February 4, 2020

From Gerald R. Lucas
Revision as of 09:52, 4 February 2020 by Grlucas (talk | contribs) (Began adding questions.)

Notes on “The Californian Ideology”

Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron’s 1995[a] 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[1] 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,[2] 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.[3]

. . .

Questions for Consideration

  1. What do Barbrook and Cameron mean by the “virtual class”?
  2. How do you understand their use of “Jeffersonian democracy” in their argument?
  3. How are B&C using the word “liberalism”?[b]
  4. What is an (electronic) agora?[4]
  5. Why do they call the “free market” a “myth”?
  6. Why do “digital artisans lead a schizophrenic existence”?[5]
  7. Which approach to the electronic world do Barbrook and Cameron seem to advocate?
  8. B&C state “the technologies of freedom are turning into the machines of dominance.”[6] What do they mean?


  1. While it’s now 25-years-old, I would argue it’s maybe more relevant today than it was then. However, we in the US continue to make mistakes they outline, like the FDA’s dismissal of Net Neutrality.
  2. See p. 11, for example.


Work Cited

  • Barbrook, Richard; Cameron, Andy (1995). "The Californian Ideology". Imaginary Futures. Retrieved 2018-08-13. All citations taken from the PDF.