[Home]ConcentrationOfPower

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Wherever power concentrates, it is like a scrunching up of the landscape, usually into little mountains known as local maxima. The most power concentrates of course into a global maximum. Today, in the networked society, concentrations of power are not just single entities, but rather a consortium of not-strongly connected (though not necessarily loosely) organizations. For instance, even the most giant corporations are not self-sufficient, but rely on an ever increasingly complex network of relationships to operationalize its affairs. Further, since many of its operations are outsourced to different companies, its competitors can take advantage of these secondary companies as well. They also would like to be near them. And of course, the most important concern is the concentration of skilled labour in one geographic area, which is why an entire industry will consolidate in one location. The location is usually determined by a similar consolidation of the industry's customer base, such as West Los Angeles's fashion district is directly related to Hollywood, just as Hollywood also hosts a strong multimedia and computer graphics sector.

To make this more efficient, certain urban patterns have emerged whenever there is an industrial concentration (Castells, 1999):

Similar events happen for purely networked relationships between purely virtual organizations. The clustering or networking is simply done by a dense interconnection of information flow, such as linking to one another, but also including the construction of standards and protocols specific to that domain to facilitate voluminous information flow, the construction of shared databases (possibly lying in a profitmaking third party), simplified relationship forming and norming (e.g. the London Insurance Market), and a journal or news source tracking this group.

The costly and time consuming construction of this complex network makes it foolhardy to leave it to form a new network (also see ForkingOfOnlineCommunities). This is the analogous case to buying prime real estate, except here the value is not in the square metres but in the social relationships constructed. While in geographic communities, the reason multiple concentrations of power arise is simply that the distribution of labour is dictated by where that labour force lives, which tends to be related to where they were born (i.e. anywhere around the world), in virtual environments the increasingly negligible FrictionOfDistance? makes it questionable why anyone would bother swimming with smaller fish who are exactly the same. Instead, some informational "distance" must be found; that is a differentiator. The strongest such differentiator is language, however other cultural or ideological differentiators may emerge, such as the preference for ContentOverForm vs. FormOverContent. Alternatively, when a market is very young, multiple concentrations of power may independently emerge, only waiting until their collective participants begin to overlap, at which point they will either naturally merge or begin to compete.

Finally, whenever there is too much power, OpenProcess tends to falter for a variety of reasons, which leads to BackRoomDecisions. And the PublicMonument?s may simply be logos and good graphic design, such as the reverence for the Tux logo of Linux. It may also be a reverent attitude towards one particular facilitating organization, such as Slashdot for Linux or the Free Software Foundation. More probably for a social network, the reverent entity is simply the nucleic seed person, such as Linus Torvalds for Linux, and other major figures, like RichardStallman.

In general, where there are multiple concentrations of power, they follow a PowerLaw distribution.

CategoryUrbanDesign

References

Castells, M. (1999). The informational city is a dual city: Can it be reversed? In D.A. Schön, B. Sanyal, & W. Mitchell (eds.) High technology and low-income communities: prospects for the positive use of advanced information technology. (Chapter 1) Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Although I haven't read it, I understand

Graham, S. and Marvin, S. (1996). Telecommunications and the city: Electronic spaces, urban places. London: Routledge.

discusses the above topic. -- SunirShah I stole the four points from

CategoryPower


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