A book chapter: From the (Phoenician) city-State to the computing society

From the city-State to the computing society:

Phoenicia, the Internet and the shared cultural memories

Hadi Saba Ayon

Digital technology radically reshapes the traditional methods of producing information and essential components of the digital environment. Producing calculable traces of interaction reconstructs social practices and questions sociocultural norms and legal frameworks. We speak of digital culture (Doueihi, 2011), made up of communication and information exchange modes that displace, redefine and reshape knowledge into new forms, formats and methods of acquisition and transmission. What modalities does it establish for belonging to a group, organizing it and participating in its activities? Why do we talk about memory in a complex architectural space that makes us believe in an “integral memory” automatically resulting from any action that produces traces, saved, accumulated and calculated? Can digital writing be included in the long history of writing? For Emmanuel Souchier, the “cartographic” practice dedicated to the Internet is part of the long history of writing (2008, 2013). As a result, the Web is like the “text” of the Sumerians, a universe of “traces” that we must arrange, organize, and show, a text to read and interpret, a world to discover. Thus, the history of writing and the organization and sharing of human activity teaches us the conditions of expression of humans in interaction with their environment and the power relations they establish with this occasion. We find the history of ancient Phoenicia, located along the Mediterranean coast, fascinating to compare with the history and evolution of the Internet from a political and social point of view. We cannot speak of Phoenicia as a centralized political entity but as a set of city-states that speak and write the same language (Krings, 1994), similar to what Internet users gather today. Centred around the royal palace before moving into the territory of a mercantile class and aristocratic commerce, Phoenician society, rooted in business and maritime flux, showed three classes: the free people, the semi-free people, and the enslaved people. A sociopolitical division that echoes in today’s digital society. Suppose the invention of computers cannot be dissociated from the US army’s strategy that resulted in the advent of the Internet. In that case, the network is a decentralized environment which does not recognize a single authority and model and has none. The history of the creation of the Internet and its development shows founding groups (military, academics, researchers, hippies and computer enthusiasts) and later users with abilities that vary from expertise to ignorance of their rights and the loss of freedoms. Moreover, the digital environment has developed and evolved thanks to decentralization.

  • The commemorative book Bandung-Belgrade-Havana in Global History and Perspective: The deployment of Bandung Constellation towards a global future was launched during the BBH 2022 International Conference in Surabaya (Indonesia) and is edited by Darwis Khudori (Le Havre Normandy University) in collaboration with Diah Ariani Arimbi (Airlangga University) and Isaac Bazié (Université du Québec à Montréal).
  • The book will be published online soon at https://bandungspirit.org/
  • To quote this chapter: Saba Ayon H. (2022). From the city-State to the computing society: Phoenicia, the Internet and the shared cultural memories, in Darwis Khudori, Diah Ariani Arimbi and Isaac Bazié (Ed.), Bandung-Belgrade-Havana in Global History and Perspective: The deployment of Bandung Constellation towards a global future. Airlangga University Press, Surabaya, p. 310-326.


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