Democracy Depends on Options

// Posted by on 06/04/2015 (3:43 PM)

Our reading really made me stop and think about technology all around the world. In America, we wear rose-colored glasses as we think about the internet. We see it as a way to expose truths and speak our minds… but what about the use of technology in deceiving others? Enron is astutely mentioned as a prime example of a company using technology and computerization to puff up numbers and lie to clients.

When you consider the video we watched last class on the misconception that internet access will certainly lead to democracy and the ways that technology can be used to deceive people, things start to seem pretty scary.

We already do it in our own nation: Fox News is conservative, CNN is liberal, and in my opinion, Politico is the only bipartisan news outlet out there. But when it comes to where we get our information, we have the ability to shop around and pick a favorite. People in other countries don’t have this choice. Several nations have one, centralized news source which is controlled by the government. It is much like the web browsers that we discussed on Monday that are designed strictly for certain areas, where the material is censored.

Perhaps technology and access to the internet doesn’t always spread democracy. Since the internet can also be tailored to fit the standards and limitations of any regime, (for the first time ever) this American is realizing that technology could be making communism and socialism stronger.

We spoke about North Korea and how they only learn that the outside world is not evil by smuggled material. Without those USBs, those people believe what their government, news, and technology tells them.

Speaking of Politico, here is an interesting article from the perspective of a former reporter for Russia:

“I Was Putin’s Pawn: What it was like to work for the Russian propaganda machine, and why I quit on live TV.”

Read more:

Viewing these hyper-monitored and censored internet browsers and news networks, is undoubtedly spreading some radical beliefs. This happens in America all the time. The difference here is that there are all types of opinions floating out there. You can look at multiple ideas. In places like North Korea, Russia, China, and ISIS controlled Iraq, you see only what they want you to see. And looking away, closing the tab, or finding another source is not an option.

I think, in many ways, pushing for the spread of technology and the internet in anti-democratic places of the world may come back to bite us. The goal is to expose these people to outsiders’ lives and opinions, but many times- they never see them. Access doesn’t mean freedom, and in many cases, it just means further indoctrination. The reading talks about the relationship of empowerment as it applies to visibility. If only one option is visible… and you’ve never known otherwise, why wouldn’t you believe/empower it?

But in some cases, access is the catalyst for revolution. This link depicts the ways some Middle Eastern nations believe technology helped lead them to a better way of life, politically.

Does the Internet Encourage Democracy?




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Rosatelli said...

Hi Kindall,

You may be interested in a series of articles in Digital America on ISIS’s media strategy. I think they underscore your points! This week’s post was on the Golumbia and Raging Bull articles (Wednesday’s reading on the syllabus), so I’m really interested in how you see these forms of digitization playing out with many of the other case studies that we’ve been discussing. What is the role of democracy when public stocks are traded on private markets? Think about how your thoughts here can fit into the online discussion for this week.

// 06/04/2015 at 8:04 pm

Kindall said...

Dr. Rosatelli,

Sorry! I took some of the points on direct, popular power and the Arab Springs Uprisings (governments finding it difficult to keep people isolated) and big-pictured them past the “Raging Bulls” piece and the stock market. I got a little carried away!

While I know the market is vital to the lifeline of America, I have always found the logistics to be overwhelming. I feel like a lot of stock holders feel that way as well. They have brokers who make recommendations and help them choose where to invest. Some don’t care how it’s done- just whether or not they strike gold.

But, in the realm of traders, High Frequency Trading is everything. The advances in the stock market from phone calls and telegraph ticker days is immense. What will be next- trading at the microsecond speed of sound? Despite its obvious added value, the speed of the market, in my opinion, makes it fragile. It is a betting man’s game to some and a true mathematical equation to others.

But, as I was reading Kaitlyn’s post, I began to think about hackers in the system. We have seen what happens when the market crashes. When stocks are left in excess of their true value, we panic. This panic (along with other economic factors) caused the crash in 1929 which helped lead to the Great Depression.

If a hacker somehow infiltrated our stock exchange system, mere hours, could cause nation-wide damage and distress.

Like we asked about the implications of cyberwarfare and Stuxnet: Has going digital put us in a more vulnerable state? I believe so. The process is certainly faster, but what happens when we rely solely on computers for such a volatile and every-changing business?

I think these fears are justified, and I think they are shared. But, Adler makes a good point in saying that, “Einstein fully appreciated the degree to which electromagnetic waves bend in the presence of money. ” Companies spent $2.2 billion on trading infrastructure in 2010… what?! That is insane. I think it certainly sets a hierarchy among corporations: Whoever pays for the best, gets the best speed and the most return.

The cost to use a transatlantic cable- to knock off hundredths of seconds on the market- make a world’s difference. I understand that may strike some people as unfair. But that is capitalism. We aren’t here to set a fair playing field. That, to me, is the blood in the veins of democracy.

I thought a lot about your question of public stock being traded on a private market- and to be honest, I don’t know how I feel. I think that any stock can/should be traded on private markets. I would be more than a little nervous having retail investors with little know-how shopping around more than currently permitted.

Perhaps some realms of stock trading should be left to the more seasoned investors who have more to offer as a “buy in”. Tech companies like Facebook were shunned by the public market early on. What would Silicon Valley be like today if it’s numbers and stock were constantly dipping and moving day by day, as average stock holders invested and sold shares based on daily numbers?

Private investors have more capital to invest that they can allow to settle in. Like we talked about in class, they are used to losing large amounts. And they can afford to. Perhaps the private market is really the only way for greener businesses to survive.

I’m not really sure if any of that makes sense. I would definitely need a broker to handle the stock market for me.

// 06/05/2015 at 10:39 am