This chapter will look at the nature of communities that flourish through new information and communication technologies (ICTs). In its infancy the Internet was widely conceived as a terra nova, a wide open space where people could completely reinvent themselves beyond the stifling conventions and limitations of the real world. This vision of limitless freedom has turned out to be a chimera. States and corporations have gained a great deal of control over digital networks and the Internet has lost its feel of an anarchic, countercultural playground. Mobile phones, tablets and a growing range of smart devices, moreover, have woven the real and online world together into a much more continuous experience. Digital networks are not so much a separate sphere, as a multilayered mesh of communicative practices seamlessly integrated into real-world social life. Even so, the early vision of freedom and boundless possibility remains a potent ideal even today. This chapter will take stock of that vision as a species of social and political theory. It will raise questions about the expansive notion of freedom and authenticity at the heart of this social and political ideal. Communities mediated through new ICTs are not characterized by total plasticity and freedom, but by jazzy innovation — that is, by improvisations on given cultural characteristics and rehearsal of the basic virtues of civility necessary for community to exist in the first place.

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Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1057/9781137491268_3, hdl.handle.net/1765/107254
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de Been, W.H.J. (2015). Playing around with a Few of Your Favorite Things. In Crossroads in New Media, Identity and Law: The Shape of Diversity to Come (pp. 43–66). doi:10.1057/9781137491268_3