|Global Networks and Local Values|
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Some value judgments, like the objection to child pornography, are essentially universal. But even nations as culturally close as the United States and Germany are divided on many value issues. For example, in the light of its history, Germany has actually banned right-wing publications that would be allowed, even if not admired, in the United States. On the other hand, Americans in large numbers deem certain materials pornographic that most Germans would find inoffensive (see Box 3.1 for these and other examples). These kinds of contrasts would seem to lead to the stark and simplistic assertion that global networks threaten local values. But the reality is much more complex. The purpose of this background chapter is to lay the conceptual foundation for understanding what values are, so that the interaction of global networks with the particular value-driven issues addressed in later chapters can be better understood.
There is no universal agreement on what the term '"value"' means. The dictionary definition ("a principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable"1 ) has a question-begging quality to it. Although almost all behavioral and social scientists deal with values in one way or another, they tend to avoid the term and replace it with more specific concepts. Economists, for example, typically focus on behavioral responses to incentives, with the assumption that they are a measure of (and do not themselves affect) values. Nevertheless, analysis of values has increased--and improved in quality--with the recognition that values can change; they can be affected by public policy, and they influence how people respond to public policy.2
This study aims specifically at understanding the influence of global networks on local values, and the public unease to which it gives rise, in order to provide advice to political actors on how--and whether--to take action. Under the circumstances, it is difficult to avoid the general question of what values are, what function they have for the individual, society, and government, and what makes them local. The following sections take up these issues and their implications.
Although public concern with the impact of global networks is often cast in terms of the effect on local values, in some instances the perceived threat to a value is a proxy for a more tangible threat. Thus, if people ask to be shielded from inadvertent access to depictions of brutal violence, they may well be driven by a fear of the trauma--that is, the mental injury--that exposure to such scenes might produce rather than a principled objection to the exposure itself. Some forms of crude pornography might fall into the same category. Thus, the objection could be based both on a normative conviction concerning graphic violence and a self-preserving concern for one's mental health.
There is a subtle, but real, difference here. Measures aimed at promoting a normative conviction, or value, are intended to encourage conformity among those who might not be inclined to accept it, though a single violation would not challenge its validity or lead to any great harm. A trauma, on the other hand, hits those whose normative conviction may be quite firm. And a single exposure can be enough to cause unacceptable harm.3
In fact, although there are some differences in how they are manifested in the United States and Germany, arguments to limit access to pornography or portrayals of violence are frequently justified in terms of the need to protect minors rather than as a question of morality. To some extent, the approach may be disingenuous in that adults who object to depictions of nudity might simply find it more convenient and effective to use the child-protection argument than to have to defend the value in the abstract. Of course, this strategy could lead policymakers and designers to develop legal tools and technical approaches specifically directed at minors, which would do little to deal with the actual concerns that prompted the outcry.4
The German treatment of Nazi speech illustrates still another distinction (Box 3.2). The use of Nazi symbols, open adherence to Nazi ideology, or the distribution of Nazi publications without a strong disclaimer is a taboo--a very strong form of protecting and enforcing a value judgement. Anyone openly breaking the taboo, even once, is alienated from the community. Yet, the violation does not necessarily threaten the taboo. In fact, occasional breaches can even help a society enforce the tabooed value; it can be argued that the common and visible defense of the taboo can serve as a powerful social bond. At the limit, a society may even define itself by its shared taboos.5 To some extent, these same arguments might also apply to values that are part of what has been called political correctness.
Finally, there are the circumstances in which the potential harm is not the content itself, but its use in the outside, non-virtual world. The most obvious case is the publication of bomb-building instructions. The concern in that instance does not arise because the communication challenges the principle that it is wrong to kill people. The value itself is not in danger, though people's lives might be.
In these examples, the issue is less a threat to a local value than it is a broader social or political problem. But there are also instances in which global networks may serve to promote local values that have been undermined by political considerations. For example, global networks give German citizens access to environmental information that the German government holds but has been hesitant to release, despite its legal obligation to do so. And the very fact that information of that kind is made available in other countries through the Internet may pressure German administrators to move toward more open policies.6
Compared to the situation in Germany, the issue of government openness has been less problematic in the United States. Moreover, global networks serve to multiply sources of information there at a time when consolidation in other media has raised concern that the diversity of viewpoints made available to the public--also a clear local value--might be reduced.
To understand a concept as complex as that of values, one needs to be able to interpret and apply it. For purposes of the present study, that can best be achieved by delineating their function for the individual, for society, and for government. In this way, one needn't be wedded to a particular set of values. In fact, by being clear about the functions that values serve, their "evolutionary potential" becomes clear as well.
Although philosophers have put considerable effort into making sense out of the question, "What is a chair?", most of us are satisfied that we know one when we see one. For the semantically identical question, "What is a local value?", the common-sense answer does not work as well. What a value is depends on how we look at it, and the framework for analyzing the question is not neutral. The way the problem is framed is inherently normative, and it inevitably has an impact on whatever answer is given.
Nearly all the behavioral and social sciences have their own view of what values are. Ethics is obviously about values, but philosophers also rely on values when they insist that understanding is interpreting. They argue that reality cannot be understood without some attempt to interpret what its purpose is and what it does.7 Some philosophers go even further. They conceive of humans as social animals and see normativity (or values) as the precondition for passing from the isolated individual to a society.8
Rational-choice analysis starts from the premise that each individual maximizes his or her own utility. Rationality, rather than a morality of group obligation, guides decisions. This view is predominant in economics, but also has its adherents in political science and sociology. The distinction between preferences and restrictions is fundamental in rational-choice models. Values become institutions that restrict choice. Bad conscience is considered to be a psychic cost. Commonly shared values are modeled as social norms. These restrictions are interpreted as tools that facilitate the coordination of behavior and, in that sense, as goods not provided by the market.9
On the other hand, second-generation models of rationality incorporate values into a more nuanced understanding of preferences. In this perspective, preferences are no longer taken for granted; values are key to the formation of preference.10 A third view starts from the observation that two or more persons may share a given value. This is a way of adding context, or history, and leads to rational choices and behaviors that optimize values involving more than one individual.11
Sociology is concerned with the society-building function of values. Integration theory views values as a sort of a social glue. In the approach of systems theory, each subsystem--for example, the economy, the law, or politics--is held together by its particular formal code, such as price, legality, or power. The formality of the code opens subsystems up to flexible principles, or values, that may differ from society to society.12 Sociology also provides a way to interpret or measure how more general descriptions of a society--such as its closed or open nature--manifest themselves in particular value sets.13
In psychology, which is concerned with explaining behavior, values arise in at least three different ways. They help the individual understand the social environment to which he or she reacts. They manifest themselves as attitudes that help the individual choose between competing courses of action. And they motivate behavior, inducing the individual to translate attitude into action.14
The study and practice of law are about formal institutions. The interpretation of statutes or the identification of analogous cases in law is inevitably shaped by values.15 In legal methodology, this is called teleological construction. In the modern world, where neither history nor divine authority establishes law, the legitimacy of the legal code is, itself, a normative question. In other words, laws need to be legitimated by values.16 And the law adds a helpful methodological distinction between rules and principles. Rules can be expressed in conditional terms: If A, then B. Principles are characterized by their finality. Those bound by a principle seek to realize it in each situation to which it might apply.17 Values are more like principles than rules.
Finally, cultural theory adds relativity to the picture. In this perspective, value A is not only liable to be replaced by value B over a period of time. They might command attention at the same time, even though they may promote entirely different perspectives or even be somewhat contradictory. Cultural theory deliberately foregoes intellectual neatness and, on the contrary, investigates how societies manage to balance different solidarities, or value orientations. It thereby also helps us understand why and how values change.18
This rapid tour is obviously not meant to be an exhaustive discussion of the meaning of the term "values."19 Indeed, our understanding of what values are, and what makes them "local," will always be tenuous and subject to change. However, the framework is useful in reminding policymakers of the many dimensions of the issue that must be considered when examining the influences of global networks. Policymakers must also be aware of the functions that values serve as they consider where and when action is called for. The following sections address that question.
Values endow the individual with yardsticks--a normative language that allows him or her to distinguish. They provide guidance on whether certain behaviors are desirable or not, and to what extent. They provide a basis for deciding on one's own behavior. But understanding, judging, and deciding are normally a balancing exercise, with several values coming into play, and not all of one's actions are actually guided by such a deliberate decision process.20 Nevertheless, it provides both comfort and assurance to have a set of values, and the capacity to apply them in a deliberate process of decision making, when faced with new circumstances.
The normative grammar of personal values also helps to form hypotheses of what the behavior of other individuals means. And it helps predict how others are likely to react to a person's actions. In both ways, values serve as a cognitive tool to guide social behavior.
Finally, an individual needs values for self-evaluation. Human beings require self-esteem, which comes from a sense of achievement. Personal values tell the individual which achievements are worthy of self-esteem. Indeed, one can argue that values are a key to consciousness itself; many argue that consciousness presupposes the ability to look at oneself from the outside, and values are an instrument for doing so. By adopting a set of values, the individual effectively gains access to an external reference that, in effect, provides the independent point of observation that is necessary for consciousness.21
From a practical point of view, individuals are always part of some society. They may move from one society or social grouping to another throughout their lives, but each one contributes to shaping a person's values and, in turn, displays values shaped by the individuals who comprise it. Some argue that the very notion of reality is socially constructed, and that individual values are socially pre-formed.22 Others go further, arguing that only by defining himself or herself as a member of a normatively constructed society can an individual become a person, conscious and distinct from other animal species.23
Nevertheless, it makes sense to distinguish between the role that values play for the individual and the related but distinct role that values play for society. Unlike the state, society is not a clear-cut concept and does not have precise boundaries. Each social interaction, from the most transient to the most permanent, from two individuals in a business transaction to the citizens who make up a nation, is a manifestation of some form of society. Individuals may be part of a narrowly defined social group, such as a profession. They may view themselves as being part of a much more loosely knit network like the community of workers. The only link may be a territorial one, as for the inhabitants of a region. Or the social nexus may be the factual overlay of a legal condition, such as citizenship. The voluntary and virtual community of the Internet and its many epistemic (specialized) subgroups are, in this respect, merely a somewhat modified societal form.
From the viewpoint of society, values basically serve three purposes. They convey information, they facilitate coordination, and they give the group an identity. Society is first and foremost an informational community. Precisely because they share values, members can interpret the behavior of other members and establish expectations about it. This is particularly important in judging the credibility of what one person says to another about his or her intentions or commitments--that is, the individual's behavior in the future. The greater the extent to which the intended or promised behavior conforms to a common value, the more credible is the transmitted information.
The communication of information is key to the coordination of behavior, as game theory shows. If two individuals can't talk to each other before they act and share no common values, neither has a basis for making an educated guess as to how the other will behave. And if they talk to each other but do not understand each other's values, neither can predict whether the other will keep any promises made.
Finally, some common value acceptance is the bedrock of group identity. All members of the group must actually adhere to the value, and all members want to be sure that all others do so as well. Normative values form a cognitive framework for allowing individuals to understand social reality. Moreover, society organizes itself around shared values. Thus the function of society is to help individuals by guaranteeing values, and the function of these same values is to give cohesion and identity to the society. Common values, in other words, are a key ingredient in societal integration.24 And integration reflects how society and the state are tied together.
If a single local value is challenged or eroded, social cohesion and integration are unlikely to be deeply affected. Indeed, a society's set of values has never been totally stable over time. Traditional values have been challenged whenever a sufficiently large stratum of society has been exposed to different cultures. But society is an adaptive organism; it adjusts to the new values, rebalances the old ones, and usually bends without breaking. However, all societies have certain values that are fundamental for the self-definition of the group and that weaken group cohesion if challenged. When several such values are challenged simultaneously, rapid adaptation can be highly threatening.
These, then, become important analytical benchmarks against which to judge the effects of global networks. But it is not easy to isolate the influence of global networks--and in particular the Internet--from other factors that affect local values. For example, in both Europe and the United States, post-World War II affluence and the application of many kinds of technology have promoted similar patterns of changes in values--albeit with differing trajectories.25 By altering people's perceptions of their nation's well-being and of their own well-being, affluence can indirectly alter local values and, across nations similarly situated, promote some convergence of values. That convergence may either strengthen or weaken efforts to preserve remaining differences, as is evident in the conflicts within the United States over multiculturalism and the implications of an increasingly heterogeneous, pluralistic society within with a single nation.26
Legal formality distinguishes state and society. The state is what it is because its constitution defines it to be so. But such a formally constructed state can take almost any form. At one extreme, it is little more than a fiction--the assertion, for example, of an exile group that controls no territory, provides no services, and has earned no recognition. At the other extreme, it may exist as an absolute dictatorship, with great power but no legitimacy. In neither case is there a need for values. Real-world states fall in-between. They are connected with their citizenry and related to their society by shared values. These values serve three purposes. They provide a basis for the development of statutes to which people are inclined to adhere. Conversely, they give legitimacy to a government whose actions and laws conform to the shared values. And finally, commonly shared and protected values are as important an instrument for building a national identity as they are for building a social identity.
It is important to remember that time itself alters the relations between individuals, society, and the state. Individual life has a defined beginning and an equally defined end. Since no one is born with a set of values, each person has to learn them. States can also begin and end. A new state is founded by secession, unification, or revolution. And in the same way, an old state can perish. Such events change values over time for people and the states of which they are a part.27 This is equally true of societies or social groups. Local values may have their origins in a blurred past that is seldom completely abandoned. However, the set of values evolves over time, triggered by events in the world, a changed composition of the population, or fresh ideas. Indeed, one may argue that this is a healthy dynamic, responsive to changing circumstances, producing more open societies, and recognizing the fundamental relativity of values.
The evolutionary perspective draws attention to the salutary effects of a value system that can adapt to change over time. This is analogous to the value of biodiversity in providing a gene pool that, through selection, can adapt life on the planet to changed conditions. Anthropologists have long drawn a parallel between genes and memes (characteristics of a culture that allow it to develop and change).28 The parallel suggests that cultural diversity and the maintenance of marginal cultures is more than the nostalgic protection of a living museum.29
Some values are essentially universal, such as the revulsion to child pornography, while other values are nearly so, stretching over large parts of the world. The developed world, for example, is such a community, sharing a commitment to concepts such as human rights. Still other values are connected with language zones, for language can provide a common understanding of a concept or, alternatively, can reflect the existence of such an understanding. Consider the English word "reasonable." There is no accurate German equivalent. And, indeed, Germans, in general, value reasonableness less highly than, say, the English.
Many values do not spread beyond national borders. However, this does not mean that local values are merely those that underlie a given legal order. It is true that governing is easier when constituencies share values, but in democratic states it is at least debatable whether government has a mandate to form the values of its citizens. Many lawyers go even further. They argue that government may only ask its citizens to obey the law, not to believe that statutes are morally binding. Consequently, penal law may protect the prevailing values only insofar as their violation yields socially destructive results. It is the action that is penalized, not the intention. If government oversteps the borderline between legal and moral obligation, it risks becoming totalitarian.30
The appropriate link between locality and values is thus not government, but society. For the last hundred years or so, there was little practical difference between the two; in the era of the nation-state, the territorial reaches of government and society were more or less the same. But whether culture and state will continue to be so closely linked is by no means assured; many ask whether globalization will leave cultural boundaries unaffected. After all, the connection between the national economy and the national state already appears to be fading.31
Historically, culture has not always been linked to territory; it has frequently been more closely connected to ethnic groups. That is equally true today, particularly as global networks have made it rather easy to maintain close connections across long distances, and as significant migrations have brought new diversity to the ethnic makeup of many countries. It may therefore be more appropriate to define the locality of values by their link to a specific culture.32
Finally, not all values spread homogeneously over an entire nation. Regional differences are often quite robust, having been recognized and preserved by well-entrenched regional cultures. In this respect, too, the connection of values to culture is apparent.
In describing the locality of values, one needs to distinguish a value that is locally practiced from one that is locally embedded. Since no value is adhered to without exception, embeddedness seems to be the more appropriate measure. It is also analytically easier to handle. Embeddedness is achieved through institutions, both formal and informal, and institutions are easier to discern than mere practice or belief. Even more importantly, institutions can be more easily connected to a social or legal entity. That allows us to determine how far the value reaches and to identify locality, even where more than one institution protects the same substantive value.
At first blush, this ambiguity looks like an analytical drawback, not an advantage. But locality is more related to a value system than to a particular value. Because modern societies do not really live in accordance with a hierarchical, rigid, and totally coherent order of values, there will be overlaps and even inconsistencies among the values promoted by various institutions. What makes one society distinct from another is the specific balance of values.
Although we cannot do without values, this doesn't mean that the protection of values should be treated as the highest obligation of a society. Too many values, the wrong values, or an improper balance of them can even be dysfunctional. Even if a set of values served well in the past, it may be a mistake to maintain it as the social environment changes.
The link between values and institutions is instructive in this respect. Institutions provide the means for dealing practically with social dilemmas, but there is almost always more than one institution that can do the job. The choice between the options is normally not exclusively guided by the expected efficacy of the institution or the costs associated with it, but also by group interest. To do something that serves the common good has always been a much easier way to extract rents from others than by openly asking for the redistribution of wealth.33 For example, Thomas Jefferson, in pressing for the creation of publicly supported universities, argued that they were necessary "to avail the state of those talents, sown equally among the poor as the rich, which perish without use if not sought for and cultivated."
The legitimacy of a set of values depends on the function they have to fulfill. For family life, or for behavior toward old friends, different values are appropriate than for buying a book from an Internet bookseller. Although the result thus depends on the context, the categories can be generalized. A first distinction is the one between formal and substantive values.34 The archetypal formal value is tolerance. It deliberately leaves open which substantive values another person may adopt, and asks us to respect that decision.
Other formal values are, for example, the moral obligation to keep one's promises, to abide by legitimate statutes, or to pay taxes. Obviously, a person needs greater specificity than that. To make decisions about behavior or to understand the social environment, he or she requires substantive values. But formal values provide the means for leading a fairly consistent life. The distinction between the formal and the substantive is analogous to that of government and society. In public education, for example, there is a continuing debate as to whether the value content of the curriculum should be limited to the formal, or whether the government should use the institution to instill more substantive values. Many believe that governments and society alike should stay away from actively promoting substantive values. But as a practical matter, it is hard to imagine how any societal cohesion could be maintained without actively promoting at least some commonly shared values.
A useful way to promote societal cohesion without imposing excessive rigidity might be to emphasize sets of values rather than any single value. As suggested above, such a local set of values is more than the juxtaposition of a number of values and less than a strict hierarchical order. It is a web of values, with knots of greater and lesser importance for the network. Some may be untied or loosened, on the basis of individual preference. Others need to be strongly fixed and could be challenged only by a broad and long-term movement originating in a significant stratum of society.
The notion of a web of values sheds light on a related phenomenon. The isolated individual is not only a member of society at large, but also of smaller social groups. The more coherent these groups, the stronger they are tied by substantive, rather than formal, values. They form epistemic communities,35 a phenomenon made both easier and more widespread by the advent of global networks. If society at large is not to disintegrate into a constellation of such epistemic communities, substantive group values must be outweighed by equally strong formal values at the level of society at large. This places a heavy burden on the institutions that protect these formal values.
As the discussion in this chapter should make clear, casting light on the impact of global networks on local values is not a straightforward task. The complexities of values and value sets--the different functions they serve for different levels of social aggregation, as well as their dynamic change--mean that well-defined cause-and-effect relationships may not exist.
Global networks are themselves a moving target and thus provide an uncertain starting point for the analysis. The degree of technical standardization has been consciously kept to a minimum. The Internet, as a network of networks, is open to new networks and to qualitative change. The rapid commercialization of the Internet introduces further uncertainties--for example, how much will e-commerce change the traditional egalitarian Internet culture? Equally uncertain is the extent to which global networks will be split into language and culture zones.36
Furthermore, global networks are not the only challenge to local values. An older and no less powerful challenge stems from transnational broadcasting. Migration and tourism bring people from different cultural backgrounds together. Even international trade in goods is not always value-neutral. How goods are designed and marketed is influenced by the culture at their place of origin.
Finally, the impact of global networks on local values is not one of strict cause and effect. Technology does not determine social development. At most, it impedes traditional paths for the development of local values, and opens up new paths. More often, it does no more than change relative costs and opportunities among alternatives. Therefore, the relationship between global networks and local values is not unidirectional. Global networks may have the potential to change the evolution of the local set of values, but the process can also work the other way round. Local values can alter the development path of global networks. An obvious example is the demand to design Internet portals in a way that distinguishes between the physical locations of users. If this became reality, global networks would be effectively renationalized, in order to limit the incursion of foreign values.
The effect of global networks on local values and their balance is likely to be indirect. Faced with new opportunities and risks, the individual is likely to reshape his or her preferences in a way that better fits the changed environment.37 This is often done unconsciously.38 Sociologists point out that restrictions and, more specifically, institutions tend to reshape preferences. In practical terms, global networks can thus affect local values by changing social and political structures (see Chapter 4), or ways of doing business (see Chapter 7).
What follows--an attempt to identify specific ways in which global networks have the potential to alter local values--is thus only one cut through a very complex relationship.
Although some advocates of cyber-culture argue otherwise, global networks do not themselves represent an entirely new form of society or a new state. At most, they give birth to new transnational social groups. Normally, they are no more than a new communication medium for persons who remain members of social groups that are rooted in real life. Global networks do sometimes make it easier to "leave" an original social group, or even a state, and become a member of a new group, society, or state. But the individual can not help but remain a member of his or her original group and state. The question, however, is whether the regular contact with global networks changes the relationship between the member and that original group or state. More specifically: does the use of global networks potentially change the individual's set of values in a way that alienates him or her more profoundly than before from the set of values embedded in local institutions?39
The answer to that question depends on how global networks affect value orientations. One can envision four possibilities: global networks are potentially globalizers, pluralizers, convergers, or de-contextualizers.
That global networks potentially are globalizers sounds much like a truism. But with respect to values, it can mean two different things. The first interpretation is closely related to what economists call systems competition.40 An individual, who dislikes a specific value in the local set, or the composition of that set more generally, uses global networks to exit from the local environment. This could occur if and when global networks actually allow a person to leave the social group entirely. More likely, global networks might allow a person to split his or her activities in such a way that the activities viewed unfavorably by the local value system are out of the reach of those local institutions that enforce the system.41
In contrast to this rather passive role of global networks, one can also envision circumstances in which the networks serve to globalize a value. For example, Western societies, to a greater or lesser degree, endorse open and wide political discourse in which people can participate regardless of gender or class. Networks promote a globalization of that value, which can lead to conflict with some traditional local values. Even in this instance, the global value may not replace the local one. It may only reach a segment of the local society or it may govern Internet activities alone while other local life is still governed by the traditional values. Or the new global value may simply offer an alternative--another option from which members of the local society may choose (though not without risk).
Although the globalization of values is not very frequent, the pluralizing effect of global networks is ubiquitous. Through global networks, an individual comes easily and frequently into contact with entirely unknown foreign values or with differently balanced sets of values. In that way, global networks force the individual to confront the fact that value systems are fundamentally relative, and that one lives in a pluralistic world.42 In later chapters, this is illustrated by the very different views that Germans and Americans have about such issues as nudity, privacy, and the balance between the right of free speech and protection against libel.
On the other hand, there are those who fear that global networks, rather than exhibiting and celebrating pluralism, may actually promote an unhealthy convergence of values.43 Those who hold this view point to the fact that most global networks, and the Internet in particular, originated in the United States. Even today, more than two-thirds of Internet traffic links American users and suppliers. Because of this history, these critics charge, most global networks are deeply influenced by U.S. value systems. The predominance of English, the preoccupation of most providers with the U.S. political climate, and, above all, the democratic vitality of the traditional egalitarian Internet culture all contribute to what some outside observers characterize as U.S. cultural hegemony.44
Some convergence of values, of course, may be a necessary precondition for truly global networks, or at least might facilitate their functioning. To the extent that it promotes formal values (and not just a set of conventions, such as the national agreement to drive on the right or the left side of the street), Netiquette is a case in point.45
Finally, global networks are de-contextualizers.46 Global networks promote social interaction, but these interactions are more context-free than any known before. The typical use of global networks is to retrieve information. There is no direct social contact between the person offering the content and the person accessing it; in most cases, the content provider does little more than count the number of hits. In mailing lists, news groups, or chat rooms, the user has the option to respond, but the response is in writing, and only chat rooms allow real-time exchange. Meanwhile, the social exchange that occurs in global networks is largely unnoticed by third parties. If the individuals in communication are concerned about privacy, they can even encrypt the message. If they seek anonymity, they can use pseudonyms or remailers. But even if they take none of these precautions, the sheer amount of communication over global networks makes it impractical to control or even observe it.
All this may threaten local values, as they must be embedded in and protected by formal and informal institutions. And insofar as these institutions rely on third-party scrutiny and enforcement, it is hard to apply them within global networks. Even where local values have been implanted in the conscience of the individual, they are not Internet-proof. For example, psychological research indicates that people pay less attention to social mores and conventions when they communicate electronically than in communicating face-to-face. Other work suggests that the more the situation isolates someone from the individuals that he or she affects, the more the person is comfortable in seeking a short-term advantage.47
The foregoing discussion provides a starting point for assessing how real the danger is that global networks will erode current local values. If the globalization of a value actually occurs, it obviously replaces a local value that differs from it. For example, it is likely that the proscription of all forms of child pornography will, over time, extend to all societies. If value-pluralizing influences are at work, the legal and social institutions protecting local values will be subject to competitive pressures, which may also result in forcing change. For example, the European commitment to protecting individuals' private information from corporate misuse is putting pressure on U.S. institutions to conform. In both instances, if an influential part of the population no longer believes that the traditional set of values should be upheld, a political process can be triggered that leads to their abolition or change.
The privacy example above illustrates two forces at work in effecting change. Making the U.S. population, or influential segments of it, aware of the greater protection for individual privacy provided in Europe can lead people to press for similar protections in the United States. At the same time, U.S. commercial interests may be moved to encourage the prescribed institutional change in order to open European markets to American e-commerce.
Assessing the local consequences of homogenization--the convergence of Internet values that is driven by the historical and hegemonic influence of the United States on its structure--is somewhat more difficult because it is hard to separate transient influences from longer-term change. In the short run, Internet language and content may be dominated by U.S. interests, and it is certainly conceivable that local patterns of communication and business practices will be affected accordingly. In the long run, however, it is entirely possible that the deeper penetration of global networks into local societies may allow for local adaptation that will enable the preservation of local institutions, and indeed, perhaps even increase their effectiveness.
The erosion of the value orientation of individuals is much more likely than the erosion of institutions. The former depends less on globalization than on pluralization, homogenization, and, above all, decon-textualization. These phenomena tend to make a person's value orientation less firm. The individual begins to doubt the legitimacy of a traditional value, and if the alternative value encourages actions that are consistent with personal interest, it might appear more attractive and even guide the person's behavior. But behavior in very specific circumstances is only loosely tied to attitude,48 and this kind of "transgression" may only occur when the person is protected by the anonymity of the Internet.
However, it is also possible that the network influence will be much stronger. The values of an individual are the result of a learning process. His or her contact with different value systems encountered in using global networks may start a new learning process, at the end of which the traditional value is strongly diminished in the individual's own value system.
Global networks can also have the opposite effect--strengthening one's original values. This is obvious where global networks allow territorially scattered groups to maintain social ties. Community without propinquity becomes a viable option.49 And global networks are not only pluralizers and de-contextualizers; they also give individuals new options for participation in social life and political decisionmaking.50 Advocacy coalitions have never before been so easy to build, and global networks make it much easier for the average citizen to gain access to government information.51 All this helps create a greater sense of responsibility.
The impact of global networks on local values need not be reduced to the simple dichotomy of erosion or corroboration. The use of these networks can also lead to the modification of values or to the rebalancing of the set of values. Although this involves a complicated process of unlearning and relearning, it is an attractive possibility from a political point of view in that it can provide an evolutionary path to a more appropriate or legitimate set.
The problem, of course, is that there is no guarantee that the new set of substantive values will be either more appropriate or more legitimate. During their histories, both U.S. and German society and state have managed to promote coexistence and cooperation within their societies with a small set of substantial values and a highly developed set of formal values. Unlike traditional societies that rely on strong ties among their members, modern societies such as these two achieve cohesion among a large number of persons with ties that are deliberately weak rather than strong.52 In such societies, one does not expect an occasional business partner to help if one's family is in distress--it is enough if the person pays his or her bills. Strong ties are limited to very small groupings: the core family, one's closest friends, sometimes one's closest colleagues at work.
Precisely because global networks confront a person with the relativity of value systems, and the disconcerting effects of de-contextualization, there is a danger that individuals will react by seeking the comfort of a more structured, if simplistic, value system. They might be lured into replacing apparently eroded and weak ties with ones that are newly built and strong, although often unidimensional. The danger is all the more real if it is linked to institutions that typically redistribute wealth or power. Political opportunists might well exploit the situation by denouncing as a vacuum in values what is actually no more than a characteristic of modern life.
The pluralizing and homogenizing effects of global networks depend on the nature of the contact between individual and foreign sets of values. In principle, global networks are weaker in this respect than the traditional media. Because the technology of global networks (e.g., search engines) allows users to specify the information they want to retrieve, there is less likelihood they will be exposed to information that does not fit the specification. Although it is true that today's users may be exposed to information (and hence to values) they did not seek when they follow a link, subscribe to a mailing list, or participate in a news group, technological trends toward greater specificity and precision in information retrieval suggest that inadvertent exposure will be less likely as time goes on. Thus, such exposure will be sporadic rather than systematic.
Furthermore, Internet users need not be passive. If they dislike what they see, they are not only theoretically free to turn away but probably inclined to do so. Technically, an information provider may be able to use "push" technologies to force messages onto a subscriber's screen, but there is still a long way to go before global networks are transformed into propaganda machines.
Still, the exposure to other values does have effects. For example, exposure to a different set of values can be significant for someone whose commitment to traditional values has been weakened. In this case, the different set may be attractive simply as a replacement. In such circumstances, the Internet becomes the medium for a conscious learning process. Global networks also help that process gain social momentum, as they make it easy and inexpensive to spread information challenging traditional values among others who are doubtful.
There is another situation in which the impact of exposure to unfamiliar ideas is subtler: A person may not realize the extent to which the lessons of a different value system have been absorbed. Only later will the individual come to recognize the contradictions between the implicit network value system and his or her traditional system. Such learning without attention is typical if values are embedded in apparently neutral contents--such as in the goods and services shaped by foreign value systems.
For instance, the cookies set by amazon.com to trace customer purchasing patterns give rise to a convenient service through which customers logging onto the site are made aware of new books that might interest them. It was certainly easier for a service based on this technology to develop in the United States, where the protection of privacy is not as high a priority as it is in Germany. However, once they have enjoyed the convenience of the service, people in societies that may be more conscious of privacy as an important value may nevertheless view it in less absolute terms and come to believe that it is a tradable right, well worth relinquishing in particular circumstances.
Although the possibility of eroding traditional values should not be overstated, learning a new value system does not lead inexorably to the replacement of traditional values. The real change brought about by global networks may be the realization that modern life encourages, and often requires, living with multiple value systems.
Three examples may serve to illustrate the points made in this chapter. The first is consumer protection. In general, the German legislature and courts have been more active in protecting consumers against unethical entrepreneurs than their U.S. counterparts. A consumer has a week to withdraw from a contract that has not been concluded in the premises of the provider or that the consumer has not solicited, and standard terms come under the close scrutiny of the courts. Marketing material is illegal if even a small fraction of those exposed to it are misled by its statements. These rules are an attempt to balance freedom of contract with protection of naïve consumers--to balance autonomy and paternalism. But in a globalized Internet-based market, when German customers buy goods and services over the Internet they can no longer be sure that a German court will be able or willing to protect them in the same way.
A second example relates to the limitations of copyright protection. As long as hard copies were the only meaningful way to distribute intellectual or artistic works, a compromise between the interests of the author and of the public could be achieved: once a hard copy was sold, its owner was generally free to use it and to hand it over to third parties, and "fair use" exceptions allowed individuals to make copies or quote lengthy passages of works. As more works begin to appear in electronic form, the technical limitations that made the old compromise workable disappear. On one hand, a single digital copy can be multiplied and distributed at will, without any loss in quality, thus making practical almost any level of copyright violation. On the other hand, the ease of tracing or limiting the use of electronically published material at the source makes it practical to drastically reduce the scope of public use of the work. Thus technical changes are forcing legal institutions to forge a new balance between the rights of author and public.53
A third example is provided by new technologies that offer a stronger means of enforcement for local values. Take the desire of many Americans to ban nudity and sexually explicit material from the Internet, or the desire of many Germans to do the same with the portrayal of violence. At first glance, from a local viewpoint, there appears to be no rebalancing of interests at issue. Social norms already strongly limit broadcasting of nudity and sexually explicit material in the United States and of violence in Germany. To a considerable extent, these norms are even embedded in civil and criminal codes. Internet technology makes access to foreign sites with the locally restricted content easy, but there are some tools that can help localities deny or restrict access; hosts and Internet Service Providers can be compelled to prevent their customers from accessing sites with the locally banned content.
Box 3.3 and Box 3.4 provide examples of governments seeking to regulate content of foreign origin. Box 3.5 describes some of the tools that might be used to do so.
But a closer look suggests that, as a practical matter, there has been a real change. In the past, practical limitations on enforcing the majority's norms provided a certain latitude for local minorities--those who chose not to conform to the norms--to evade detection. This led, de facto, to a balance between majority and minority rights that was not necessarily provided for de jure. The new technologies tend to reduce that leeway because they allow for more effective monitoring and control. Given that the balance between majority and minority rights was not explicit to begin with, it is not easy to restore when technological advances upset it. We have yet to see whether a networked world can find acceptable ways of achieving such a balance without appearing to compromise the values that gave rise to the original norms and legal structures.
1 The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.
2 Henry J. Aaron et al., eds. 1994. Values and Public Policy. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution.
3 J. Douglas Bremner and Charles R. Marmar, eds. 1998. Trauma, Memory, and Dissociation. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press.
4 See Chapter 5 ("Free Speech and the Internet") for more discussion.
5 Horst Reimann. 1989. "Tabu," Staatslexikon. Freiburg: Recht Wirtschaft Gesellschaft, 420.
6 See Chapter 6 ("Privacy and Freedom of Information") for more discussion.
7 Hans Albert. 1978. Traktat über rationale Praxis. Tübingen: Mohr.
8 Günther Jakobs. 1999. Norm, Person, Gesellschaft. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot.
9 Gary S. Becker. 1976. The Economic Approach to Human Behavior. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
10 Elinor Ostrom. 1998. "A Behavioral Approach to the Rational Choice Theory of Collective Action," Presidential Address of the American Political Science Association 1997, in American Political Science Review 92(1; March) 1-22.
11 Mark Granovetter. 1995. "Economic Action and Social Structure: The Problem of Embeddedness," American Journal of Sociology 91(3; November): 481-510.
12 Dirk Baecker. 2000. "Networking the Web," in Christoph Engel and Kenneth H. Keller, eds., Understanding the Impact of Global Networks on Local Social, Political and Cultural Values, Law and Economics of International Telecommunications, Vol. 42, 93-111, Baden-Baden: Nomos.
13 Gabriel A. Almond and Sidney Verba. 1965. The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations: An Analytic Study. Boston: Little.
14 John Robert Anderson, 1999, "Cognitive Psychology and Its Implications," New York: Freeman; Nicola Döring, 1999, Sozialpsychologie des Internet. Die Bedeutung des Internet für Kommunikationsprozesse, Identitäten, soziale Beziehungen und Gruppen, Göttingen: Hogrefe; Sara Kiesler, Jane Siegel, and Timothy W. McGuire, 1984, "Social Psychological Aspects of Computer-Mediated Communication," American Psychologist 39:1123-1134; Sherry Turkle, 1996, "Constructions and Reconstructions of Self in Virtual Reality: Playing in the MUD's," The American Prospect 24 (Winter), available online at <http://www.prospect.org/archives/24/24turk.html>.
15 Josef Esser. 1970. Vorverständnis und Methodenwahl in der Rechtsfindung. Frankfurt: Athenäum.
16 It should be noted that a number of legal scholars, particularly in the United States, would argue that law and values are not quite as separable and values are not quite as arbitrary as is suggested in this paragraph. And Americans would not necessarily link law and formal institutions in the ways that Germans would. However, this formulation allows both German and American systems to be placed in the same framework and still allows for arguments that societal laws should conform to or reflect natural law--which, in a sense, is an argument for how the legal code is legitimized.
17 Robert Alexy. 1996. Theorie der Grundrechte. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.
18 Michael Thompson. 2000. "Global Networks and Local Cultures; What Are the Mismatches and What Can Be Done about Them?" Understanding the Impact of Global Networks on Local Social, Political and Cultural Values (Law and Economics of International Telecommunications 42), Christoph Engel and Kenneth H. Keller, eds., Baden-Baden: Nomos, 113-129.
19 Further material elucidating the function of values for individuals, society, and government is to be found in Elkhart Scilicet, 1998, On Custom in the Economy, Oxford, England: Clarendon Press; and Bruno S. Frey, 1999, Economics as a Science of Human Behaviour, Boston: Kluwer Academic Publications.
20 For greater detail see Gird Gigerenzer and Peter M. Todd, eds., 1997, Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
21 Wolfgang Kersting, 2000, "Global Networks and Local Values. Some Philosophical Remarks from an Individualist Point of View," in Christoph Engel and Kenneth H. Keller, eds., Understanding the Impact of Global Networks on Local Social, Political and Cultural Values, 9-27, Baden-Baden: Nomos; Döring (supra note 14).
22 Gebhardt Rusch and Siegfried Schmidt, eds. 1992. Konstruktivismus. Geschichte und Anwendung. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.
23 Jakobs (supra note 8).
24 Klaus G. Grunert. 1994. "Cognition and Economic Psychology," in Hermann Brandstätter and Werner Güth, eds., Essays on Economic Psychology, 91-108.
25 Daniel Yankelovich. 1994. "How Changes in the Economy Are Reshaping American Values," in Henry J. Aaron et al., eds., Values and Public Policy. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution.
26 See Yankelovich, ibid; also Nathan Glaser, 1994, "Multiculturalism and Public Policy," in Henry J. Aaron et al., eds., Values and Public Policy, Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution.
27 States do not always recognize this reality. Uncovering old statutes, still on the books, that reflect the sexual mores of a previous era is a favorite pastime of the U.S. media, and British courts are still willing to rely on cases or statutes from the Middle Ages.
28 Robert Boyd and Peter J. Richerson. 1994. "The Evolution of Norms. An Anthropological View," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics 150:72-87.
29 Paul A. David. 2000. "The Internet and the Economics of Network Technology Evolution," Understanding the Impact of Global Networks on Local Social, Political and Cultural Values, Christoph Engel and Kenneth H. Keller, eds., Baden-Baden: Nomos, 39-71.
30 A classic on totalitarianism is Frank Neumann, 1983, Behemoth:The Structure and Practice of National Socialism, 1933-1944, New York: Octagon Books.
31 See Fritz W. Scharpf. 1999. Governing in Europe: Effective and Democratic? Oxford: Oxford University Press.
32 Anthony Giddens. 1984. The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration. Cambridge: Polity Press.
33 Jack Knight. 1994. Institutions and Social Conflict. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
34 See, for example, Kersting (supra note 21). The formal/substantive distinction made here and in other parts of this report is not intended as a legal description, but as a brief recapitulation of a philosophical taxonomy. Formal values are, to a first approximation, those associated with social processes--rules of behavior that facilitate discourse and, indeed, can be a key element in making a community possible--while substantive values come closer to moral convictions or beliefs. We recognize, as many political philosophers have, that the distinction is not crisp. Nevertheless, we believe it is useful. An important question is the relationship of these values to the legal system, a question made difficult for two reasons: first, the terms themselves cause confusion because, although they are familiar in the European context, they are not used as commonly in the U.S.; and, second, the relationship between values and law is viewed differently in Anglo-American and European jurisprudential thought. With respect to the first issue, in legal terms, the formal-substantive distinction maps roughly onto distinctions drawn in American jurisprudence regarding neutrality and non-neutrality of law. In the context of First Amendment law, for example, it corresponds to the difference between content-neutral regulation and content-based regulation. More generally, the European concept of formal values in the legal system would appear to correspond to the liberal rule of law, which is often said to rest upon the state's commitment to neutrality or neutral principles, such as equality before the law and the avoidance of preference for one value choice over another. With respect to the second issue, the idea that there are clearly distinguishable non-neutral and neutral choices in law and that neutrality is a key element in a liberal rule of law seems to be more controversial in Anglo-American jurisprudential and political thought than the formal/substantive distinction is in European thought. Some liberal thinkers deny that neutrality is a principle of liberalism; see, e.g., Donald Herzog, 1989, Happy Slaves, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Furthermore, there is significant school of thought denying that neutrality is either analytically coherent or possible in practice. In this view, liberalism involves particular values that the state prefers over other particular values; see, e.g., Joseph Raz, 1986, The Morality of Freedom, Oxford University Press. The latter view is supported in part by the influential writings of John Dewey in the early twentieth century; see, e.g., Liberalism and Social Action, Prometheus Books, 1935.
35 On epistemic communities see Peter M. Haas, 1992, "Introduction: Epistemic Communities and International Policy Coordination," International Organization 46(1):1-35.
36 On the technological background and its development, see Chapter 2.
37 Michael Domjan. 1998. The Principles of Learning and Behaviour, Pacific Grove.
38 See, for example, Leon Festinger, 1962, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, Stanford, CA.: Stanford University Press.
39 More from Richard Münch, 1998, Globale Dynamik, lokale Lebenswelten. Der schwierige Weg in die Weltgesellschaft, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp; Ronald Robertson, 1992, Globalization, London: Sage; Benno Werlen, 1993, Society, Action and Space: An Alternative Human Geography, London: Routledge.
40 Lüder Gerken, ed. 1995. Competition Among Institutions. Basingstole: Macmillan.
41 Christoph Engel. 2000. "The Internet and the Nation State," in Christoph Engel and Kenneth H. Keller, eds., Understanding the Impact of Global Networks on Local Social, Political and Cultural Values (Law and Economics of International Telecommunications 42). Baden-Baden: Nomos, 201-260.
42 William Alton Kelso, 1978, American Democratic Theory: Pluralism and Its Critics, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press; Roman Herzog, 1987, "Pluralismus, pluralistische Gesellschaft," Evangelisches Staatslexikon, Vol. 2, Roman Herzog et al., eds., 2539-2547, Stuttgart: Kreuz-Verlag.
43 Benjamin B. Barber. 1998. "Pangloss, Pandora or Jefferson? Three Scenarios for the Future of Technology and Democracy," in Raymond Plant, Frank Gregory, and Alan Brier, eds., Information Technology: The Public Issues, Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 177-191.
44 See Chapter 4.
45 Its contents are repeated by Sally Hambridge, "Netiquette Guidelines," available online at <http://www.cybernothing.org/cno/docs/rfc1855.html> (31.03.00).
46 Starr Roxanne Hiltz and Murray Turoff, 1993, The Network Nation: Human Communication via Computer, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press; Kiesler, Siegel and McGuire (supra note 14); Turkle (supra note 14).
47 Joachim Weiman, 1997, "Individual Behavior in a Free Riding Experiment," Journal of Public Economics 54:185-200; Iris Bohnet, 1997, Kooperation und Kommunikation, Tübingen: Mohr.
48 Icek Ajzen and Martin Fishbein, 1977, "Attitude-Behavior Relations: A Theoretical Analysis and Review of Empirical Research," Psychological Bulletin 84:888-918; Icek Ajzen and Thomas J. Madden, "Prediction of Goal Directed Behavior: Attitudes, Intentions, and Perceived Behavioral Control," Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 22:453-474.
49 Saskia Sassen, 2000, "The Impact of the Internet on Sovereignty: Unfounded and Real Worries," in Christoph Engel and Kenneth H. Keller eds., Understanding the Impact of Global Networks on Local Social, Political and Cultural Values, Baden-Baden: Nomos, pp. 197-200; Thompson (supra note 18).
50 Anthony Downs, 1991, "Social Values and Democracy," in Kristen R. Monroe, ed., The Economic Approach to Politics: A Critical Reassesment of the Theory of Rational Action, New York: Harper Collins, pp. 143-170; Miles Kahler, 2000, "Information Networks and Global Politics," in Christoph Engel and Kenneth H. Keller eds., Understanding the Impact of Global Networks on Local Social, Political and Cultural Values, Baden-Baden: Nomos, pp. 141-157.
51 See Chapter 4.
52 Siegwart Lindenberg. 1988. "Contractual Relations and Weak Solidarity," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics 144:39-58.
53 See for example, Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council, 2000, The Digital Dilemma: Intellectual Property in the Information Age, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.