino 1998

J.Hillmann, Forme del potere, Garzanti, Milano 1996

M.Maffesoli, Il tempo delle tribù, Armando, Roma 1988

A.Pitasi, Il sesto stratagemma - Il management strategico della comunicazione pubblica, Seam, Roma 1999a

A.Pitasi, A Facilitative Agenda Setting for the 21st Century Scenarios, World Futures vol. 54/99, pp 337-353

T.Stewart, Il capitale intellettuale, Ponte alle Grazie, Milano 1999

W.Worringer, Astrazione d empatia, Einaudi, Torino 1986

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