The Web and Nation States

A while back The Economist published an article comparing Facebook to a nation state and imagining a future where Mark Zuckerberg exercised power and influence the way the head of a state would. Whether this is likely or not it is interesting to consider how we will manifest what appears to be our inherent tribalism when more of us spend more of our time connected to people beyond the boundaries of our own countries than we do with our neighbours.

I kept thinking of this as I listened to the first section of Sir Winston Churchill’s History Of The Second World War mentioned in the previous post. This section deals with the political positioning leading up to the breakout of war and the attempts by Churchill to convince parliament and the nation of the threat posed by the Germans and of the need to do something about it. I wonder how those conversations would go now given the more ubiquitous connections we have with each other?

I remember meeting the Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan a few years ago in Paris and him saying that through blogging and fostering connections online he hoped to make it less likely that the west would ever find the will to attack his country. It’s ironic that he is now in and out of prison in Iran due to the regime there, but his hope has stuck with me.

Maybe I am just an ageing hippie and hoping to reduce our antagonisms through increased online connection is naive. Maybe even if we reduce the perceived need to beat each other up over the old lines of difference we will find new ones based on the tribes we form on the web …

4 thoughts on “The Web and Nation States

  1. If the above sentiments make you an aging hippie then I’m the secret love child of Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin.I don’t see naivety in the belief that antagonisms can be reduced through increased online connection and interactivity. I think the primary cause of most conflict is fear of the unknown – which boils down to lack of knowledge, understanding and empathy. The fact that even hostages can bond with their captures (Stockholm Syndrome) once they get to know them kind of illustrates this.If you fear flying, take a pilot’s course. If you hate the French, spend a bit more time in France. If you hate Microsoft, go and watch a demo of SharePoint 2010 and Office Communications Services. In my experience the best way to tackle one’s own prejudices is to approach them head-on. In the past this was largely impossible to do given the barriers to long distance travel and communication.The internet has changed everything and as time goes on geographical tribes will become less and less important as we get to know people and form tribes and coalitions anywhere and everywhere.Nice piece, thanks for sharing!


  2. Thanks for the comment Jon. You are right too that it can't but help reduce reasons to be antagonistic if we are more connected. The first step in getting people to commit to any war is to de-humanize the enemy and this will be harder is you already know them.


  3. Maybe, but Serbs, Croats and Bosnians has been living and working alongside each other and intermarrying for generations before the Balkans wars and that didn't stop them murdering and torturing each other and the First World War was fought between nations whose monarchs were related to each other. Conflict is about power, I think, not lack of familiarity.


  4. It is always amazing that the arbitary boundaries of a country land mass is somehow regarded as the only boundaries of a collective will. Clearly in a feudal system the boundaries of power are geographic, but as you, and the article, point out this is no longer the case. People can gather and follow or lead and "live" anywhere online. The usual comeback for this sort of re-organization seems to be "what about paying taxes to make things happen locally" clearly the need for physical services exists, food, water, elemental protection but the broad brush with which we paint out political system seems to be missing the directness and detail that we can achieve online.


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