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OK, so ConspiracyTheories are normally considered crazy. :-)

But Conspiracies are precisely theories about networks : who's connected to who, how influence flows between them. Possibly conspiracy theories are the model for the study of power in networks ... and a possible contender for the equivalent of religion under NetoCracy.

(Read with TheEndOfConsensus, NetocracyAndEpistemology, ConspiracyTheoriesEvolve, ImprovisationalMillennialism)

More detail

What do I mean when I say conspiracy theories play the role for NetoCracy that religion did under feudalism?

Religion has two roles :

  • a body of knowledge (cosmology)
  • a source / explanation / justification of that body of knowledge (epistemology)

In the first place the religion is a collection of cosmological beliefs about the world. That collection of beliefs echoes the political structure of the feudal society, with an absolute ruler at the centre of the moral universe, and subsidiaries, courtiers, champions etc. The ruler creates the order of the universe (and by extension) the politics of society.

Religion also "explains" how we got that knowledge. God reveals it to us - via prophets and priests. The Godliness of this knowledge is it's own justification. (Compare OntologicalArgument) It also explains the errors : the devil's lies and misdirections.

Under ProjectMan, religion is replaced by science. A cosmology without God at the centre pulling the strings. Knowledge comes from and is justified by man's own research endeavour. The political organization of society, likewise. Rulers are justified in ruling the people only if it's for the people. Or better yet, elected by, and at the mercy of the people. Science is justified by the free-exercising of rational enquiry. And the free discussion and collaboration among men and women.

The equivalent for NetoCracy must play both roles : cosmology and epistemology.

Conspiracy theories as we normally understand them : who did what to who? who influenced who? who told who? who was secretly pulling the strings, financing the operation? These are a political cosmology. A body of knowledge to be researched. To be wrenched from the noumenal cloud of unknowing.

As cosmology, I extend the term "conspiracy theory" to refer to gossip of all kinds : celebrity and local; to refer to SocialNetworkAnalysis in the enterprise, to some anthropological and sociological observations. The moral universe is the NetworkSociety.

Equally this new "religion" must have its epistemology. Once again, a broad notion of "conspiracy" serves as a starting point. The media in its guise of investigative journalism rooting out conspiracy, as the fourth estate holding political power to account, is again both source and justification. And media distortions, FakeNews, explain errors too.

In the enterprise, a form of KnowledgeManagement focused on the social is increasingly important. We think of connectors and bridges, mavens and sneezers : the elements of SocialNetworkAnalysis. And again the network is its own justification. A good network structure will make ours a good knowledge organization. A bad explains failure. This is NetworkEpistemology.

Interestingly, as under ProjectMan it appears that free, rational discussion is what's valorized as the source of knowledge. At first sight, this may add weight to the "no netocracy, merely continuation of capitalism" response to NetoCracy.

But free, rational discussion is also noticably spun in a different way in this new economic mode. No longer is free-speech a dialogue between the lone rational agent and a generalized other. (Compare SyntheticMicroAnalysis) The explicit connections count. Freedom is essential but must be supplimented with approval and reputation to be justified. (Note, this isn't the same as appeal to a religious or political authority in the feudal sense.) It's an appeal to free enquiry structured by the social network. (See also DisputationArena)

There's also, of course, a strong focus on trying to discredit by association. "These are all lies because they come from that channel"

(So either replacement or InformationalistReductionOfCapitalism which casts the earlier mode in a new light.)

So, knowledge is no longer created by individualist hero-scientists (Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein) insisting on the right to speculate and publish freely however controversial their theories might be. Knowledge becomes the product of well-organized networks and people well positioned to take advantage of the alchemy of the net : SocialOriginOfGoodIdeas, TheNetworkIsTheBlog / EditorializingIsParallelizable, NetworksCreateValue)

As NetoCracy grows, both these cosmological and epistemological aspects will grow. We'll be interested in the network as object of intense scrutiny and speculation. And we'll appeal more and more to the network as justification for our knowledge.

CoryDoctorow reminds us they are fun :

Conspiracy Theories are a religion of social networks. As is TheCultOfCelebrity. And so I count celebrity gossip as a kind of conspiracy theory.

Here's how tricky this is going to be to unwind.

I was a paid internet shill describes life as someone paid to promote a particular viewpoint across a range of sites. Today we suspect this is common.

But this revealing story is, itself, posted on a UFO conspiracy site. (RightWingUFOConvergence)

Real things

DaveWiner has an (almost) Conspiracy view (ie. secret biases) of Tech. Conferences. HyperCamp and integrity etc. are presumably ways around it.

IlluminatiTheGame is a the game of conspiracies and social networking.

CosmaShalizi's take :

Secret Societies

See also :