chapter  5
30 Pages

Becoming Direct: Interactivity and the Digital Product

Many of the grander promises evident in Chapter 2 relate specifically to e-commerce.

There has been as much, if not more, web utopianism among the business community

as cyber activists, particularly in relation to globalization and the seemingly infinite

new markets enabled by interoperable databases and the digitization of service

delivery. There has also been a sense in which it has been changes in the economy,

or socio-economic restructuring, that have underpinned cultural changes more

generally (Castells 1996, 1997a). While many have been rightly critical of such

Castellian models of virtual culture – as a super-structural realm of digital symbolic

exchange – some of Castells’ key ideas have been taken up by commercial agents and

have become part of the cultural currency or ‘circuit of capital’ within the business

community as it learns about the ‘network society’ (see Thrift 2005). In other words,

behind the hyperbole, some of the abstract and largely academic ideas about a new

economy and digital culture may become part of the materials of digital culture on

the ground, especially when they are taken to be inevitable. How such ideas manifest

as the ‘imperative to interact’ within specific commercial environments forms the

substance of this chapter.