Lines of power: Availability to networks as a social phenomenon
More than a semantic difference, investigating what it means to be online or offline shines light on the contours and configurations of digitally augmented life (Jurgenson, 2011). Through the analysis of primary and secondary sources, this essay traces the origin of the terms online and offline to the early railroad industry where “the line” was a powerful orienting image. I propose that rather than an individual binary status; online/offline distinctions are more accurately described as a communal social relationship. This paper will argue that, rather than boycotts or similar market solutions, users are best served by following the historical example of railroads and fighting for democratized administrative control over networks.
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