Douglas Rushkoff in Edge:

Hero18douglasrushkoff This focus on the individual, and its false equation with democracy, began back in the Renaissance. The Renaissance brought us wonderful innovations, such as perspective painting, scientific observation, and the printing press. But each of these innovations defined and celebrated individuality. Perspective painting celebrates the perspective of an individual on a scene. Scientific method showed how the real observations of an individual promote rational thought. The printing press gave individuals the opportunity to read, alone, and cogitate. Individuals formed perspectives, made observations, and formed opinions.

The individual we think of today was actually born in the Renaissance. The Vesuvian Man, Da Vinci’s great drawing of a man in a perfect square and circle—independent and self-sufficient. This is the Renaissance ideal.

It was the birth of this thinking, individuated person that led to the ethos underlying the Enlightenment. Once we understood ourselves as individuals, we understood ourselves as having rights. The Rights of Man. A right to property. The right to personal freedom.

The next renaissance (if there is one)—the phenomenon we’re talking about or at least around here is not about the individual at all, but about the networked group. The possibility for collective action. The technologies we’re using—the biases of these media—cede central authority to decentralized groups. Instead of moving power to the center, they tend to move power to the edges. Instead of creating value from the center—like a centrally issued currency—the network creates value from the periphery. 

More here.