Google Earth and the nation state: Sovereignty in the age of new media

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This article analyzes the nature of sovereignty in a globalizing world and the role new media entities play within it. It studies a protracted engagement between Google and nation states on the ability of the newly launched software Google Earth to zoom in on classified locations. Reading this tussle as an engagement between an older form of sovereignty and a newer one, this article argues that new media entities such as Google represent a new modality of power, increasingly making inroads into the Westphalian nation-state system. This new mode of power operates by presenting itself as ‘centerless’ thus claiming to operate in the interests of the larger global good. Given their architecture as a ‘distributed network’ they are increasingly difficult to regulate, thus making their challenge hard to counter. Interrogating their claim of having no interests of their own, this article argues that digital networks continue to reify older hierarchies within the global order even as they claim to erase those very hierarchies.


SAGE Publications