Manuel Castells – Communication Power

Manuel Castells

Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199567041, U.S.A., 2009, English
“Where does power lie in the network society?” This is the central question that Manuel Castells tries to answer in his first book in ten years. After the disillusionment of the internet utopia as a liberating medium per se, Castells describes society using hardware/software terminology, drawing a stimulating picture. He grounds his analysis of the network society through different mass media conflicts like the media control and censorship in the USA, Russia, and China, the global environmental movement and the Barack Obama presidential campaign. These case studies are carefully detailed and make evident how power is differentiated in the network society, and suggesting that we are about to face change because networked structure can’t be fully regulated by a few. Castells seems to be pessimistic, “whoever has enough money, including political leaders, will have a better chance of operating the switch in its favor.” But one of the central points of his essay is the creation of a new appealing category describing contemporary communication in society that is “mass self-communication”. It’s about potentially reaching a global audience, but “self-generated, self-directed and self-selected”. The commodification of self-communication is one of the big challenges of corporate control, although “the more they invest in expanding communication networks, the more people build their own networks”. People should be aware of this and should try to move beyond the tendency to “overcome the powerlessness of their solitary despair by networking their desire”, as they still evidently do.