Monday, November 12, 2012

Why the Republicans lost: excessive tribalism — a partial TIMN interpretation

From a TIMN perspective, the Republicans lost because they’ve become excessively tribal, and much less institutional and market-oriented. More to the point, the Republicans lost because of the media: not the mainstream media or the liberal media, but their very own right-wing conservative media — particularly Fox News, along with right-wing radio talk shows, and all their well-known opinionators. These media have become so dominated by tribalists who aim to tribalize that they’ve become counter-productive, even destructive for the Republican party.

The usual frames for discussing what I’m trying to get at are “partisanship” and “polarization”. But those frames have become too dryly analytical, too easy to treat as glossable criticisms that apply equally to the Democrats. At this point, when matters have become so excessive, tribalism is a more accurate, dynamic frame — certainly from a TIMN perspective

How do extreme tribalists think and act? They stress identity and loyalty. They tout honor, pride, respect, and dignity. They demonize opponents. They believe it’s okay to lie to and about outsiders. They require unity and claim purity for their side. They turn combative and uncompromising. They force people to take sides. They shun moderates once on their side. They engage in magical thinking about their prospects. Et cetera. And of course they accuse the other side — in this case, the Democrats — of excessive tribalism.

There is nothing basically wrong — and much can still be righted — about key Republican principles: e.g., limited government, free enterprise, responsibility, family. But recovery from the current debacle calls for more than the kinds of detailed dissections, self-reassurances, and tinkering adjustments that are now being talked about in election post-mortems. From a TIMN perspective, the party will have to de-tribalize and re-institutionalize, as well as become more market-oriented about ideas, in order to correct its approaches to those principles and restore itself to playing a nationally constructive, attractive role. And if its leaders really do want to temper the roles of tribalism, they will have to rethink their relations with those associated media, which gain huge benefits and claim great success from being so tribal (even as they denying being too tribal?).

* * * * *

Excessive tribalism has led not only to organizational disarray and regression in TIMN terms, but also to carving out ideological and policy stances that violate (or at least are at variance with) TIMN principles and dynamics. TIMN implies keeping the forms in balance, observing their limits as well as their strengths, adopting appropriate regulatory interfaces, etc. — all in keeping with a society’s particular culture and stage of development. Here are some of the violations that I have spotted:
  • Many Republicans and related conservatives have adopted an unbalanced approach to the TIMN forms. They are mired in dogmatic logics insisting that market (+M) should prevail over government (+I) approaches, and that market solutions are surely good, government solutions bad. Their bias is so strong it runs contrary to TIMN principles about respecting, balancing, and limiting all the forms, making them all work together, and doing so by creating appropriate regulatory interfaces. There are sound Republican arguments about favoring limited if not small government that would be in keeping with TIMN, but they’re not normally evident when voiced by tribalists.
  • Conservative Republicans are not pro-market when it comes to ideas. Consider in particular the anti-tax pledge that so many Republicans have felt obligated to sign. From a TIMN perspective, it’s a tribal, hierarchically-wielded, anti-market device. Its imposition is run not so much by a traditional tribal “big man” or chieftain, as by a kind of warlord — a fiscal warlord — and his clannish cronies. Fiscal warlordism is surely not good for the party as an institution; such warlordism stifles and threatens to punish a marketplace of ideas from emerging around tax issues within the party. (Perhaps a key way to begin de-tribalizing the Republican party would be to break with the anti-tax pledge. It is not an obvious step, for many tribalists would immediately view it as a victory for the Democrats. But before long, it would become evident that the move revitalizes ideological and practical maneuvering room for the Republicans.)
  • And here’s another conservative approach to ideas that reflects extreme tribalism: It’s about opinionators who have voiced a yearning to “drive another nail into the coffin of liberalism.” What the hell? They seek the death of a major American ism? They want to bury a large part of the American political spectrum? Criticism is okay; so is having fun with hyperbole. But this sounds like an insensible plunge into a demonic kind of tribalism. And if America ever went that far to the right, even these opinionators would surely be among those whose pro-freedom, pro-individual ideals got demolished before long. America cannot be truly American without having a broad vital political spectrum — a point that is consistent with TIMN. I did not hear this demonic view voiced explicitly during the campaign — so it does not rank as a reason why the Republicans lost — but it still seemed to echo in the background noise of what the more extreme tribalists were saying at times.
  • TIMN recognizes the importance of regulatory interfaces. According to TIMN, balanced combination is imperative, and success depends on developing appropriate regulatory interfaces. Moreover, the type and degree of regulation should be roughly comparable between any and all forms. Today’s Republicans are contradictory regarding this TIMN principle too, in that many keep calling for extreme deregulation of relations between government (I) and business (M) sectors, but for heavy new government regulation of marriage, reproduction, immigration, and other social (T) matters. This too seems to stem from excessive tribalism.
  • TIMN implies recognizing cultural and historical variations among societies. Thus it would explain “American exceptionalism” by, among other matters, pointing to the unusual diversity of our nation’s population, along with our ability to accommodate all sorts of people — in other words, our capacity to dampen uncivil kinds of domestic (T) tribalism, partly so the other TIMN forms work better. During the presidential campaign, tribalists among the Republicans tried to claim the mantle of American exceptionalism. But as I recall, they mostly did so by stressing that American exceptionalism derived mainly from free enterprise and individual initiative (harking back to M-level priorities). Okay, sure, to some degree. But they ignored or misunderstood the historical tribal (T-level) characteristics that make our nation so unique and different from, say, Europe. Yet, perhaps it makes sense they have done so — tribalists have to be very careful about accommodating to ethnic, religious, and other kinds of T-level diversity, and allowing it to be an explanation for exceptionalism. They want their own tribe to be the explanation.
In short, the excessive tribalism I detect seems partly a reflection of so many Republicans and related conservatives thinking and acting in so many ways that run contrary to TIMN principles. Tribalism becomes a refuge of the wrong and the wronged. If its proponents were to gain power, such tribalism could be more conducive to patrimonial corporatism than to liberal democracy.


An earlier draft of the first section above appeared first as a comment and later as the final part of a post at the Zenpundit blog (h/t Mark Safranski). Points in the second section above riff on an old post here at my blog about the increasing obsolescence of liberalism and conservatism, and also on the final part of a recent post about my video TIMN.


[UPDATE — October 26, 2013: The excessive tribalism discussed above continues to deepen and divide within Republican circles. Of the blogs I follow, one that regularly offers incisive analysis about this is futurist David Brin’s blog Contrary Brin. He works with themes about American exceptionalism, Tea-Party radicalism, Fox-News bias, political polarization, and anti-science posturing. For example, see these recent posts: here and here. He also aims to identify remedies, lately to neutralize gerrymandering (here). All thoughtful and interesting. Sweeping and entertaining too.]

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Q’s & A’s about “TIMN in 20 minutes” (6th of 7): space-time-action (STA) orientations

As explained in the introduction to the first post in this series, it logs comments on my video about TIMN. The introduction also explains how the posts are arranged, and how I’ve approached using commenters’ remarks. Readers should be mindful of the caveats I offered there about my presentation of those remarks and my replies.

This post logs comments that touched, explicitly or implicitly, on people’s space-time-action orientations. Thus, the comments relate to the other framework — dubbed “STA” — that this blog aims to advance. It is potentially as interesting and significant as TIMN. But I’ve not done much about STA so far — just a few early explanatory posts (e.g., here and here), plus a post (here) about activists’ spatial orientations in a series on the Occupy! movement.

Thus this post represents the most I’ve written trying to relate STA to TIMN. I’m thankful to the commenters for raising an opportunity to explore the connections. I’ve long known they are related; I just haven’t turned to work out the hows, whats, and whys.

TIMN and STA — intersections between two frameworks

A foresight strategist abroad — Eddie Choo — wrote “wondering ... if TIMN had something to say about STA. All of the forms of social organizations are necessarily situated in space, time and action — all at different scales.”

I replied briefly at the time: Good observation about possible ties between TIMN and STA. I provide a preliminary answer in Sidebar #2 in a post a while ago about cognitive aspects of Occupy and related pro-democracy movements. Look for the sidebar and its table here. I hope to say more about this someday.

Actually, here’s the table I referred to (click to enlarge):

Today I’d add the following: First of all, let’s not take the table too literally. Each of the entries should be viewed more as a tendency than an absolute. Consider the time-orientation row, for example. Yes, each form is weighted in the indicated direction. Yet that does not mean that the transition from biform T+I to triform T+I+M societies centuries ago was devoid of significant future orientations.

To see this, consider the Enlightenment concept of “progress” — so important for that transition. It stemmed from the fact that people began evolving new ways of thinking about social space, time, and action at that stage of European civilization. As I wrote in an earlier blog post,
“In spatial terms, this long-ago phase in European civilization was characterized by a new attribution of value to the earthly secular order (apart from the sacred order of divine providence), by the expansion of the sociopolitical field to include masses as well as elites, by an increasing belief in the importance and equality of individuals, and by an increasing freedom of movement. These developments reshaped people’s perceptions of where they belonged and what they could do. ...
“The classical notion of time — that an eternally recurrent cycle ruled human affairs — gave way to the Christian conception of time, as expounded by St. Augustine. He broke with the closed-circle idea to propose that time consisted of unrepeated moments that extended along a line allowing for progressive development. In the Augustinian view, past, present, and future became different realms, and man's view of his condition could vary and change. This reconception meant that man was not locked into an eternal natural distinction between rich and poor, and that the future could be a realm of hope, opportunity, and innovation where an individual might overcome his past to create a new history. ...
“These reconceptions of political time and space combined with a new action orientation: a new belief that people could master their own affairs and shape their own destiny. The classical idea was relinquished that man must submit to a fate preordained by heavenly powers. ...
“Without these conceptual shifts in space-time-action orientations, my readings tell me that modern Western ideas of politics, progress, and revolution would be inconceivable. ...
“It is at this point that politics in the modern sense of the term begins, if we here understand by politics a more or less conscious participation of all strata of society in the achievement of some mundane purpose, as contrasted with the fatalistic acceptance of events as they are, or of control from 'above’.” (Mannheim, 1936, p. 212)
“Jewish and Christian millennialism was thus tamed, secularized, and transmuted into the modern liberal concept of progress, with its faith in the advance of knowledge, science and technology. England’s Puritan Revolution provided a key turning point. As Robert Nisbet elaborates in his History of the Idea of Progress (1994),
“there is the very closest of intellectual relationships between Puritan millenarianism in the seventeenth century and the efflorescence in the next century of the “Modern” secular idea of progress.” (p. 126)”
In other words, there are surely lots of connections between the TIMN and STA frameworks. The future evolution from triform to quadriform societies will entail even further shifts in people’s space-time-action orientations, making operating in the network form evermore distinctive from operating in the other three TIMN forms. (See the appendix for a little more background.)

TIMN and privacy — aspects of a spatial orientation

A cyber-security policy specialist inquired about “privacy in light of your TIMN advancement. How does it fit, what are its strengths and weaknesses, how does it play?”

My reply: Privacy is a hot topic that I’m just not knowledgeable about. Discussions about it involve lots of aspects and categories that I’m just not recalling. That aside, the question is about implications for TIMN. I’ve no particular propositions sitting around, and a quick search indicates that the only time I actually refer to privacy issues is in the cyberocracy-updated paper, in a sub-section about the growth of sensory apparatuses, as follows:
“The scope and scale of this apparatus are growing far beyond what government, business, and civil-society actors have ever had at their disposal or had to cope with. They will all be challenged to figure out proper designs for the kinds of sensory organizations and technologies they prefer — and proper ways to regulate them. Their growth has already sharpened issues about privacy and security, but it may also open new pathways for fostering transparency and accountability. How information is assembled and accessed, how issues and options are illuminated, how public and private forces are mobilized, and how oversight is achieved will all be affected.
“It has become standard fare to speculate that such apparatuses mainly benefit government and corporate actors, for good and ill. Less noticed, but we think equally likely and significant, is that the apparatuses will aid the rise of civil-society actors, by providing networked NGOs and NPOs with new tools not only for checking on the behavior of government and corporate actors, but also for participating in collaborative governance schemes with them. New mechanisms for attracting and combining diverse viewpoints under the rubric of “collective intelligence” could help foster this. So could the continued advance of principles favoring freedom of information, the right to communicate, and open access.” (source, pp. 44-45)
As I wonder about the TIMN progression, I don’t come up with a sense that privacy generally increases or decreases across the progression. Rather, I’d say that, as the progression advances, more and more actors chip away at personal privacy and even more at social privacy (if a distinction between personal and social privacy makes sense). Tribal societies don’t allow for much privacy. States and other hierarchical institutions keep trying to increase people’s “legibility” (to hark to James Scott’s famous point in his book, Seeing Like A State). And then so do market actors. Many NGOs operating in networks are strong proponents of privacy, but a lot of NGOs also want to monitor state and market actors in ways that make them less private.

In other words, privacy seems increasingly a goner. There’s a good Wikipedia entry on privacy that makes an interesting point: While we Americans value privacy, many cultures / societies don’t do so; they don’t even have a precisely equivalent term.

But maybe I’m missing something. It seems to me that, across all the TIMN forms, a lot depends on “walls” of one kind or another. After all, the first major technology for privacy is the home and its walls. As some walls get penetrated, can others be constructed? Also, for example, how may the interplay between surveillance and sousveillance affect whose privacy, and can there be a deterrence aspect to this? And what about this kind of point: I can now do something, for a while at least, quite privately with ease that not long ago would have been difficult, namely starting a YouTube channel where I can pose as an anonymous scat-singing “dawg” of sorts.

Since that reply, I’ve had no new ideas worth adding. But meanwhile I keep marveling, and fretting, at news about the rapid innovative growth in new surveillance and sousveillance platforms.  A good blog to follow about this is Contrary Brin, which takes a keen interest in transparency matters.

TIMN and archaeology — aspects of a time orientation:

A scholar blogger on cyber-security matters — Tim Stevens — wrote after hearing in the video that TIMN represents an exercise in archaeology as well as futurology:
“One thing from this video really piqued my attention. At one point, you talk, methodologically, about archaeology. What do you mean? As an ex-archaeologist, one that is increasingly becoming aware of the value of the archaeological method to ‘non-archaeological’ problems, I’d be very interested to understand how you understand the archaeological process with respect to more than the material / physical record. I’m working on (should be working on) a paper, ‘(Im)material Culture: Future Archaeologies of Cyber Conflict’, for a big IR conference this fall. Would be very interested in your methodological / theoretical input with respect to such a thing.”
This led to a long exchange, which I’ve rearranged slightly for presentational purposes.

My initial reply: I’ve never thought much about what I meant by that remark, except to underscore that TIMN is as much about the ancient past as the far-fetched future. But two thoughts come to mind:
1. Archeology (in my meager understanding) is mainly about uncovering physical artifacts, like technologies, and assessing what they may reveal about the nature of long-past peoples / culture / societies. My TIMN point would be that forms of organization are, in a sense, technologies too. That’s what I’d suppose TIMN says to focus on. And of course archeologists have contributed a lot to analyzing early chiefdoms and states.
2. Archeology can also be about how the past lingers in the present and potentially beyond. What I’d have in mind here is the modern persistence of the tribal form, as in manifestations ranging from extreme nationalism and hyper-partisanship (including in the U.S. Congress and on right-wing radio and TV talk shows), to enthused car clubs and sports fans, not to mention urban street gangs and a lot of other stuff.
Yet, in fact, as I finally recalled a little later (aargh, my aging brain), I really had thought about what I meant and did have a reason for using the word “archeology”: to sustain my personal view that I am unearthing TIMN as something that has long existed but can only now be seen, and to avoid claiming that I am creating or inventing it afresh. It’s a mindset I prefer. (And I remain convinced it’s the right view to take.)

The commenter continued to elaborate on his concerns:
“I guess what I’m getting at with this paper is whether archaeology as a methodology has anything to offer with respect to something that is so often claimed to be immaterial or virtual. If archaeology is a method through which we can reconstruct historical processes in their material and immaterial dimensions, we should be able to apply it to something as hard to pin down as ‘cyber conflict’, as broadly construed (i.e. not just cyber war). I haven’t worked out how we can do this yet, but there is some rather fluffy work in ‘media archaeology’ to draw upon, some of whose protagonists are moving into something they call ‘network archaeology’, which is more concerned with material infrastructures and so on.”
My reply to this: I remain intrigued by notions I see now and then, including in reference to the conference you mention, about doing an “archeology of the future” or a “future archeology” of something or other, especially if it is immaterial. But the how/what/why keep eluding my mystified abilities. I’m not well read on Foucault, which doesn’t help.

One tack might be to imagine a museum in the future and posit the kinds of devices, material and immaterial, that may be found in it, and the range of conclusions, accurate and inaccurate, that may be drawn from them. Just a passing thought.

The commenter turned to offer more interesting observations:
“On future archaeologies, etc, yup, I share your mild befuddlement. I too see various references to this and wonder at the reasons why and the methodologies employed. The question I’m currently wrestling with is: why not history? The historical method is quite sophisticated (although I’m very poorly read in it, and I mean that quite honestly). The presence of material artifacts does not a priori lead to the adoption of an archaeological method instead of an historical one. However, I am interested in what happens if you do choose the archaeological path or — and I wholeheartedly agree with you on this — settle in to a mindset that might be described as ‘archaeological’. I think your metaphor of uncovering or unearthing is sound and, quite probably, not actually a metaphor at all, Or, at least, what is described as a ‘dead metaphor’.”
Furthermore, he commented:
“One thing I will say about archaeology is that — since the 80s/90s anyway — it has devoted a lot of attention to ‘time’, in a way that IR has not (so too, sociology and geography — some great literature on time). IR is mainly about history, which has its own disciplinary problems with time, and I’m seriously wondering what we could learn from archaeology that can help us look at the multiple temporalities that exist in the issues we look at. A major thrust of my research generally at the moment is challenging the notion of the ‘global now’, or what Castells calls ‘timeless time’, or David Harvey calls ‘time-space compression’. This is an almost Fukuyamaesque elision of reality in favour of a catchphrase. It relies on a narrative of capitalist time hegemony that, whilst some of the thesis is demonstrably correct, it ignores the other temporalities that continue to exist alongside it, whether these are individual, cultural, social, and so on. Just because we’re running around like headless chickens, bleating about the pace of life and suffering in ‘time poverty’, does not mean that everyone else is too, everywhere in this tiny world. Many different temporalities exist, even as they clash with one another (if they didn’t, there would be no ‘time poverty’, for example, in our own culture).
“So ... extend this notion of other temporalities to cyber conflict. The narrative is: everything happens so fast that we need some kind of super-OODA loop to combat threats in this environment (notwithstanding the usual misreadings of Boyd, of course). It’s a totalising narrative, the kind of thing that archaeology has largely ditched as it’s grown up as a discipline (think: Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, etc). Like the old archaeological caricatures of past cultures derived from teleological notions of progress, a similar cosmology informs much of thinking about cyber conflict. I’d rather try and identify the various temporalities at work than to constrain all analysis within the ‘global now’ perspective. Something like Stuxnet is a great example of multiple temporalities: the time it took to develop; the timing of its deployment; how long it took to take effect; the time invested in human agents; diplomatic time; the temporal exigencies deriving from a possible nuclear Iran; the timing of Richard Clarke’s ‘outing’ of the US; and so on and so forth. To my mind, this is a far more interesting story than the standard narrative.
“Anyway, that’s kinda where I’m at right now. I think the time angle is an interesting one; I remain unsure whether an explicitly archaeological approach is warranted or possible but I’m going to give it some more thought ...”
I thought he made excellent points: I like the idea about examining different / multiple temporalities. It’s a keen theme for my “STA” interests, and I have lots of literature saved, but I never get around to it. Much of the lit is fraught with postmodernist writing that puts me off, but much interesting stuff too. As to your themes, I agree that Harvey’s space-time compression notion, while illuminating to a degree, is also insufficient, including in cyber domains.

Many hyped scenarios about cyber conflict reflect such space-time compression, as in scenarios about a sudden expansive “electronic Pearl Harbor” or “cyber-Armageddon”. But in fact, as you begin to note, two impressive cyber operations of the past couple years — Stuxnet and Flame — have been targeted (in space) and slow moving (in time). Likewise, the operations of some thieving botnets. Rather the contrary of Harvey’s claim, not to mention others.

And that ended our exchange. Subsequently I learned that his thesis is provisionally titled “Cyber Security and the Politics of Time.” Sounds interesting to me!

Thus our exchange wandered far afield, and we didn’t exactly focus on TIMN vis à vis STA. But the commenter’s points do indeed bear on how the rise of the network (+N) form raises all sorts of interesting questions about shifts in people’s time orientations.

A final thought: Trying to think about the kinds of time orientations that may characterize periods of radical uphheaval and transition is no mean matter. It can get quite complicated. And in reviewing attempts by various analysts, I’d advise including a look at one of the most dense explications about past, present, and future orientations: that by French sociologist Georges Gurvitch (1963, 1964).

He maintained that each social class, group, and sector in a society will tend “to operate in a time proper to itself” — so much so that he’d characterize social classes more by their subjective time orientations than their objective economic conditions. More to the point, he distinguished among eight kinds of social time, associating each with different historical eras, and different modes of political control and social structure. Of the eight, two — “time in advance of itself” and “explosive time” — seem pertinent to this blog post:
“7. ... I will mention what I shall call time in advance of itself . . . . The future becomes present. Such is the time of collective effervescence, of aspiration toward ideals and values, of collective acts of decision and innovation. Such also is the time of active masses and of the active and rebellious fusions and participations in them (communions actives et revoltees). This, at least in theory, is the time of the proletariat. ...
“8. Finally, as the eighth and last kind I shall point out explosive time, which dissolves the present as well as the past in the creation of the future immediately transcended. ... Such a time is that of collective acts of creation which always play some role in social life but which arise from beneath the surface and become open and dominant during revolutions. ... When it is real, explosive time places the global and partial social structures before complicated dilemmas, for it carries the maximum risk and demands the maximum effort to overcome it.” (Gurvitch, 1963, p.178)
Both types, but “explosive time” in particular, have a strong millenarian and apocalyptic tone, in which a future of all good things will burst into form following destruction of the present order. The substance of this future is only vaguely defined — but its moral worth is clear and beautiful. Indeed, the protagonists may be disinterested in detailed specification of the future vision, in part because they expect that moral forces alone will guarantee the results.

These are among the kinds of temporal cognitions that may be expected among people — including cyber terrrorists, at home and abroad — who believe that society has arrived at a critical juncture, that further decay is imminent, and that the prevailing order must be destroyed uncompromisingly. The calendar is explosive and destructive; it’s not the calendar — nor the narrative — of moderates and centrists, however visionary they too may be.

* * * * * * * * * *


I’ve decided to burden this post with a long appendix about spatial orientations. It’s from an unfinished third chapter — really a set of about ten chapters — that I evidently began drafting off-and-on during 2002-2007, with the intention of laying out the STA framework and using it to deconstruct terrorist mentalities. I don’t recall why I did not finish it — probably because of other matters (TIMN?) attracting my attention, and/or because of feeling overwhelmed by how much reading needed to be done in order to do a comprehensive write-up about STA.

This unfinished chapter may initially appear to be mainly about terrorist mindsets. But the extract I’ve selected is much more general in nature and touches on a variety of points that relate to TIMN — e.g., identifying an epochal shift from vertical to horizontal orientations.

In some respects, this material might make more sense as a stand-alone post about STA. But after all these years since I last looked at the draft, I’d have to edit it a lot to make it worth a stand-alone post, including by adding new readings to its references. I’m too far behind to do so. But I’m supposing that the part I’ve extracted is in good enough shape for this appendix, as a way to help show that there may well be all sorts of connections between TIMN and STA.

[unfinished draft, circa 2007]

Of the three cognitive domains — space, time, and action — the one that receives the most attention in terrorism analyses is action, notably the preference for violence. Time orientations — as in an apocalyptic intent to obliterate the present — are often second in emphasis. Spatial orientations receive the least explicit attention. But my reading of points made by analysts, as well as by terrorists and by people who live in locales that produce terrorists, indicates that spatial antipathies and ambitions figure as strongly and distinctly in terrorist minds as do time and action. It is not simply a loss of hope (a time orientation) that accounts for despair and the turn to terrorism, but also a loss of connection to one’s identity and to what one values in the surrounding space. The loss of temporal hope derives from the loss of spatial connection.

In particular — and this is my theme — terrorists come to acquire a very enlarged sense of social space; and within it, they become keenly resentful about the boundaries and barriers that constrain their own and other people’s lives. They become intent on bursting beyond those boundaries and barriers, and they want none placed on their use of violence. Hiding underground and then exploding outward is, for terrorists, an epitomizing, spatial act.

Space in Ordinary Life and Social Theory

Note these common distinctions: I/you; us/them; inside/outside; here/there; up/down; right/left, front/back; near/far; center/periphery. And these: home/office; public/private; sacred/secular; local/global; on/off the field. Add scale: big/little. Add shape: round, square. Identify links: open/closed; connected/disconnected. Add motion: going in circles, a straight line. Categorize people into classes, religions, and civilizations. These are all basic ways of thinking about social space — and only a tiny portion of them.[1]

People think every day about their place in the world, and everybody has a view about how the world, at least their world, is structured: about the objects and actors that populate it, their strengths and weaknesses, and the geography or architecture of relationships among them. People have a sense of how this affects what is important to them, and what they can or cannot do as a result.

Prosaic illustrations come to mind: A housewife oriented to family, community, and church in her locale may have a very different sense of social space from, say, a university intellectual whose horizons are global and glutted with distant institutions. A man-in-the-street who thinks politics and economics are separate and the “system” a disorganized mess has a different spatial sense from an ideological radical who believes that all powerful actors are bound together in a hierarchical, intrusive, conspiratorial system. Different spatial orientations also appear in a mystic who seeks to transcend everyday life by retreating into private religious realms, compared to a millenarian who yearns to publicly fuse heaven and earth — or in an ethnic warrior whose allegiance is to a tribe or a clan, compared to a professional soldier whose identity is tied to a nation-state.

Space remains a grand concept that rarely appears explicitly in political analysis. The study of social space and people’s perceptions of it has mainly arisen in writings of political philosophy (Emmanuel Kant, Henri Bergson), child development psychology (Jean Piaget), sociology of knowledge (Georges Gurvitch), and geography (which may be defined as the study of space and spatial relationships). But while space is not an easy term for political theorists to use, Sheldon Wolin’s Politics and Vision (1960, pp. 16-17) points out correctly that,
“By a variety of means, a society seeks to structure its space: by systems of rights and duties, class and social distinctions, legal and extralegal restraints and inhibitions, favors and punishments, permissions and taboos. These arrangements serve to mark out paths along which human motions can proceed harmlessly or beneficially. . . . [P]olitical space becomes a problem when human energies cannot be controlled by existing arrangements.”
Long before the details became so elaborate, man’s main spatial orientations were primarily vertical, especially in religious, philosophical, and political matters where the direction up meant sacred and powerful. Indeed, across the ages the vertical up/down orientation has exhibited a much pull stronger than left/right or front/back. Thus J. A. Laponce’s Left and Right: The Topography of Political Perceptions (1981, p. 70) points out that,
“[T]he vertical is, par excellence, the dimension that structures and orders, that which tolerates least disturbance, that which contains most of our invariant real knowledge about spatial location.”
In keeping with this tendency, Mircea Eliade’s The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (1959) relates how primitive and archaic people who were religious yearned to create sacred spaces, walled off from chaos and profanity, that represented “the center of the Cosmos” and stood on vertical axes linking heaven, earth, and the underworld. Medieval thinkers too looked mainly upward and downward, to heaven and hell, while drawing sharp distinctions between physical space and spiritual space.

Then, between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries, notes Lewis Mumford’s Technics and Civilization (1963, p. 20), “a revolutionary change in the conception of space took place in Western Europe. Space as a hierarchy of values was replaced by space as a system of magnitudes.” Thus began a new interest in horizontal orientations, which showed up in matters ranging from painting and mapmaking, to military technology (e.g., cross-bows as stand-off weapons), and the lateral spread of the enterprising workshop.

Horizontal political discriminations took hold later. According to Laponce (1981, p. 10), the major shift occurred with the French Revolution:
“Left/right entered the vocabulary of politics at the end of the eighteenth century during the French Revolution. As befits an egalitarian revolution the new horizontal dimension sought to replace the traditional vertical ordering used until then to relate the subject to his priest, his king, and his divinity.”
But vertical and horizontal orientations could not be fully separated. The persistent “dominance of up/down over the other spatial orderings and the greater valuing of what is high over what is low” (p. 69) meant that left became associated with down, and right with up. A century later, according to Stephen Kern’s The Culture of Time and Space: 1880-1918 (1983), technological innovations — the telegraph, telephone, wireless radio, and the airplane — caused further shifts in peoples’ perceptions of social space, bringing a new round in “the leveling of traditional hierarchies” and “a general cultural challenge to all outmoded hierarchies” (p. 315).

Vertical and horizontal distinctions have thus played strong roles in the history of peoples’ conceptions of space. But other configurations and dynamics are important as well. For people whose primary orientation is to family, clan, and tribe, a key spatial metaphor is the circle. David Pryce-Jone’s The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs (1989) pushes this point to its limits. Initially, the rise of the nation-state, capitalism, and “modernity” involved the idea of expanding outward from a controlling center, although today the spread of modernity is viewed less in terms of a core penetrating a periphery, and more as a matter of connecting the global and the local while avoiding fragmentation (Friedland and Boden, 1994, pp. 9ff.). Lately, for many information-age social activists and business actors, the key spatial design is the loose, sprawling, non-hierarchical network (see Arquilla and Ronfeldt, 2001). Meanwhile, the emergence of cyberspace has created a “virtual world” separate from the “real world.” Margaret Wertheim’s The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet (1999) finds this spells a revival of the Medieval distinction between spiritual and physical spaces.

Nowadays, many of the thinkers most taken with writing explicitly about space and place are social theorists who are categorized as postmodernists and critical social theorists. Their reference points include Gaston Bachelard, Henri Lefebvre, Michel Foucault, and Edward Soja. One key theme, identified mainly with Lefebvre’s The Production of Space (1991), is that producing something — be it a religion, an ideology, a new technology, or just a good story — creates space. A recent theme is that seeing things in terms of space has become more important, or at least as important, as seeing things in terms of time. The most famous (infamous) statement comes from Michel Foucault (1986, p. 24):
“The present epoch will perhaps be above all the epoch of space. We are in the epoch of simultaneity; we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed. We are at a moment, I believe, when our experience of the world is less that of a long life developing through time than that of a network that connects points and intersections with its own skein.”
This tendentious view overplays “the prominence of space” and “the distinction between Time and Space,” says Jon May and Nigel Thrift’s TimeSpace (2001, p. 1). Yet, some of today’s most serious social theorists — like Anthony Giddens (e.g., 1984) and Manuel Castells (e.g., 1996) — are devoting more attention than ever to spatial (as well as temporal) factors. And this is leading to insights. For example, past theorists saw space primarily in terms of the actors, objects, and structures comprising it, and secondarily in terms of the connections and flows among them. But now, as Manuel Castells’ The Rise of the Network Society (1996) observes, this ordering should be reversed. The information revolution, globalization, dense financial flows, and the rise of internetted global cities mean we should view the world in terms of
“a new spatial logic that I label space of flows. I shall oppose to such logic the historically rooted spatial organization of our common experience: the space of places. . . . [T]he space of flows . . . is becoming the dominant spatial manifestation of power and function in our societies.” (p. 378, ital. in orig.)
But how exactly should an analyst proceed to study people’s orientations to social space? What attributes and dimensions are important? Rather than focus on space per se, social-science studies of perception and behavior refer instead to the identity of the actors, the definition of the situation, the nature of the environment, the context of the scenario, and/or the structure of the system — terms that implicitly concern social space and an actor’s place and possibilities in it. A few explicit methodological notions have been fielded, notably in the 1960s and 1970s: notably, Hall’s “proxemics” (1966), Bachelard’s “topoanalysis” (1964), and Lefebvre’s “spatiology” (1991). In The Hidden Dimension (1966), Hall urges that proxemics be used for cross-cultural analyses of all “interrelated observations and theories of man’s use of space” (p. 101). Lefebvre (1991) proposes that spatiology (or “spatio-analysis”) focus on the production and uses of not only social but also physical and mental spaces. But these notions have yielded only passing references and footnotes. At times, “cognitive mapping” (see Downs and Stea, 1973, 1977) gained greater favor as a preferred way for anthropologists, psychologists, geographers, and urban planners to study spatial orientations — but this methodology too has had it ups and downs and not spread far.

In sum, the history of man’s spatial orientations is rich and varied — much more so than I discuss here. But the literature offers no preferred methods of analysis. In fact, most writers about social space do not attend to identifying well exactly what are the key dimensions.

Analytical Dimensions and Terrorist Orientations

My reading of the literature indicates that the basics include, or should include, as a minimum, an identification of the following:
  • The actors, objects, and structures — their identity, distribution, scope, and strength — defining the space.
  • Connections and pathways that link them.
  • Layout in terms of centers, distances, and horizons.
  • Divisions, or partitions, into realms, domains, and layers.
  • Organization of the above into whole systems.
Below I comment briefly on each. They could be discussed at length, but I must favor brevity in order to turn to discussing spatial orientations found among terrorists.  [REMAINDER SNIPPED]

[1] This list mostly contains dyads. Laponce (1981, pp. 19-20) points out that a dyad or a triad (with the third aspect often being the center of the other two) lies at the base of most systems of thought, born perhaps of the human tendency to observe contrasts and therefore pitch ideas in terms of dual categories and polar opposites.

I hope that this appendix is pertinent.  It’s fascinating material for helping construct and validate the STA framework.  But the focus of this blog post is still TIMN — and it involves STA only as it bears on TIMN.  To get much out of this appendix, then, a reader will have to interpolate.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Q’s & A’s about “TIMN in 20 minutes” (5th of 7): role of information technology

As explained in the introduction to the first post in this series, it logs comments on my video about TIMN. The introduction also explains how the posts are arranged, and how I’ve approached using commenters’ remarks. Readers should be mindful of the caveats I offered there about my presentation of those remarks and my replies.

This post logs comments about the association that TIMN posits between the rise of a new form and an attendant information technology revolution.  A few commenters took me to task about this TIMN theme — more than I expected and more than I encountered for any other post in this series.  So I’ve wondered whether what I said in the video was so sketchy that maybe it would help if I said a little more.

Accordingly, the proposition is that the rise and spread of each form is associated with a different information and communications technology revolution.  In brief, the rise of the tribal form depended on a symbolic revolution:  the emergence of language and early writing (runes, glyphs), enabling the storytelling that is central to tribal cultures.  The rise of the hierarchical institutional form — as in the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church, the absolutist states, and their vast administrative structures — reflected a mechanical revolution:  the development of formal writing and printing, first penned script and later the printing press.  This was important not only for keeping records and issuing commands, but also for inscribing laws that chiefdoms and states could apply to growing populations who were not kinfolk and often not well-known to each other.  Next, the rise of the market form and its far-flung business enterprises was sped by the electrical technologies of the 19th century:  the telegraph, telephone, and radio.  Today’s spread of the network form extends from the digital revolution and its technologies, notably the Internet, fax machines, and cellular telephones, which are especially empowering for civil-society associations around the world and across political spectrums.

I should add, as a corollary, that each successive information / communications technology revolution also modifies each of the older forms.  The video evidently did not make this clear. Besides, based on a quick search of my writings, I can’t find that I’ve written it up anywhere, even though I’ve long had this corollary in mind and have alluded to aspects of it (as noted in an appendix below).

Against that added background, let’s turn to the comments and my replies.

Information technology and the reinvigoration of tribes

An information-age strategist (indeed the same one who raised theoretical issues identified in my second post in this series) urged me to:
“Note that modern information technology has often given new life to older forms of social organization. Specifically, it has made tribes more viable. It is now more possible to organize successfully in a smaller scale, which is probably one reason why the trend we observed in the 19th and 20th centuries, in which smaller units merged or were conquered to form larger units under nationalism or colonialism, has been replaced in the 21st century by a trend for larger units to fragment. This would seem to be a significant part of the theory.”
I couldn’t reply at the time, but now I’d note that these are excellent points. The tribal form in particular has gone through many changes due to various information revolutions. Shifts from parochialism to nationalism comprise one such historical change, as he notes. And today a lot of fragmentation is indeed occurring. All sorts of narrow new tribes and clans have popped up via the Internet and other media.

But while I often read about examples of fragmentation, I wonder about less-noted contrary trends as well. For example, computers and cell phones are sometimes said to mean that family members may pull apart and proceed independently of each other more than ever. Yet, according to a recent survey (I’ve misplaced my source), many college students away from home now stay in touch with their parents more often than did past generations who had to rely on old hallway phones. Is this not an example — as I think — of the new technology aiding the persistence of familial (i.e., tribal) cohesion? Or should it be viewed — as the commenter later indicated — as an example of fragmentation, in that the new technology allows students to resist falling under the sway of a college’s institutional (I) paradigm, at a time in their live when they should supposedly make that transition?

In my own work, I’ve often looked for underlying patterns that confirm the enduring roles of the tribal (T) form. An example would be an essay about “Al Qaeda and Its Affiliates: A Global Tribe Waging Segmental Warfare” (here), in which I argued:
“Al Qaeda fits the tribal paradigm quite well. Thus, continuing to view Al Qaeda mainly as a cutting-edge, post-modern phenomenon of the information age misses a crucial point: Al Qaeda and affiliates are using the information age to reiterate ancient patterns of tribalism on a global scale. The war they are waging is more about virulent tribalism than religion. The tribal paradigm should be added to the network and other prevailing paradigms to help figure out the best policies and strategies for countering these violent actors.”
Actually, all sorts of tribalized actors are using myriad media — old and new — to express and strengthen their tribalness these days. At times I’ve alluded to aspects of how the new technologies may variously affect all the TIMN forms (see appendix below). But I’m disappointed to see that analysis about this is missing from my major essay on tribes as the first and forever form, even though that essay discusses transformations in how the tribal form is manifested across the ages. That’s something I should remedy in my expositions of TIMN — and it’s good that the commenter called for more attention.

As follow-up emails with the commenter showed, trying to test propositions in this area would be a challenge. Various notions have appeared, schools of thought taken hold, and debates arisen about how technologies affect societies. TIMN calls for a more specific focus: on how new information and communications technologies may affect the forms of organization that define societies. Questions might include why new info-comm tech may strengthen or weaken and otherwise alter one TIMN form more than another? And whether and why such effects may vary from culture to culture? Or from one stage of development to another? I think TIMN is up to such a task, but sorting it all out would require a major effort. For now, about all I can do is highlight points as they come along, as they have here with this commenter’s input, as well as with ones below.

The market form (+M) and information technology

A seasoned senior policy analyst — David Lyon — offered “One quibble on your presentation”:
You explain that markets emerged in large part because of telex, telephones, telegrams, etc. Well, surely markets existed long before that in barter economies, market places, and such. I especially remember reading once that a sophisticated credit system existed on the silk road. I could borrow money at one end to buy goods for shipment, haul them a 1000 miles, and be credited at the other end, pocketing my profit at the same time. I would simply tell my banker at the other end what I borrowed and he would trust me. Not only a market and transshipment model, but a credit system besides. PayPal?
In any event a very powerful framework you have, indeed, and much easier to understand than the earlier articles.
My reply: Oh yes, market activities existed long before the electrical information revolution. The market form, and its philosophical bases, began to take hold a century or two earlier. My basic TIMN line is that all four forms have existed, to one degree or another, since ancient times. But they have arisen and matured at different rates and in different eras. Requisite information revolutions are part of the explanation, but only a part. A deeper explanation would be that societies face and have to resolve different challenges as they develop. The identity (T) and administrative (I) problems normally come first. The video is evidently too sketchy about this, but I hope it’s clearer in some of the writings behind it.

Past movements that evolved from networks into institutions?

A commenter at the YouTube site — Bob Gerecke — questioned the ordering I’d given to TIMN:
It’s unclear whether Mr. Ronfeldt concludes that there is a one-way progression from T to I to M to N. Since he asserts that each is dependent on an information technology, and that those technologies have historically appeared in sequence, perhaps that’s his conclusion. If so, how does his theory accommodate the tendency of movements to evolve from networks into institutions? Two examples which come to mind are Christianity and Marxism.
My reply at the site was brief, due to size limits imposed by YouTube: TIMN implies a preferred progression, not one-way. It depends not just on technology but also [on] a society’s abilities to resolve different complexities as it advances. Some past movements evolved from networks into institutions, esp. if the network aspects were suborned by dominant hierarchies. Some network-like formations in Medieval eras were more like pan-clan formations than modern networks. They didn’t pose, philosophically or organizationally, the kind of sector that TIMN implies.

Here’s the long version I initially tried to post before being blocked by YouTube’s limits (and readers who’ve followed this series may spot that my reply repeats text I’ve used in other replies): You raise a challenging point. I’ve come across it before elsewhere, usually in regard to networks in Medieval eras. I remain uncertain as to how best to analyze in TIMN terms, which I’m still trying to figure out. But here are some tentative preliminary thoughts:
TIMN allows for all the forms to crop up at all times across history. I do not see that there is simply a one-way progression. But it sure looks like there is a preferred progression. And it depends not only on technology but also on a society’s abilities to resolve different kinds of problems and complexities as it advances. TIMN also identifies a pattern of regression; a society that enters into crises involving the later forms is likely to revert to emphasize the earlier forms.
Network-type formations are evidently more rife in Medieval eras than I once supposed. Yet I gather that many were more like pan-clan formations than modern network formations. Besides, rife though they may be, and much as they may enliven civil society, they still didn’t add up to the kind of sector that TIMN presumes will emerge. I’ve yet to see philosophic arguments from back then that argue for preferring the network form over the long term. Edmund Burke’s “little platoons” notion steps in the right direction, as may some other praises of civil-society associations back then. But so far, I tend to regard them as precursors to what may be evolving now.
I’m no expert on either Christianity or Marxism. But in my current view of TIMN, it fits that key parts of such past movements evolved from networks into institutions, not so much because of the movements’ network aspects, as because of the broader societal contexts in which they grew and attracted attention, leading ultimately to capture by hierarchical institutional forms.
By Christianity, I presume you refer mainly to Catholicism and the rise of the Papal hierarchy. Yet, different TIMN phases may be associated with different approaches to religion. There appear to be lots of examples of religions that remain deeply tribal in nature. The Catholic Church is a fine example of an institutional formation. Protestantism seems more in keeping with the market form. I’m still wondering about what may be the implications of the modern network form for religion.

Activist networks in Mexico

A former Pomona College classmate who shares an interest in Mexico — Juan Matute — was prompted by the video to note:
“One of the observable events of late, is the news on the student protests in Mexico. To me, this seems to validate your observation of the Network pillar of TIMN. Armed with social media and smart phones, a new generation of activists are able to blow past (or by) the old-guard Mexican press, and create its own observations, communication of values, and activism. The network is stronger than the militia and the police state, in the long run.”
Good points. Networked activism — social netwar — has been a  feature of political ferment in Mexico since the pro-Zapatista and pro-democracy movements of the mid 90s. In addition, a TIMN analysis I did back then (reprised here) argued that criminalization and a “stuck system” were likely for Mexico, and that various kinds of interlaced netwars remained likely. I’ve also argued (here) that Mexico would not fall apart nowadays — nor end up with a "failed state" — because obscure social and organizational networks keep forming to hold it together and limit instability.

What’s so terribly disturbing about Mexico now from a TIMN perspective is the descent into barbaric warlordism by clannishly tribal gangsters.  They need to be dealt with directly.  But from a broader TIMN perspective, rectifying these (T-level) problems may require cleaning up and reforming Mexico’s government (+I) and market (+M) systems as well, so that they work better for the broad masses of people.  Curiously, I read somewhere a year or so ago that, since Mexico’s economy was liberalized a few decades ago, it now has a much larger private sector, but this private sector is also less open, less competitive, and more monopolistic (I-like?) than before — not good for developing +M properly, even though Mexico’s economy is reportedly performing quite well these days.

Myriad historical exceptions?

A prominent blogger on security matters — Pundita — took me to task on numerous possible historical exceptions. I’m tempted to abridge her critique, but I also think it’s potentially useful for readers interested in TIMN to see in full the challenges it may face in this regard. Accordingly:
“David -- TIMN assigns writing and printing to hierarchical organizations (HO), and the chart you featured in your TIMN video lists the state, military and church as defining examples of HO. With regard to the state and in particular the military, you said in the video that writing and printing made it possible to issue written commands. The implication is that written commands were important in establishing and expanding armies as a key example of a hierarchical organization.
“If my understanding so far is correct, there are important examples that I think tend to skew your observations. Here are four, although a military historian might dredge up several more:
“1. The sophisticated hierarchical army that Temujin (Genghis Khan) developed was illiterate, so all commands were issued orally. And while Temujin’s most influential non-Mongol aide was literate (captured during the Mongol conquest of China) and was key in developing the governing structure of Mongol captured territory, he would have had to communicate his instructions orally to Mongol overseers who were illiterate.
“(The Mongols continued to resist literacy even for some time into the reign of Temujin’s immediate successor, until the captured aide put his foot down and insisted that Mongol children be taught to read and write.)
“2. Although the Mayans had writing, it’s unlikely that the army was literate:
““Religion permeated all phases of Mayan life. Law and taxation, for example, were interpreted as religious principles and religious offerings. Education was conducted mainly as training for priests, who made reading, writing, and learning caste specialties.” (source:
“The situation probably extended to the armies of other Mesoamerican civilizations. While I haven’t looked into this angle, I suspect the Mayan example could extend to other ancient civilizations that evolved sophisticated standing armies, such as the Egyptian -- and for pretty much the same reason that literacy was jealously guarded by the Mayan priestly caste.
“3. In Niall Ferguson’s “The West and the Rest,” which examines six factors that Niall believes allowed the West to eclipse powerful civilizations such as China’s and the Ottoman empire, Niall notes that the Ottomans adamantly refused to adopt the printing press until it was too late to catch up with the West. So while they were literate, they relied on script. The practice of manual writing was a big industry under the Ottomans (and surely under other Muslim rules); it supported thousands of scribes.
“The Ottoman example suggests one reason why even many literate societies (or literate elites) probably eschewed writing in favor of orally-issued commands in military affairs. It takes a lot of time to write out Arabic script -- and the quasi-sacred nature of many scripts meant that they had to be written with extreme care, and that sloppy efforts had to be rejected. Who had that kind of time during battle and while an army was on the move?
“4. The sophisticated army created by the Zulu conqueror-king Shaka was illiterate. Shaka was also adamantly against literacy:
““The expanding Zulu power inevitably clashed with European hegemony in the decades after Shaka’s death. In fact, European travellers to Shaka’s kingdom demonstrated advanced technology such as firearms and writing, but the Zulu monarch was less than convinced. There was no need to record messages, he held, since his messengers stood under penalty of death should they bear inaccurate tidings.” (source:
“Shaka’s remark could also throw light on why so many armies, while sophisticated in their organization and battle tactics, could operate just fine without written commands. People who aren’t literate might not have better memories than literates, but they do have much more practice than literates in committing long conversations and lengthy, complicated instructions to memory.
“So while all the above isn’t definitive, from the examples I’ve given, I’d question whether writing and printing, per se, were significant factors in the development of armies as hierarchical organizations.
“And from the example of the Mongol empire during Temujin’s life, I’m not certain how great a factor literacy played even in the establishment and maintenance of his state, which was one of history’s most powerful and far-flung.
“This doesn’t mean that writing and printing didn’t make contributions to the engineering, math and scientific fields which yielded the kind of advances in weaponry and communications technology that would have solidified the power of the HOs. But if there is indeed a significant ‘bridging’ factor(s) between the establishment of the military organization and writing/printing, you might want to make that distinction in your description of HO.
“I saw the TIMN video for the first time the other day. So I haven’t thought enough about the model up to this point to venture whether my observations, even if completely correct, would skew the HO segment of the TIMN model of social organization. But it seems to me that your model places great emphasis on the factor of progressive advances in communications in the development of human social organizations. Yet is it possible that distance communications -- those which cover distances that are too large to be handled in reasonable time by oral communications -- rather than communications per se, have been a key factor in any progression from tribal to networked forms of social organizations?”
My reply at the time: My preliminary impression is that, with caveats and qualifications about cases you mention, I can still stick with my general proposition that the rise of each form, in turn, depends in part on a new/next information revolution. I agree with your closing point that this has a lot to do with distance reach. I would add time reach as well; e.g., the rise of markets depends on expanding both spatial and temporal reach. In a way, this means there is a connection between my TIMN and STA [space-time-action framework] efforts — indeed, that’s the theme of the next post in this series.

Today I’d reiterate that this comment in particular, not to mention others above, shows what a challenge it’d be to do a thorough examination of the relationships between each of the TIMN forms and each information technology revolution. I’ve collected (but not yet read) a lot of scholarly books and articles about this topic over the last several decades, once intending to do a chapter on it. I’ve also kept an eye out for theorists who offer similar ideas and observations (e.g., Manuel Castells). But I’m quite sure that, at this point, I won’t be able to do much more on the topic.

* * * * * * * * * *


As the preceding comments indicate, my video on TIMN contained only about a paragraph claiming that each form’s rise is associated with a different information revolution. But at one time or another, I’ve tried to say more, particularly when I was first coming up with TIMN. The following text — evidently the longest, most scholarly few pages I’ve written about the claim — is excerpted from my old monograph on Institutions, Markets, and Networks: A Framework About the Evolution of Societies (RAND, DRU-590-FF, December 1993), pp. 45-49. This was the IMN precursor to TIMN, written just before I added tribes (T) to the framework. The excerpt indicates that I was already wondering about adding tribes. That may be one reason I never proceeded to publish the document formally at the time. In any case, I hope the inclusion of this out-dated appendix helps clarify some of my replies in this post, and shows that they're based on a little more research than the video indicates.

Importance of the New Information Technology [circa 1993]

“Each form of organization discussed here amounts to a different way of structuring, communicating, and dealing with information. All forms of organization depend on information and communications technology, and each of the forms in the IMN framework may be tied to the development of a particular information technology revolution. The rise of tribal and clan forms was associated with the development of language — including symbols and glyphs that expressed power and magic — and with early types of writing. The growth of the institutional form — as seen in the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church, and then the rise of the State and the institutions of liberal democracy — is tied to the development of writing and printing, first by hand and later through the invention of the printing press. The rise of the market form, and of the huge, far-flung enterprises it engendered, is associated with the development and spread of electric and electronic devices, notably the telegraph, telephone, and radio. Today, the rise of the network form is drawing impetus from the computer, the fax, and other technologies of the latest information and communications revolution. [1]

“This is putting it baldly, and of course the relationship between organization and technology is more complicated. For example, after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church became the most powerful institution spanning Europe, a fact expressed through its monopoly of manuscript writing and the dominance of the Latin language. The spread of the printing press loosened Rome’s grip on the communication media, facilitated the rise of Protestantism, and thus ended up weakening the Church’s control over many elements of society. Ergo, the printing press served to weaken hierarchy. Does this contradict what was said above? Not really, for while the printing press served to weaken the Church, it favored the development of a rival hierarchy: that of the absolutist nation-state. In France, Germany, and elsewhere across Europe, the new technology not only improved the state’s capacity for administrative record-keeping; it also enabled monarchies and other actors to start publishing in the local languages rather than in the Latin preferred by the Vatican — all of which proved a boon to the rise of national identities (Boorstin 1983: Chapt. 64).

“In addition, even though each new technology favored a particular organizational form, each in turn also strengthened the older form(s) of organization. Thus the telephone, the telegraph, and short-wave radio, which greatly benefited the spread of markets, also extended the reach of state bureaucracies and enabled the central command of armed forces. Today, computer network and satellite communications systems are helping make possible revolutionary advances in the revitalization of “global tribes” (Kotkin 1992), in inter-agency cooperation within and between governments, and in the growth of global companies and global financial markets (Wriston 1992). Markets are able to operate more like markets than ever before. But the important point remains this: the latest technology revolution is enabling a heretofore weak form of organization to come into its own.

“This latest revolution remains at an early stage. Computers, fax machines, and telephones are like Ferraris compared to the teletypes, typewriters, and telephones of a few decades ago. But they are Model-T Fords compared to what should exist in a decade or two. The advanced societies are on the cusp of a major shift: from what may be done on a stand-alone computer in an office, to what may be done by connecting a computer to communications networks, conferencing systems, databases, modeling and simulation systems, and other information utilities within and beyond the boundaries of an office or organization. Capacity and connectivity are growing exponentially. Out of sight of much public notice, all the interconnected electronic networks and interfaces — what is increasingly called “cyberspace” — is the fastest growing, newest domain of power and property in the world (Ronfeldt 1992).

“This revolution, like the earlier ones, has implications for all forms of organization — institutions, markets, and networks. Each has different requirements for, and imposes different structures on, the flow of information. Institutions generally depend on hierarchical command and control relationships where information stays in prescribed channels and bounds according to the lines of power and authority. Markets depend largely on price and exchange relationships where the marketplace exposes lots of actors to lots of information about supply, demand, terms of trade, etc. In contrast, multi-organizational networks (e.g., of NGOs) depend on constant communication, consultation, and coordination. To function efficiently and effectively across time and distance, multi-organizational networks may require more sophisticated information and communications flows than occurs with institutional and market systems. That is why the new technology is so important to this organizational form.

“Advanced information and communications capabilities can enhance the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of all forms of organization; thus computer systems, properly applied, should improve the performance of institutions and markets. This is occurring despite recent concerns about a “productivity paradox.” But improved efficiency is not the only effect. The new technology and related management innovations can also have a transforming effect. They disrupt old ways of doing things, provide the capability to do things differently, and suggest that some things may be done better if done differently.
“The consequences of new technology can be usefully thought of as first-level, or efficiency, effects and second level, or social system, effects. The history of previous technologies demonstrates that early in the life of a new technology, people are likely to emphasize the efficiency effects and underestimate or overlook potential social system effects. Advances in networking technologies now make it possible to think of people, as well as databases and processors, as resources on a network.
“Many organizations today are installing electronic networks for first-level efficiency reasons. Executives now beginning to deploy electronic mail and other network applications can realize efficiency gains such as reduced elapsed time for transactions. If we look beyond efficiency at behavioral and organizational changes, we’ll see where the second-level leverage is likely to be. These technologies can change how people spend their time and what and who they know and care about. The full range of payoffs, and the dilemmas, will come from how the technologies affect how people can think and work together — the second-level effects. (Sproull and Kiesler 1991: 15-16)”
“In fact, today’s information revolution is making life difficult for many institutions. It disrupts and erodes the hierarchies around which they are normally designed. It diffuses and redistributes power, often to the benefit of what would otherwise be considered the weaker, smaller actors. It crosses borders, and redraws the boundaries of offices and responsibilities. It expands the spatial and temporal horizons that actors should take into account. It generally compels closed systems to open up.

“But while this may make life difficult especially for some large, bureaucratic, aging institutions, the institutional form per se is not becoming obsolete. Hierarchical institutions remain essential to the organization of society. The responsive, capable ones will adapt their structures and processes to the information age. Many will evolve from the traditional, hierarchical to new, flexible, network-like models of organization. Success may depend on learning to interlace hierarchical and network principles. [2]

“However, there is a more important message for this essay. The very changes that trouble institutions — the erosion of hierarchy, etc. — favor the rise of multi-organizational networks. In the past, these were difficult to build and maintain because they required such dense information and communications flows. The new technology increases the attractiveness of the network form by making it possible for diverse, dispersed actors to communicate, consult, coordinate, and act jointly across greater distances and on the basis of more and better information than ever before. (Indeed, the information revolution is strengthening the importance of all forms of networks — social networks, communications networks, etc.) [3]”

[1] The relationship between organizational form and information technology deserves more research than I can do for this project. Good sources on printing and other pre-industrial communication modes include Eisenstein (1968, 1979), Innis (1950), and Jean (1982). Sources on the effects of electricity, the telephone, and the telegraph include Beniger (1986), Marvin (1988), and D. Nye (1990). My thinking has benefited from comments posted by Elin Smith in various discussion topics on the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link (the WELL — a computer-based conferencing system located in Sausalito, California). Also, I am well advised by RAND Graduate School student Joel Pliskin to consider that the point here may be less about the advance of technology per se, than about the increasing “bandwidth” that each advance affords and that people are increasingly capable of receiving.
[2] The literature on these points is vast. Ronfeldt (1992) provides background and references, including to Bell (1980) and Toffler (1971). Recent additions include: Boyer (1991), Huber (1990), Malone & Rockart (1991), Sproull & Keisler (September 1991), Toffler (1990).
[3] Many of these points are repeated from Ronfeldt (1992).

Does this appendix help?  Written in 1993, it seems rather out-of-date to me now.  But at least it shows that the sketchy talking points in my 2012 video have bits and pieces of scholarship behind them.  Moreover, this 1993 statement about IMN reflects my main TIMN proposition and an aspect of the corollary I mentioned at the beginning of this post:
“All forms of organization depend on information and communications technology, and each of the forms in the IMN framework may be tied to the development of a particular information technology revolution. ...
“In addition, even though each new technology favored a particular organizational form, each in turn also strengthened the older form(s) of organization.”