internet #democracyfail ? (a lecture in tweets)

argument:  #netfail The Internet has not Fulfilled its Utopian Promise, in particular in not becoming a new Engine of Democracy

counter-argument: #democracyfail  The Internet hasn’t failed Democracy, it’s the other way around  #lecture


In 1994, in The Virtual Community Rheingold painted an online #utopia, barriers to communication removed, planetary interconnectedness #nice

McLuhan noted detachedly that societies are ‘shaped more by the nature of the media … than by the content of the communication’

He also suggested technologies extend senses and capabilities – cameras are extended visual sensors, cars an appendage facilitating travel.

Christopher Kedzie wrote of coincident #revolution in networked communications and global #democracy #prophecyfail #auspol

It was hoped the Internet would give voice to the Small, Reinvigorate #Democracy, Restore the Proper Function of the Press. #auspol

What’s the proper #Democratic  function of the Press? Watchdog and scrutineer, a forum for public and high debate, defender of #freespeech

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost” – Thomas Jefferson

It can be argued the State, democratic or o’wise, is a mistake – an accident that should have been prevented #auspol #lecture

First function of the State: its perpetuation. State says No State no democracy. No police no order. No stats, no knowledge. #notnecessarily

Perfect democracies works in Progress. Problems re Free Press incl. concentrated media, unequal media access, lack of journalistic resources

If anything, these constraints on the Democratic role of the media – which should, first, serve the people – are magnified online: #netfail

#Technological determinism and the Public Sphere

Technological Determinism – idea that the future is the product of technological changes of the past and present. E.g. ..

The Printing Press’s ‘invention’ revolutionised Europe, liberating thought from theology, serfs from serfdom, ushering in the Enlightenment

(though the printing press wasn’t much without the writers/thinkers of the Age of Reason e.g. Descartes, Jefferson,Swift, Voltaire, Paine)

Teleology – A cosmology with an ending/ a view of the cosmos that includes a way things finish up (e.g. apocalypse, big crunch)

Modernist Teleology: By Virtue of Technology, Progress and Reason Civilisation Advances towards a Rational Ideal. #false #auspol

In this light: consider communication and media in near-term (e.g. 100, 500 years) and long-term (10,000 or 2,000,000 years) #future

#storysofar: i. Ancient communication (one-to-one/one-to-few). ii. Mass Comms. (+one-to-many). iii. Networked Comms. (+many-to-many) #future

#nearfuture: Generally: communication technologies first held by elites (from writing to the net), then accessible to more and more people

#nearfuture: In 20C packaged media content delivered via monopolised channels.  In 21C content self-selected via links, searches, networks.

#nearfuture:  i. English tends to the concise given short-form text media.

We outsource bits of thinking (eg to calculators). #nearfuture ‘distribution of cognition’ to apps for information retrieval/filtering

#farfuture: Fashions in language change often as technologies and circumstance change:succinct, then ornate, from text to voice to text again

#farfuture Descendent of telephones: technological Telepathy – thought-send of words image and sound. Anyone to anyone anytime

#farfuture Instant communication, though may become more difficult if technology also propels humanity between stars/modes of existence

#farfuture: Love, now and future, requires the most intimate communication. Hard to see how to change it. See Bjork

#farfuture: Post-humans flesh, robot, or software, will still transfer meanings via symbols/codes: text, sound, etc. And want entertainment

So perhaps the idea of free speech, the free press, and their alternatives will still have meaning in the very #farfuture


For Enlightenment thinkers Free Speech and Press Freedom were not products of technology, but prerequisites for Progress, Reason, Rationale

‘facts and arguments, to produce any effect on the mind, must be brought before it’ #quote #JohnStuartMill

#nocensorship ‘We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion’  #quote #Mill

In an Enlightened and Democratic society, all ideas and objections should be aired in free public fora. Reason will determine which are True.

The Progress of Society depends on application by Democratic Governments of the Best Truths derived from Reason #auspol #enlightenmentfail

The idea of democratic societies ever in a state of rational and technological progress remains,dependent on media and forums for expression

Habermas calls this Enlightenment ideal of a universal forum for free, rational communication ‘The Public Sphere.’

Does the Internet provide a forum for a functioning Public Sphere in the way the printing press is rumoured to have done?

#Conclusion 1:  Too soon to see. Short-term technological change and effect often exposed as fashion in view of longer timespan #publicsphere

#Conclusion 2: #democracyfail Networked communications have already changed people, Democratic institutions haven’t come to the party.

McLuhan observed ‘we have become global wanderers information gatherers rather than food gatherers’

RT ad infinitum: Dance like the photos never going to be tagged.  Love like you’ve never been defriended.  Tweet like no one’s following’.

#democracyfail: The public sphere online represents a wider range of voices than are accommodated in unreconstructed Democratic institutions

#Chomsky asserts #twokinds of Democracy. 1.Democracy of State, Govt, theatre of election. 2. democracy as citizens acting in their interests

With these definitions it can be argued a functioning Public Sphere online may cater to ‘citizen democracy’ disconnected from the Democratic state.

Politicians may be smaller now: they comment into an ocean of comment; are critiqued while absent from political conversation they once dominated

Much discussion online is centred on failure of national governments to deal with global problems #refugees #globalwarming

@latingle @annabelcrabb Professional journalism survives because people,caring little for the publication, want the professional journalists

Content in the Public Sphere online often represents citizen-based democratic action unsupported and opposed by States, Democratic and o’wise:

e.g. Images taken out of Burma during a crackdown on protests two years ago

Democratic Western govts have indicated strong opposition to the dissemination of secret documents by #Wikileaks, well-received online

In Australia public discussion online on issues such as gay marriage and a Republic may indicate acceptance but the Parliament is unmoved.

Citizen democracy manifests in ways that seem smaller than State run pomp and spectacle of Elections, Parliaments, Wars, Front Pages, Polls.

#fromtheclassics: In the late 1990s the Zapatistas in Mexico staged a small partially-net driven revolution

They conducted an air-raid on a Mexican military base with paper aeroplanes containing messages from local children

They sent ‘telegrams’ to the world:  THE GRAYS HOPE TO WIN STOP RAINBOW NEEDED URGENTLY #zapatistas

The Public Sphere online represents #democracy without State sanction. It operates without/in opposition to Democratic institutions #auspol

Heterodox #democracy is universal, not Athenian,in origin: people everywhere debate and take political action in their interests and beliefs

The net does facilitate unprecedented, uncontrolled dissemination of information and opinion, with journalism so far intact: #publicsphere

But in terms of Progress there is little utility in a working #publicsphere disconnected from the political power residing with the State

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *