Though he was originally for the Internet, Keen has now become the self titled “antichrist of Silicon Valley”, since he continues to question and critique Internet’s impact on mainstream media and our society’s democratisation. He begins by affirming that the Internet Is a mirror of today’s society, on the one hand attractive and Innovative, but on the other narclssltlc and self important broadcast to our friends instead of learning from strangers”. In his eyes, the consecuence of this is the fragmentation of society, making all truths personal, therefore, taking a step away from democracy.
The web is the next stage of capitalism” he says In his Interview on BBC Radio 4, explalnlng that the foundation and the values of the Internet, which can never be detached from it, are obsessed with being decentralised or ‘on the edge’, and that this hostility towards tradition and authority is reflected in the ideology of Internet companies, ruled by young men “spouting about equalitarian democratization”. However, those men are becoming rich and powerful at the expence of others, seemingly contradicting themselves.
He even ventures to say that the Internet users are not to blame, as they are subjects or ictims of forced conciousness, and they are being exploited. “This is cultural chaos and moral decay”. It’s safe to assume Andrew Keen does not belive the Internet Is helping to democratize the world. On the other side of the spectrum Is the NYU professor Clay Shirky, also an author, but of a book titled Here Comes Everybody, who is very excited about the potential of the Internet in aiding democracy.
Though he does admit that the average quality of media has decreased, he is optimistic with the Idea that the absolute amount of quality media will Increase. “When something ecomes abundant, it stops being valuable, and that’s something hard to internalise. ” He compares the Internet with the Printing Press, opening up a new form of broadcasting that not only informs them but allows them to create, interact and, in the case of the Internet, take action together. He says these new tools have triggered people to be more creative and generous, using their free time to participate in amateur activities with professional results.
A good example he used was “Grobernise for Charity, and online organisation saving money for Charity that started as a small and social community. This, according to Shirky, satisfies the basic human need to be creative and part of such a community. Sklrky Is all for the Internet, but he explores deeper into the future and the latest generations, saying 1 OFA also sees two sides. On the one hand, the web opens up participation, allowing people to voice their opinions and therefore giving them power.
On the other hand, however, it lacks an internal structure that would balance the minority with the majority. This makes the web full of factualisation but lacking the tools it would need to be truly democratic. He uses Change. ov as an example of this, as the Obama Administration set up a webpage where the citizens could freely post about national issues, and the number one recurring issue was the legalisation of medical marihuana. This proves that the Internet isn’t a perfect portrait of reality, it simply reflects the people who are most organised for specific purposes.
If we talk about democracy, we need to look at a wider scale than Just the authors and critics who access it on a personal level. The Internet plays a major part in how countries work, for example China, a totalitarian state that wants to promote conomic growth without giving it’s citizens access to information that might put the single party at risk. To do this, the Chinese government has what is known commonly as “The Great Firewall Of China”, about 30 thousand police monitoring the web.
It also has official commentators all over the web that post articles in favour of the official party, known as the “Fifty Cent Army’ since each post is worth 50 cents. These actions seem to be aiding the opressor instead of the people, but, as we can see, the government was so keen on censoring external influences that it didn’t bother to onitor conversations amongst the people, leading to citizens organising themselves through social networks and so on, aiding democracy and giving power to the people, and it’s not the only time that it’s happened.
The Internet gave people the possibility of broadcasting videos of the terrible violence and injustice in their countries, uniting the mass against the few in power. That is was Shirky seemed to be referring to, the Internet has given people the tools they need to organise and communicate on a much larger and less controlable level. We can see this in The Arab Spring, a wave of demonstrations and civil wars in the Arab world that was influenced, if not dependant of, the Internet. Under a totalitarian regime, countries like Tunisia were on the edge, but the governments control over the mainstream media was an obstacle.
This lead to the use of social networks, such as facebook or twitter, to broadcast the views of the people, and then, to organise demonstrations and riots. Essencially the governments and the people are playing a ‘tug war’ with the Internet’s posibilities to give them power respectfully, shifting it from aiding democracy and hurting it. Governments are getting the hint about private monitoring and information control, atleast this is what has come to the surface with the files leaked by Edward Snowden, former employee of the NSA.
These file prove that the UK organisation GCHQ and the USA organisation NSA are working together to spy on their citizens and other countries. Seen as a traitor by some but a hero by others, he’s currently in Russia, taking asylum while the Journalist who is reporting on these Miranda. Creating somehow a link between terrorism and Journalism in order to intimidate Journalists on delicate subjects such as these. An even clearer case, the one who inspired Snowden, was that of former US soldier, now called Chelsea Manning, who leaked information from the US government to the wikileaks website.
She stands by the notion that it was of public interest and says she’s sorry for hurting her country. She posted multiple files, though some where “political gossip”, others were, for example, war videos in which the US army shot peaceful inocents. Out of the 21 charges, one included “aiding the enemy’, which is punishable by death. This again, links Journalism with terrorism and makes reporters and citicens alike uneasy, eeing that Human Rights are being violated with the excuse of the so called War On Terror.
But whether Snowden and Manning are traitors to their countries for leaking confidential information that could hurt their image, or they are brave whistleblowers that are giving out information of public interest, varies on personal opinion and values. In my opinion, though, democratic governments are meant to be working for the people, and therefore not only should everyone know what the government is doing, but it should also respect it’s citizens’ rights, as the right to privacy. Pages like
Wikileaks, that try to bring to the surface information of public interest, give power to the people. Now it’s easier than ever to broadcast without high income, and that, united with the decentralised values mentioned by Keen, amount to a powerful tool for the people to be seen and heard anonymously. The idea of having a medium on which to post this kind of information and to be heard as a civilian is quite groundbreaking. Wikileaks a trusted data base of information that enables people not only to post and have a voice, but also to read and stay informed.
In this way, the Internet seems to be aiding democracy. Anonymity gives people the power to voice their opinions without fear, but, is really a positive thing? Cyberbullies, Cyberstalkers and “trolls” are all people who use this anonymity in their personal favour to hurt or take advantage of other people. Cyberbullying, for example, has become more evident in recent years, making victims apparently surrounded by a world that hates them, not being able to escape because the cyber world is all around us.
Some post on sites looking for someone to talk to, and can get easily mislead through annonymity, trusting someone with “secret ntentions”, which could lead to cyberstalking. Also, people known as “trolls” are those who attack celebrities or people in the public eye, looking for an emotional response, be it through simple hate commments or tweets, through rape threats, to even the use of personal information and death threats. A recent case is that of celebrity Coleen Nolan, who received bomb and rape threats through twitter after the death of her mother.
Because of annonymity and the Internet’s decentrilisation it is hard for authorities to track down the culprits of such acts and set adequate laws, therefore, he fear of consecuence is almost completely lost and giving people that “extra push” to speak or act in a way that is unacceptable in a face to face situation. I think my views on the Internet reflect my views on humanity as a whole. The Internet has a lot of potential, it has created a space where, atleast in theory, themselves and take charge of the way they live and it has helped people learn and factualise information given to them.
It seems like the Nirvana of human kind, the true democracy. It’s dissapointing though, to see that all of these good values go to aste, that people take advantage of anonymity, or that they spy on users, or that they become so self important that they forget they are part of a whole. The fact that people are getting rich off of others who give their services for free is Just sad in my opinion. All of this saddens me. Because for there to be a true democracy you not only need a structure and the means, you need people ready to undergo that process and willing to participate in that democracy. The way I see the Internet today, it’s not likely.