DIGITAL AMERICA

Paradoxical Power of the Internet

// Posted by on 01/20/2013 (7:29 PM)

The Internet in Society: Empowering or Censoring Citizens? (video)

Professor Rosatelli tweeted a link to an RSA Animate adapted from Evgeny Morozov’s talk on the internet in society. The video exposes myths about the freedom and transformative power of technology – specifically the internet. Morozov agrees that the internet and connectivity can promote reform, change and ultimately democracy but he argues that people ignore the fact that the internet is also a place that dictators and authoritarian governments can for their own benefit. He calls us to consider the intended uses of technology v. the actual uses of technology.

This video led me back to this week’s class reading on “The Shifting Politics of the Computational Metaphor”. The chapter gives a history on the paradoxical power of the internet and technology; Free Speech Movement thinkers such as Dyson and Barlow believed that technology empowered the people and was an outlet to overthrow bureaucracy even though it was simultaneously being used by the Government for purposes of military command and control. Turner poses an important question: “How was is that the informational economy came to be seen not as an oppressive force, but as a site of political and cultural change?” (16).

This issue of the paradox of the internet (and technology as a whole) is still ongoing as we see authoritarian governments, such as China, not only censoring the internet but using the internet for their own propaganda. China is currently paying people, often referred to as “50 cent armies”, to put out pro-government messages and create anti-democracy bots. So what does this mean for the future of the internet? Is it really a source of social change or is it being used for more bad than good? When looking not just at how politics have polluted the internet but how social and digital media outlets have been used to bully and promote negative lifestyles, I believe that there were high hopes and aspirations for the internet but that the reality of it isn’t as positive or pretty as we had intended.

sources:

Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2012/12/31/twitter_bots_for_democracy_could_combat_authoritarian_governments_50_cent.html


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