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A Citizen of the Technoshpere

Kevin Carson, author of The Homebrew Industrial Revolution and The Desktop Regulatory State once described himself to me as a techno-utopian, by which he did not mean that he subscribed to the wish-fulfillment fantasies of the Singularity crowd. He meant that he envisioned a re-localized future where technology allowed communities to meet their material needs without the huge and sprawling systems of governance, business and production which eliminate region distinctiveness and force every local culture to adapt itself to the generic global culture. (The cultural emphasis is mine in this re-telling.)

If, for example, as Americans, we shop in the same national chain stores, watch the same television, listen to the same national radio programs, be they high-brow lefty fair like NPR, or right-wing populist talk radio like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, and if we are governed by a uniform set of laws at the federal level and are subject to a single legal framework from coast to coast, we tend to lose our cultural distinctiveness and our local loyalties.

Worse than the uniform demands of corporate culture and the legal system is how we are expected and willing to relocate to different parts of the country, to completely new communities, half a dozen times or more over the course of our working lives in order to make a living. In being so willing to sever all ties to our local community in order to seek better pay or "advance" our careers, we will, by default, make ourselves into generic citizens of the techno-industrial system (or the technosphere or the technium).

I'm particularly sensitive to this because when I was growing up, my father worked a government job that required him to relocate to a different city every time he got promoted. I lived in five different states by the time I finished elementary school. I lived in Kansas City, Missouri from the 4th grade through two years of community college before I left town to complete my undergraduate degree at a state university, so I think of Kansas City as my "home town," but I don't have any family there because neither of my parents was from there.  That just happens to have been the place my father was stationed when my parents got divorced. My father and his mother are buried there, but that was basically the result of a roll of the dice. They were both Brooklynites.

As an adult, I've lived in 8 states and 3 countries. It's said that travel broadens the mind, and I suppose it does, but in terms of feeling like I belong anywhere in particular, my serial existence has broadened me like a squirrel that's been run over by a steam-roller.

I like to think that I'm embedding myself in the local community of the Vermont village in which I now live, but I still feel like a tourist; like my hold on this place is tenuous. I try to identify with my Arkansas roots, but that's easier to do when I'm not there, because when I do visit Arkansas, it's quite clear that, while I may be FROM there, I don't BELONG there. It's about a meaningful as identifying with my Irish ancestry, never having been to Ireland.

I am a citizen of the technosphere, which is to say I'm about as generic a human being as the North American continent produced in the 20th Century.

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September 2018


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