The new ecosystem and the urgency to rethink citizenship. Freedom and asymmetries

The interconnected society and the new connection technologies (as we have defined them), in addition to progressively undermining (dis-intermediate) any political and/or social mediation mechanism, they have the power, perhaps unlimited, to extend humanity's possibilities and communication opportunities, facilitating the production, the elaboration and exchange of information and knowledge between individuals. Even if, as we have argued several times and in unsuspecting times, in order for this (knowledge society) to materialize, it is of strategic importance that other fundamental rights, pre-existing the digital ones, are protected and not only recognised.

 At the basis of these processes is a renewed trust in rationality – even if the role of “perception” in all decision-making processes is increasingly decisive, at a micro and macro level – which finds fundamental support points in the Web and in interactive technologies capable of making an enormous quantity available online for everyone of data, information and accumulated knowledge (in 2003, I spoke of "shared knowledge"). Despite this, the Subject seems to be increasingly vulnerable to the complexity of these dynamics: a complexity that requires culture and education, in fact, to complexity (1998). The extraordinary enhancement of communication methods and the radical differentiation of the channels of the training offer (educational polycentrism) have led to a growing capacity for self-determination on the part of the Subject in terms of choices, values, behavior models, cognitive schemes. What was upset as a whole was the shared symbolic system together with the (medium) language that attempts to describe and represent this umpteenth change.

The civilization of risk, on the other hand, while presenting itself as an extraordinary opportunity for economic, political and social evolution, has in fact significantly increased the sense of insecurity and vulnerability within social systems, fueling a climate of fear (and/or social alarm), both locally and globally, which radically questions the same precautionary principle (Sunstein, 2005), increasingly detached from social demand for protection. The world-system and the new informational, global and interconnected economy require a new sensitivity for the problems concerning the Subject, social relationships and, above all, the space of knowledge with a view to strengthening transnational political public sphere.


The knowledge society and the new connection technologies seem to be on the verge of creating community of communication open to all communicating subjects where there is no place for conditioning, where everyone has (potentially) the possibility of producing and exchanging knowledge within the framework of a system in which communication has (seems) become totally horizontal without any kind of filter. In reality, the issues under discussion are more complex: technology triggers and accelerates change (always together with other factors), but the horizontality and/or symmetry of communication processes are not defined/established by the technological dimension, but by the factor human, always decisive even in facilitating/obstructing change (social relations -> power relations – asymmetries). From a complex reality such as the current one, which offers the possibility of choosing between multiple possible ethics, a new Subject emerges that is more autonomous and untied with respect to the constraints of the context and/or of the reference groups; a Subject who has become aware of the occurrence disruption of the social bondof religious morality and dissolution of traditional ethical constraints. And it could not have been otherwise, since the historical phases of social change are always accompanied by great uncertainty and general disorientation caused by the absence of a strong cultural model and a regulatory vacuum. Social systems that are increasingly vulnerable and marked by risk and a limited rationality that undermines the terrain of decisions, both at a systemic and organizational level; but also increasingly precarious and uncertain existences and social experiences. What we called years ago (2005) the "hypercomplex society", in addition to "strong" cultural models and different policies, perhaps requires - to quote the words of a great scholar, a "true" intellectual, Stefano Rodotà - the relaunch of anecessary utopia (solidarity-fraternity) – even more so in a context of global crisis – able to strengthen social ties and define the conditions of citizenship, according to an inclusive and equal logic.


The problem also consists in trying to understand whether behind the interconnected society and economy, which in any case seem capable of guaranteeing greater opportunities for equality of starting conditions for all social actors, there is actually also the risk of a further weakening of the connective tissue of social systems and a generalized passivity by individuals (people/social actors) convinced that the virtual is real, beyond its operational translation capable of producing change and political decisions. But the danger is also that of acultural homologation, real fertile ground for a civilization of total social control and of surveillance able to reduce the margins of freedom of the citizen/consumer. Therefore, while there is no doubt that the Network Society concretely represents an extraordinary possibility of emancipation and liberation of the forces and energies of the social and global fabric, nation-States must be careful so that the Great Network, in addition to increasing communication and knowledge possibilities, also contributes to creating a culturally more evolved and open type of humanity, able to counter what some see as the end of the social and the crisis of the social mechanisms of trust and reciprocity (Touraine, 2004). 

There communication, as known, since the origins of pre-complex societies, has incessantly fueled the system of social relations, representing the connective tissue of social systems (Dominics). But this assumption does not prevent us from observing how the Web and social media are causing an unprecedented leap in quality compared to past eras, precisely with reference to social action and communicative practice. Similarly, changes in social mechanisms related to trust and cooperation (Coleman, 1990) are occurring much more rapidly, in turn augmented by social safety and promotion networks – the concept of social capital (Putnam, 2000); bonds are intensified interdependence and of interconnection which innervate the world-system, with all the implications of the case. But the key issue lies in the fact that the knowledge society has all the guises of one global risk society which has extended, beyond any border or limit, the dynamics of conflict, the risks, emergencies (real and potential) and the anomalies systemic, which increase precisely with the progressive differentiation of complex systems. This dimension intercepts the equally crucial one of the trust which continues to prove to be a fundamental social mechanism capable of reduce complexity (Luhmann, 1968) and to make risk acceptance sustainable. Trust that keeps, forever, a close link with the problem of knowledge and knowledge. Modern social systems, often orphans of a strong cultural model, are now characterized by instability and by a high coefficient of unpredictability of actions and processes; This fact makes the choice of the option (in my opinion, the obligatory path) even more strategic, as well as urgent"knowledge sharing”.


The digital network is already affecting the structures and hierarchies of industrial society and presents itself as an extension of the relational system, one unlimited public space (Sundays) open at collective intelligences (P.Lévy), to cooperation andcollaborative intelligence (M. Minghetti). Complex issues and problems which, as reiterated over and over again in the past, force us to rethink the very concepts of citizenship (not just digital) and democracy, while redefining the boundaries and conditions of a new "social contract" (2003,2008 and 2015). But, I will always repeat it until boredom, without long-term policies centered on school, education, education, the so-called. the knowledge society will be a world-system increasingly marked by new and profound inequalities – as well as information and knowledge asymmetries (Dominici) – the complexity of which, moreover, has long required the definition of new indicators (A.Sen). And thus, without the adequate countermeasures, even speaking of meritocracy will once again be pure rhetoric in a society without vertical social mobility and with a amoral familism (EC Banfield) widespread, which will continue to favor elites and restricted groups; meritocracy will also be the meritocracy of the usual "few", of those who have more opportunities and more "freedom to", right from the start. Education and Education = Citizenship.



As I have been repeating for years: "connected citizens" are not enough, we need critically trained and informed citizens, educated to citizenship and not to subjection... out of cultural habit; citizens possessing not only technical and/or digital skills but, above all, educated and trained in "critical thinking" and complexity. In this regard, now even some techno-enthusiasts - a label to indicate the modern "integrated" - are finally starting to state that the problem is cultural, not so much infrastructure (which, let us repeat, is necessary). In this sense, a "true" citizenship, active and participating in the common good and, more generally, profound cultural change is always the complex "product", on the one hand, of social processes and mechanisms that must start "from below"; on the other, the action of that civil society and that public sphere, currently absorbed and engulfed by politics, which has taken away their autonomy (a few years ago I spoke of the "public sphere handmaid of the system of power"). Furthermore, it is not useless to repeat it that we need (long-term) policies designed and implemented with a systemic perspective (absent dimension), which must be constantly evaluated and their effects monitored. Otherwise, inclusive processes and (concretely) participatory dynamics, activated by elite (more or less enlightened), power groups and a Public Administration – this is the hope and hope – which has become, in the meantime, increasingly transparent and efficient.


I take the opportunity to point out some interesting initiatives regarding the complex issues of ACCESS, CITIZENSHIP and, more generally, the "rules" for governing the new ecosystem: 

There culture – we repeat – it is a strategic variable in all these processes: "technological factor" and "legal factor" alone are not enough to determine the change…that change and that real innovation which, if such, cannot “be for the few”.

NB Share and reuse the content as well, but always cite the SOURCES!

Sign up to our newsletter!