DIGITAL AMERICA

A World Without Internet

// Posted by on 02/10/2014 (9:06 PM)

After reading Mark Poster’s Information Please and watching Frontline’s “Secret State of North Korea” I found myself trying to examine the ways in which the internet has shaped the world as we know it, and what I would do if there was no internet at all. Certain people, in countries like North Korea, only see the information that the government wants them to see. I recently read an article in which the author referred to these countries as “black holes” of the Internet, in which the people have no access to what we now know is one of the strongest tools for social and political change.

We’ve talked a lot in class this week about revolts inspired by social media and how easy it is to begin these riots via Twitter, BBM, Facebook, etc. Now it has become clear that there is a disturbingly stark contrast between our power as citizens and people who live in places like North Korea. In his book Information Please, Poster states that “the speed, the rhetorical traits, and the connectivity of the Net can be used to organize social movements…the Net affords the possibility of new forms of political mobilization” (Poster, 80). Our ability to share information and communicate so quickly with one another has given us tremendous power to change conditions of society that we disagree with, even for those of us who think we have no real political power other than voting in elections. Seeing the Frontline video about North Korea was troubling because it shows us what we take for granted and gives us insight into how different our lives might be without internet access (which allows us to see information about almost anything we desire). The people of North Korea are desperate for exposure to other cultures and even simple information about their own country and its ruler.

Many of us complain that social media and the internet are lessening our social skills or creating a reliance on technology. Seeing one alternative, though, puts into perspective how lucky we are to live in the US, a place where we can spread information freely about whatever we choose. Although some parts of the internet are regulated, we can certainly begin to appreciate the freedom and ease with which we gain access to information and communicate with each other. In seeing the conditions in North Korea, it is clear  how horrible it would be if the rest of the world was evolving and getting access to the internet and social media while we were left behind. Looking at the map of the “black holes” of the internet, I thought of how strange it would be to live in one of those places. While I do agree that many of us rely on technology too much, I appreciate it for what it is: a tool to spread information without which I would be lost.



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Comments:


Cora said...

After watching the Frontline video, I too was surprised to see just how isolated North Korea truly is. Indeed, it is interesting to consider how much of the internet is responsible for transmitting news and general information. The people of North Korea are in a bubble with little to no personal freedom or access to knowledge in the outside world. Any news that is available to them is carefully selected and mandated. It is wild to think of the lengths they will go to to maintain power and prevent social and political change. After reading the article about technology and its connection to revolts, it became apparent that the Korean government is most likely totally aware of this link. Without the internet, there is not only a lack of knowledge but a limitation on the ability to organize and connect.
It was also shocking to learn that Kim Jong-un was had a european education, yet has only tightened his control. It is ironic- Jong-un, who had the freedom to unlimited knowledge and the experience of living outside of Korea, did not see the importance of changing the traditional and largely primal ways of governing. The internet is a tool for knowledge and seeing the video made me realize just how influential it really is. North Koreans are in the dark largely because of its absence and regulation. It is obvious that the Internet will only become further integrated into our world and it is somewhat nerve-wracking to think what that means. How will it change our world and effect humanity? I guess only time will tell…
I am certain that some revolution will take place in North Korea during our lifetime and I am curious to see in what form it exists.

// 02/10/2014 at 10:56 pm

Kevin said...

I like how you referred to the internet as “a tool to spread information,” and without it, I most certainly would be lost as well! We certainly do take for granted all the rights and privileges the internet allots us as citizens. Like we discussed in class the other day, one of those privileges is the consumer power that we possess over the internet. The most common of these obviously is our ability to purchase various products and materials. Whatever we as citizens purchase will remain on the market, and whatever we choose not to purchase will cease to be available on the market. Granted, we can still go out to stores to purchase products, but I believe it is impossible to deny that the ability to purchase products at any given moment in time has not extended our power as consumers. In fact, sites such as Amazon.com (the largest online shopping hub) seemed to have become ingrained in the American lifestyle. See this article below about Amazon’s influence over the internet and the power of the consumer for more information on how this online purchasing power is changing the world:

http://business.time.com/2012/07/16/will-amazon-take-over-the-world/

Beyond that, I would just like to mention briefly how greatly the internet has influenced consumer power over the media. Given comment pages, sections that count how many views a video has, and similar internet-based features for engaging with online media, we have a greater ability now than ever before to influence how and what the media writes/displays on screen. If people do not give a music views on Youtube, for example, then the content of the video will be deemed unwanted by the American public, and future projects will reflect different creative approaches. We would be no where near where we are today without the internet, and it has increased our individual power as consumers greatly with its influence!

// 02/12/2014 at 3:44 pm

Tec said...

By Mauricio Vega

It is interesting your remark on the luck you have by living in a government that does now prohibit most of the internet use and how we sometimes take it for granted and do not realize the power we actually have in our hands. To compliment I would raise the next question: how many anti-government movements have been made in the U.S. in the recent years? I do not mean that it is a bad thing to have a peaceful society, but I think this habituation to the internet we’ve created has made us forget its power so much that we never really use its whole potential. Yes, there have been a significant number of campaigns of different causes, although most of them end in cheap trivialization and “liketivism”, but I think if we started to realize what an important tool the Internet can be to not only influence but create public policies, we would accomplish a lot more and we would strengthen our democracy in a very significant way.

About this topic philosopher Slavoj Zizek’s made a thesis on the U.S. government controlling the society in a more maquiavelic way than oppressive regimes. He uses as example, the cinema. In China up until recently all moves that talked of a dystopian future or a very fantastic one, were banned because the government feared this would make their population see an alternative to their regime. In the U.S., as we know, they are not banned, yet we rarely if ever, find a movie situated in a dystopian America where a different regime rules. We never see America ruled by a socialist, or communist party. Zizek claims that the U.S.’s control over the nation ideology is so deep, so powerful, so maquiavelic, that it is not even necessary to ban those movies. While personally I find his thesis more dramatic than accurate, he raises a good question, are citizens really taking full advantage of the tools they have access to? As a foreigner I would be interested in knowing if you this says anything to you, or is this just an ignorant claim.

// 02/21/2014 at 11:56 pm