Be Forest ~ Dust
Cyber Democracy vs. Digital Imperialism
The reading of the text this week involves Digital Media Culture. It immediately reminded me of the idea I wrote about a couple of weeks ago of Digital Imperialism. According to Trend via Barker, “ The majority of Non-Western nations and nearly 97 percent of the world’s population remain unconnected to the [inter] net for lack of money, access, or knowledge.” (Barker Pg. 247) That said, what is being called a digital revolution is still isolated to a small portion of the population, the affluent and fortunate.
Some claim that this cyber-land of digitized media is the new foundation of extreme democracy that provides us with intertextuality in which we can delve through footnotes of hypertext from text to text in a fraction of a second. What usually took immense effort to peruse through textbook after textbook has been converged and reduced to ease for anyone with access to the Internet.
Because of the freedoms associated with the free-flowing content available on the net, philosophers are claiming that this technology is democratic. Barker talks about two arguments that support this, “Wider dissemination of information and interactive discussion will lead to a better educated and more active electorate.” Also, “The Internet will transform and enlarge our very notion of what democracy is, as it generates novel spaces in which fresh voices can be heard.” (Pg. 349)
The idea of hypertext as a new democracy is discussed. In standard media like television we were forced to follow the preordained pathway that the recording gives us. With hypertext we can study and experience information in unique ways for each person from one page to another without constraint. Charles Ess claims, “Hypertext will enable the development of a public sphere approximating an ideal speech situation because it cannot impose one textual meaning on a reader but invites them into an open, multi-voiced conversation.” Ess regards hypertext, “As an intrinsically democratic mode of communication that will penetrate everyday discourse. In doing so it will set up the conditions for democratic communication within communities.” (Pg. 351)
Although the ability of the common person to have access to such vast amounts of knowledge and information, large corporation are taking control and this is “widening the gap between rich and poor” according to Barker. (Pg. 370) Digital Imperialism is another form of cultural imperialism, which is defined by “the domination of one culture over another.” (Pg. 370) The western corporations specifically are pointed to as those attempting to take hold. According to Schiller, “Time Warner, AT&T, Microsoft and their competitors are not concerned about social inequality but rather focus on revenues.”… “The increasingly large and visible economic gap between the rich and poor both between nations and within the borders of states will fuel discontent… This has the potential to destabilize governments and generate waves of refugees at the borders of the advanced industrial nations.” (Pg. 371) If we look at the recent string of democracies rising up against tyranny taking place in the Middle East, we can see evidence of this pattern already taking place.
An ‘information bomb’ in which the sheer volume and velocity of electronic data will inevitably give rise to ‘a generalized kind of accident, a never-seen-before accident’. Previous shifts in technology gave rise to automobile collisions, plane crashes and nuclear power station meltdowns… the absolute velocity, complexity, and interactivity of electronic data will spawn a new kind of accident of which stock market collapse is merely a slight prefiguration. (Pg. 349)