I like this article and this journal. I didn't even mind so much that I had to register to read the article. At least it wasn't behind a paywall.
I was interested when Castells introduced the article as a "set of grounded hypotheses on the interplay between communication and power relationships" What I was hoping for was explanatory theory that is typical of classical Grounded Theory analysis.
Reading the article I found that it was more descriptive than theoretical, and sought to re-frame new social phenomena in old frameworks, specifically using the rhetoric of power relationships and political space. While I think this could be useful and the article does an excellent job of description, the theoretical explanatory power was lacking for me. There is something about web based socially networks that doesn't fit neatly into this framework for analysis.
I think he was on to something with his last statement.
"Thus, as in previous historical periods, the emerging public space, rooted in communication, is not predetermined in its form by any kind of historical fate or technological necessity. It will be the result of the new stage of the oldest struggle in humankind: the struggle to free our minds."
Is it a struggle or a process of human spiritual (not religious) evolution?
Yes, I've read the Rise of the Network Society and I was very impressed at the time, although it is now 12 years old and in the realm of web-based social networking that is like the last ice-age.
I just reread the dedication that Castells wrote in the 2000 edition of that book where he acknowledged that a lot has changed since 1996 and that he was going to stick with his initial theoretical perspective inspite of much world wide academic criticism.
I would suggest that a lot has happened in ICT between 2000 and 2008. It is the speed of change is so problematic for academic analysis of the WWW. It takes at least a year to write and publish a book and have it distributed to the world.
It is a little hard to find unassailable authorities whose theories have the necessary fit, grab, relevance and generalizability as humanity tries to understand how basic social processes are changing so profoundly.
So that was why I was so interested to read something that Castells has written more recently. I was also pleased to be able to read it in a online journal and although I haven't looked to deeply into the journalistic policies of that particular journal; their process of peer review, the make up of their peer review committee etc. I see that Castells is the editor of that Journal so that is interesting.
I will continue to attempt to apply my still forming scholar-practitioner skills to the critical analysis of this particular piece of work.