The Blank Slate E-State: Estonian Information Society and the Politics of Novelty in the 1990s

Aro Velmet

Abstract


This article looks at how the discourse of an emerging information society in 1990s Estonia both rejected and depended on expertise from the Soviet Period. It traces the influence 1960s-trained cyberneticians and sociologists had on expanding the concept of an information society in the 1990s, to encompass issues such as regional inequality, national culture, and poverty, instead of focusing solely on hardware purchasing and telecomms liberalization. This process was both enabled and occluded through "rupture-talk,” a rhetorical strategy emphasizing the novelty of digital infrastructure development compared to the Soviet past.  The article argues that a shared belief in the power of information processing for both empowering and containing civil society enabled ideologically divergent actors to work together. The resulting vision diverged from neoliberal visions of information societies in hitherto unacknowledged ways.


Keywords


Eastern Europe; late socialism; neoliberalism; cybernetics; computing; education; development

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17351/ests2020.284



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