Net Activism 1.0 = Libertarianism
Net Activism 2.0 = Governance
Political Communication and Information Scarcity
The Internet arrived on the global stage during a tumultuous juncture in world history. The Soviet Empire collapsed; ending a 50 year ideological battle between the centralised command economies of the Communist East, and the free-market economies of the Capitalist West. A world that was sharply divided between the Socialist ideologies of centralised planning-coupled with tight information controls-and the Capitalist ideologies of individual agency and individual expression was replaced by the later world of increasingly unfettered ‘flows’. Primarily driven by the United States, its allies, and the post World War II Bretton Woods Institutions such as GATT (General Agreement on Tariff and Trade); freedom of expression, freedom of trade, and freedom of the market prevailed in all major international interactions. The Internet entered the global arena during this period of great change and is defined by this change and defines this change (and it may have developed very differently if it was conceived during another period of history). It is perhaps not unusual then, that tentatively entering the post Cold War period, many early researchers first understood the Internet’s political potential firmly grounded in the Communist ‘information scarcity’ and censorial anxieties that derive from the ideological divisions of the ‘short Twentieth Century’ (Hobsbawn; 1994).
Early commentators and cyber-enthusiasts were quick to promulgate the democratic potential of the Internet and claimed that the new technologies would enliven political debate, facilitate direct democracy, and empower citizen participation in grass-roots, bottom-up political exchange between citizen and state and between citizens themselves (Rheingold; 1995, Toffler & Toffler 1995, Negroponte; 1995, Dyson; 1998 and Lovink; 2002). In fact, the history of political communication is intimately connected to the history of technological innovation and the Internet is no exception (Bimber; 2003). Political actors have always adapted the communication mechanisms at their disposal; whether it be radio, film, television, or newspapers. (Fisher & King, Bergman; 2003). There are numerus outstanding case studies that examine the Internet’s political efficacy within a plethora of campaigns, however, on the whole, these studies do tend to suffer from technological determinism and over emphasise the potential of self-publishing for broader, informed, and considered collective decision making (Bimber; 2003, Oates, Owen & Gibson, 2006). Many argue that the individualised and opinion-centred nature of the Internet and new technologies in general, may lead to disaggregation, information overload, and perhaps even greater political apathy and ineptitude from citizens (Shenk; 1997, Bimber; 1998; Oates & Gibson 2006).
(More to come…I have only just started thinking about this stuff).