Technology and media cultures: ‘the uncertain trajectory’
The inaugural European edition of the magazine Wired published in April 1995 had on its cover a startling fluorescent image of Tom Paine (1737-1809), the radical American democrat and his words ‘We have it in our power to begin the world again’. The magazine reclaims, Paine for the age of the Internet as a ‘Patron Saint’ of the new worlds of cyberspace and computer technology. The magazine develops connections between Paine’s vision and the possibilities they associate with the potential of global communications through the Net. His words become the clarion call of another new age born out of technological advance rather than revolutionary struggle. ‘We see with other eyes; we hear with other ears; and think with other thoughts than those we formerly used’ (Katz 1995: 16). The emphatic attention given to a break with the past and an embracing of the future in which the free flow of information and exchange was necessary is the link drawn between Paine and the Internet, f or ‘media existed to spread ideas, to allow fearless argument, to challenge and question authority, to set a common social agenda’ (ibid.:64). So just as Paine had employed the rotary press of the 1700s to disseminate radical opinions and debates, so, the article contends, can the Internet in the 1990s. Paine wrote, ‘he who denies the right of every man or woman to his own opinion makes a slave of him or herself, because they preclude the right of changing their own minds’ (quoted ibid.:66). Set against the powerful controllers of thought, Paine used the small press as a method of democratic resistance in the same way that the Net is being heralded as a bulwark against corporate hegemony and control of the media.