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Cyber-utopianism, web-utopianism, digital utopianism, or utopian internet is a subcategory of technological utopianism and the belief that online communication helps bring about a more decentralized, democratic, and libertarian society.[1][2][3][4] The desired values may also be privacy and anonymity, freedom of expression, access to culture and information or also socialist ideals leading to digital socialism.[5][4]


The Californian Ideology is a set of beliefs combining bohemian and anti-authoritarian attitudes from the counterculture of the 1960s with techno-utopianism and support for neoliberal economic policies.[6] These beliefs are thought by some to have been characteristic of the culture of the IT industry in Silicon Valley and the West Coast of the United States during the dot-com boom of the 1990s.[7] Adam Curtis connects it to Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy in the film All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (TV series). Such an ideology of digital utopianism fueled the first generation of Internet pioneers.[8]


Political usage[edit]

One of the first initiatives associated with digital technologies and utopianism was the Chilean Project Cybersyn.[9] Project Cybersyn was an attempt of cybernetic governance for implementation of socialist planning under President Salvador Allende. The book Towards a New Socialism argues against the perception of digital socialism as a utopia.[10] Digital socialism can be categorized as a real utopian project.[11]

Cyber socialism is a name used for the practise of file sharing as a violation of intellectual property rights and whose legalisation was not expected - a utopia.[12][13]

Cyber-utopianism serves as a base for cyber-populism. Electronic democracy as suggested and practised by Pirate Parties is being seen to be an idea motivated by cyber-utopianism.[14] In Italy, the Five Star Movement extensively uses cyber-utopian rhetoric, promising direct democracy and better environmental regulations through the Web. In this case, they used the wonder or digital sublime associated with digital technologies to develop their political vision.[1]

Cognate utopias[edit]

Cyber-utopianism has been considered a derivative of extropianism,[15] in which the ultimate goal is to upload human consciousness to the internet. Ray Kurzweil, especially in The Age of Spiritual Machines, writes about a form of cyber-utopianism known as the Singularity; wherein, technological advancement will be so rapid that life will become experientially different, incomprehensible, and advanced.[16]

Hospitality exchange services[edit]

Hospitality exchange services (HospEx) are social networking services where hosts offer homestays for free. They are a gift economy and are shaped by altruism and are examples of cyber-utopianism.[17][18]


The existence of this belief has been documented since the beginning of the internet. The bursting of the dot-com bubble diminished the majority-utopian views of cyberspace; however, modern day "cyber skeptics" continue to exist. They believe in the idea that internet censorship and cyber sovereignty allows repressive governments to adapt their tactics to respond to threats by using technology against dissenting movements.[19] Douglas Rushkoff notes that, "ideas, information, and applications now launching on Web sites around the world capitalise on the transparency, usability, and accessibility that the internet was born to deliver".[19] In 2011, Evgeny Morozov, in his 2011 book The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, critiqued the role of cyber-utopianism in global politics;[20] stating that the belief is naïve and stubborn, enabling the opportunity for authoritarian control and monitoring.[21] Morozov notes that "former hippies", in the 1990s, are responsible for causing this misplaced utopian belief: "Cyber-utopians ambitiously set out to build a new and improved United Nations, only to end up with a digital Cirque du Soleil".[21]

Criticism in the past couple of decades has been made out against positivist readings of the internet. In 2010, Malcolm Gladwell, argued his doubts about the emancipatory and empowering qualities of social media in an article in The New Yorker. In the article, Gladwell criticises Clay Shirky for propagating and overestimating the revolutionary potential of social media: "Shirky considers this model of activism an upgrade. But it is simply a form of organizing which favors the weak-tie connections that give us access to information over the strong-tie connections that help us persevere in the face of danger."[22]

Cyber-utopianism has also been compared to a secular religion for the postmodern world.[23] In 2006, Andrew Keen wrote in The Weekly Standard that Web 2.0 is a "grand utopian movement" similar to "communist society" as described by Karl Marx.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Natale, Simone; Ballatore, Andrea (1 January 2014). "The web will kill them all: new media, digital utopia, and political struggle in the Italian 5-Star Movement". Media, Culture & Society. 36 (1): 105–121. doi:10.1177/0163443713511902. hdl:2318/1768935. ISSN 0163-4437. S2CID 73517559. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  2. ^ Flichy, Patrice (2007). The Internet Imaginaire. The MIT Press. ISBN 9780262062619. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  3. ^ Vaidhyanathan, Siva (2012). The Googlization of Everything. ucpress. ISBN 9780520272897. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  4. ^ a b Fuchs, Christian (13 January 2020). "The Utopian Internet, Computing, Communication, and Concrete Utopias: Reading William Morris, Peter Kropotkin, Ursula K. Le Guin, and P.M. in the Light of Digital Socialism". TripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. 18 (1): 146–186. doi:10.31269/triplec.v18i1.1143. ISSN 1726-670X. S2CID 212845309. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  5. ^ Burkart, Patrick (2014). Pirate Politics. The MIT Press. ISBN 9780262026949. JSTOR j.ctt9qf640. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  6. ^ Turner, Fred (2008-05-15). From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism. Chicago, Ill.: University Of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226817422.
  7. ^ Barbrook, Richard; Cameron, Andy. "The Californian Ideology". Imaginary Futures. Retrieved April 27, 2014.
  8. ^ J.M Reagle jr, Good Faith Collaboration (2010) p. 162
  9. ^ Staun, Harald. "Post-kapitalistische Ökonomie: Wann kommt der digitale Sozialismus?". FAZ.NET (in German). Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  10. ^ "Towards a New Socialism". Archived from the original on 2020-02-09. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  11. ^ Cox, Christopher M. (13 January 2020). "Rising With the Robots: Towards a Human-Machine Autonomy for Digital Socialism". TripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. 18 (1): 67–83. doi:10.31269/triplec.v18i1.1139. ISSN 1726-670X. S2CID 210969553. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  12. ^ Filby, Michael (2011). "Regulating File Sharing: Open Regulations for an Open Internet". Journal of International Commercial Law and Technology. 6: 207. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  13. ^ Filby, Michael (1 January 2008). "Together in electric dreams: cyber socialism, utopia and the creative commons". International Journal of Private Law. 1 (1–2): 94–109. doi:10.1504/IJPL.2008.019435. ISSN 1753-6235. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  14. ^ Khutkyy, Dmytro (July 2019). "Pirate Parties : The Social Movements of Electronic Democracy". Journal of Comparative Politics. ISSN 1337-7477. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  15. ^ "Cyber-utopianism - CrowdSociety". Retrieved 2020-11-06.
  16. ^ Kurzweil, R 1999, The age of spiritual machines : when computers exceed human intelligence, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, N.S.W.
  17. ^ Schöpf, Simon (2015-01-25). "The Commodification of the Couch: A Dialectical Analysis of Hospitality Exchange Platforms". TripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. 13 (1): 11–34–11–34. doi:10.31269/triplec.v13i1.480. ISSN 1726-670X. Retrieved 26 June 2021.
  18. ^ Latja, Piia (2010). "Creative Travel - Study of Tourism from a socio-cultural point of view - The Case of CouchSurfing". Retrieved 26 June 2021. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  19. ^ a b Rushkoff, Douglas (2002). Renaissance Now! Media Ecology and the New Global Narrative. Hampton Press. pp. 26–28.
  20. ^ R. Sassower, Digital Exposure: Postmodern Capitalism (2013) p. ix and p. 16
  21. ^ a b Morozov, Evgeny (2011). The Net Delusion. London: Penguin Group. ISBN 978-1-84614-353-3.
  22. ^ Gladwell, Malcolm (October 4, 2010). "Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on January 10, 2011. Retrieved May 1, 2024.
  23. ^ B. Neilson, Free Trade in the Bermuda Triangle (2004) p. 181
  24. ^ Keen, Andrew (15 February 2006). "Web 2.0; The second generation of the Internet has arrived. It's worse than you think". The Weekly Standard. Archived from the original on 25 February 2006.

Further reading[edit]

  • Dickel, Sascha, and Schrape, Jan-Felix (2017): The Logic of Digital Utopianism. Nano Ethics
  • Margaret Wertheim, The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace (2000)
  • Evgeny Morozov, To Save Everything, Click Here (2013)
  • Turner, Fred. From counterculture to cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the rise of digital utopianism. University Of Chicago Press, 2010.
  • Flichy, Patrice. The internet imaginaire. Mit Press, 2007.

External links[edit]