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Pros and Cons of Internet Democracy

by on November 28, 2013

 

 

It could be argued that throughout Britain and, in fact, the world we see particular class structures. An ‘upper class’, ‘middle class’ and ‘lower class’ with a growing number of people being referred to as the ‘under class’. Here is an image of a five class pyramid structure some Americans believe the country is split up into;

 

However some, as with any theory, would argue that this is not the case and the theory of class structure is outdated. Tony Blair a past British Prime Minister quoted in his election campaign “we are all middle class now”[1].

 

From this another question arises; is there such concept of people being ‘information rich’ and ‘information poor’? Does the divide in ‘social classes’ exist virtually (across the internet), as well as physically?  And can we separate the virtual from the physical? Such questions cannot be answered fully or at depth through a 500 word blog, however ideas and concepts can be explored.

 

Ronald Reagan stated during a speech in 1989; “Technology will make it increasingly difficult for the state to control the information its people receive… the goliath of totalitarianism will be brought down by the goliath of the microchip”[2]. An example of this could be seen with what is now being termed ‘the great fire wall of china’, whereby the Chinese government filter everything that can be accessed via the internet in China. Yet during the earthquake in May 2008 news broke of it via the social media network Twitter first leading to the Chinese government banning the website throughout the country entirely.

 

The following link leads you to a website that allows us to view what is and what isn’t accessible in mainland china. The websites disclaimer states that the website allows us to “visualize Internet censorship in an increasingly accurate way”.[3]

 

http://www.greatfirewallofchina.org/index.php

 

In comparison to many western democracies, such a firewall appears ludicrous. The information they receive in comparison to the information we are exposed too is tiny. It would suggest that we are in fact more ‘information rich’ than those citizens in China.

 

Social scientist Philip Seib supports the argument suggesting some people are more ‘information rich’ than others, especially in terms of social media, stating in his book ‘Real-Time Diplomacy’;

“Social media users do not necessarily reflect the larger population, which includes millions of poor, rural, illiterate or semi illiterate people who have little in common with young, well-educated activists”[4]. The point he makes about the larger population including millions of poor illiterate people is highly significant as these people are likely to be more ‘Information poor’ than others from either; A) Not having the funds to go on the internet or, B) maybe having access to the internet and educational Literatures but not having the education to do anything with it.


[2] Philip Seib, Real-Time Diplomacy, (Palgrave Macmillan: 2012) 42

[4] Philip Seib, Real-Time Diplomacy, (Palgrave Macmillan: 2012) 46

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2 Comments
  1. themanisred permalink

    I feel like the class inequality in the UK is a big issue, arguably it is the driving force behind the recent riots following Mark Duggan’s supposedly ‘lawful’ killing. The struggle between rich and poor is the main component of the class disparages, raised tuition fees, bedroom taxes and now slashes to welfare – being information poor is just another byproduct of this all.

  2. Thank you for some interesting observations. Much of the celebratory literature on the impact of the internet on politics tends to neglect inequality of access. In addition to those whose access to the web is filtered by undemocratic regimes, there is also the case of peoples lacking the technology, although potentially mobile phones will allow them to leap forward on some accounts.

    When you come to revise this entry for inclusion in your portfolio, it would be good if you could make your argument a bit more prominent. Are you claiming that civil society internet activism is undemocratic because many millions cannot participate? It would help if you explored Seib’s point in more detail, as well as some of the other literature we looked at in the first half of the module.

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