Control and Contingency Online (Introduction to Edited Volume Command Lines)

18 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2006

See all articles by Thomas M. Malaby

Thomas M. Malaby

University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

Date Written: January 27, 2006


It is becoming increasingly clear that the shift toward a digital society entails fundamental reconfigurations of forms of governance broadly defined. The emergence of governance online is edging steadily into the fields of vision of researchers, policy-makers, and the public at large. As has happened with our understanding of the economics of information and of the processes by which knowledge becomes codified, the informatization of society has deepened our appreciation of the variety of means by which political forms as complex adaptive systems become transformed within the broader legal field. At the same time, there has been recognition of the potential contributions of internet-based social practice since the first utopian fantasies and dystopian fears about what the net might bring; we now see rapidly growing participation in virtual worlds, networked games, and other online social spaces. Beyond these developments, of course, is the recognition that technological systems in themselves may offer potentials for and constraints upon democratic practice, but which of these become realized depends upon actions that range from technical design decisions, all the way through and past policy, to the practices of user communities. This introduction charts the bases for a productive encounter between our developing understandings of information, digital society, and technological architecture, and how all of these contribute to the transformation of multiple forms of governance, by proposing a framework for the multiple sources of control and contingency that together constitute governance online.

Keywords: Governance, control, contingency, technology, virtual worlds

Suggested Citation

Malaby, Thomas M., Control and Contingency Online (Introduction to Edited Volume Command Lines) (January 27, 2006). Available at SSRN: or

Thomas M. Malaby (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee ( email )

Department of Anthropology
P.O. Box 413
Milwaukee, WI 53201
United States
414-229-4175 (Phone)
414-229-5848 (Fax)

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