Neologism Watch: Adhocracy

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In a fascinating analysis of the release of the Afghanistan war logs, George Mason policy wonk Janine Wedel and journalist Linda Keenan argue that when traditional institutions break down, a new breed of power broker -- exemplified by WikiLeaks -- takes over.

"WikiLeaks has upended the old-fashioned venues of investigative journalism and watchdog organizations," they argue at the Huffington Post. "While it is surely good that WikiLeaks has emerged as a counterweight -- a tool for making the powerful squirm -- WikiLeaks has enormous power itself, the kind of unaccountable power that its founder decries."

Digital technologies enable the players to act effectively without centralization or bureaucracy, which makes them unresponsive to "traditional means of accountability." This is the dark side of WikiLeaks acting as the first "stateless news organization."

"Bureaucracy gets pushed aside by so-called "adhocracy," executive power/one-man shows flourish, with institutional checks and balances flouted," they write (emphasis added). "These are some of the signature developments of the shadow elite era, and WikiLeaks is clearly a creature of that era.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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