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The dualistic Internet: At the Manichean divide a new species emerges

When I follow discussions and debates on the Internet I am sometimes under the impression that the Internet is a digital postcolonialist playground. Quickly people and opinions are categorized in dualistic conflicting worldviews – the polarization of discussion (open and unbiased discussions are very seldomly found). Democracy, patriotism, internal and external wars, all political tactics based on factional conflict are supported by a worldview which I will refer to as the „manichean divide“

the dualistic world of the Internet is well described by Yancy’s concept of the “Manichean divide“:  The Internet that I know is an Internet that paints the world in (sometimes in white and black), good and evil, us and them, civilized and barbaric, peacekeepers and warmongering terrorists. The dichotomous as well as the Manichaeist bias would allow for an interpretation of the internet as a reality from a polarized point of view, where each of the opposite sides embodies positiveness or negativeness. Therefore both sides are absolute in digital nature.

However, the notion of Manichaeism is one very popular within the field of  postcolonial studies. It is so much concerned with the disequilibrium between digital inhabitants (often referred to as „digital natives“) and colonizers (critics, sceptics etc.), that most authors fail to see that Manichaeism proceeds on the assumption that the relative strength between the opposite cores
of on- and offlinet is balanced. The Manichean religion believes in two gods of equal strength. “The good god is the god of spirituality and light; the bad god is the god of matter and darkness, both equally eternal and powerful. They are the essence of power and destruction” (Herrera). Manichean belief identifies itself as a religion based on the assumption that both good and evil are equal in strength. This assumption fosters further consequences. I am only pointing this out to stress the the fact that none of the opposing parties (Onliners vs. Offliners) meet each other in preset roles of unbalanced power a priori.

The strength inherent to the onliners (digital natives) spatial environment lies in the dynamic of separation. In the hands of the  onliner the frontier between the digital realm and the offline world becomes an agent. In his renowned study „The Significance of the Frontier in American History“ Frederick
Jackson Turner came up with the thesis that at the western border of the American country civilization and the wild would constantly collide. From the contested peripheries of this steadily online/offline moving frontier a new interconnected species emerges. “Up to our own day American history has been in a large degree the history of the colonization of the Great West. The
existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward, explain American development” (Turner 1). Turner points out the peculiarity of America as, “[…] the fact that it has been compelled to adapt to the changes of expanding people”.

Applying Turner to the new frontier between the digital and non-digital world… Here is what constitutes the new species: Online and Offline social development has been continually beginning over again on the frontier between the digital realm and „Real“ life. This perennial rebirth, this fluidity of this sometimes dualistic life, this expansion with its new opportunities, its continuous touch with the simplicity of primitive society, furnish the forces dominating the On-Off character.

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