Disruptive Power: The Crisis of the State in the Digital Age (Oxford Studies in Digital Politics)
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Anonymous. WikiLeaks. The Syrian Electronic Army. Edward Snowden. Bitcoin. The Arab Spring. Digital communication technologies have thrust the calculus of global political power into a period of unprecedented complexity. In every aspect of international affairs, digitally enabled actors are changing the way the world works and disrupting the institutions that once held a monopoly on power. No area is immune: humanitarianism, war, diplomacy, finance, activism, or journalism. In each, the government departments, international organizations and corporations who for a century were in charge, are being challenged by a new breed of international actor. Online, networked and decentralized, these new actors are innovating, for both good and ill, in the austere world of foreign policy. They are representative of a wide range of 21st century global actors and a new form of 21st century power: disruptive power.
In Disruptive Power, Taylor Owen provides a sweeping look at the way that digital technologies are shaking up the workings of the institutions that have traditionally controlled international affairs. The nation state system and the subsequent multinational system were founded on and have long functioned through a concentration of power in the state. Owen looks at the tools that a wide range of new actors are using to increasingly control international affairs, and how their rise changes the way we understand and act in the world. He considers the bar for success in international digital action and the negative consequences of a radically decentralized international system. What new institutions will be needed to moderate the new power structures and ensure accountability? And how can governments and corporations act to promote positive behavior in a world of disruptive innovation? Owen takes on these questions and more in this probing and sober look at the frontier of international affairs, in a world enabled by information technology and increasingly led by disruptive innovators.
With cutting edge analysis of the fast-changing relationship between the declining state and increasingly powerful non-state actors, Disruptive Power is the essential road map for navigating a networked world.
the last tools left in the dwindling garrisons of Liberty.”47 Other groups seeking to undermine state power are also using cryptocurrencies. As National Public Radio (NPR) reported, the Oglala Lakota Nation in Idaho has just launched mazacoin as a means of increasing its independence from the US government.48 The Oglala view currency control as an act of sovereignty. How and whether Bitcoin itself succeeds, the disruptive power of alternative currencies is still significant, and we will
increasingly being used as a targeting tool by both states and individuals. A civilian in Germany discovered a Chinese training camp on the China-India border using Google Earth; Russia and South Korea have both requested that Google blur out “sensitive areas”; and India has voiced concerns that public maps could further incite tensions in Kashmir. In the United States, Dick Cheney’s house and the Pepsi headquarters are both pixilated out. As the Russian Federal Security Service proclaimed,
acid-free paper “To: R & W” CONTENTS Acknowledgments 1. Losing Control 2. Disruptive Power 3. Spaces of Dissent 4. New Money 5. Being There 6. Saving the Saviors 7. Diplomacy Unbound 8. The Violence of Algorithms 9. The Crisis of the State Notes Index ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This book represents the culmination of three meandering years exploring the intersection of digital technology and international affairs and is ultimately the product of many people’s work. It
information, a project that is rapidly growing to include the use of robotic data collection, satellite footage, drones, and artificial intelligence. Facebook seeks to connect everyone in the world, and in so doing has detailed social and behavioral data on over a billion people. It is developing advanced facial recognition and moving into virtual reality. There is a perceived benign utopianism to these objectives that the state has been able to co-opt. Technology became pervasive enough for
the Rebels,” Washington Post, September 3, www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/09/03/the-u-s-isnt-bombing-syria-yet-but-it-is-providing-tech-support-to-the-rebels/. 21. Crawford, Jamie. (2012). “U.S. Aid to Syrian Opposition Includes Specialized Communications Equipment,” CNN, April 2, http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/04/02/u-s-aid-to-syrian-opposition-includes-specialized-communications-equipment/. 22. Newton-Small, “Hillary’s Little Startup.” 23. 9/11 is the date of three