February 4, 2020
Notes on “The Californian Ideology”
Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron’s 1995 essay “The Californian Ideology” interprets the dominant attitude about technology as a one that’s both utopian and built on a history of slavery. It traces the logical outcome of an ideology founded on Jeffersonian democracy: a dichotomous approach to technology that embraces both the “hippie radicalism” of an electronic agora and the electronic marketplace of of Eisenhower liberalism. This mix of “cultural bohemianism” and high-tech industry is built on a “new faith” in the “emancipatory potential” of new media, but as Barbrook and Cameron argue, it is ultimately an elitist ideology founded on exclusion and slavery. Ultimately, the essay advocates a convergence of cultural, political, and economic approaches—a “mixed economy”—to support an inclusive electronic infrastructure that guarantees inclusion, promotes a culture of creativity and innovation, and does not depend on an invisible slave class.
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