Liquid Politics

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= The history of the Internet will be, in part, its role in creating an increasingly liquid world—one where information largely transcends spaces and extends across time. [1]


Wikileaks as Liquid Politics

By Nathan Jurgenson and PJ Rey:

"WikiLeaks is more broadly engaged in what we might call liquid politics (i.e., the struggle to either erect or remove barriers to the flow of information). In fact, WikiLeaks has a twofold relationship with liquidity. By enabling leaks, liquidity facilitates the WikiLeaks agenda and the organization, in turn, undermines the solid institutions that act as barriers to greater liquidity. This relationship with liquidity is quite deliberate, and an examination of Assange’s rhetoric reveals a nuanced (and somewhat Utopian) ideology that liquidity is antithetical to corruption. This is because liquidity produces involuntary transparency, and transparency, Assange believes, causes actors to behave virtuously. Indeed, Assange has even been called “the prophet of a coming age of involuntary transparency” (Greenberg, Forbes, 29 November 2010). This broad political agenda is evident in the imagery of the Wikileaks logo, which is designed to valorize fluidity by drawing on the classic light/dark, good/bad trope. Perched atop the logo is a dark, dangerous, solid globe; it melts like a liquid away into a lighter, happier globe that remains partially unformed. At the bottom, the word “WikiLeaks” is written in the same color scheme as the lighter, liquid globe, as if to announce “we’re on the side of this new world order.” It is important to note, however, that liquid politics are not monolithic. Adam Thierer and Berin Szoka (2009) identify two distinct ideologies that emerge in contemporary political discourse surrounding freedom/control of information on the web: cyber-collectivism (which argues that the Internet should be regulated to best conform with our values) and cyber-libertarianism (which focuses on minimizing government regulation). In examining the WikiLeaks agenda, we believe it is pertinent to add a third category, cyber-anarchism (which views the Web as a tool to weaken or dissolve [unnecessary] institutions). Because Assange’s focus is on using the Internet as a mechanism to regulate institutions (through enforced transparency) and not on regulating the Internet, few would argue that Assange is a cyber-collectivist. Most often, Assange is described a cyber-libertarian, but The Wall Street Journal (Crovitz, 2010), for example, has labeled him an “information anarchist” (though this may only be because it sounds more sensational)." (

The Egyptian Revolution

By Nathan Jurgenson and PJ Rey:

"The scenario that Assange describes arguably played out during the Egyptian uprisings that ousted then-president Hosni Mubarak in January 2011. Armed, in part, with social media—the great tool of liquid information—Egyptian protesters effectively organized themselves into a formidable force. However, Mubarak famously shut off the Internet; he literally closed the spout of liquid information. While the fact that he was effectively able to turn the Internet off signals the limits of liquidity, the aftershock resonates clearly: erecting barriers and becoming more solid (less-porous) served to make a government already in a legitimacy crisis seem even more repressive and anachronistic. Becoming even more solid, indeed, too solid, the structure of Mubarak’s government was even less prepared to withstand the rising tide of a liquid world that demands free-flowing, nimble electronic communications. “Pulling the plug” on the Internet did not slow protests, but enflamed them. Unable to bend, lacking in porousness, the structure was largely washed away." (