INTRODUCTION TO COMM. & CULTURE CHANGE
The SPS Schedule of Classes states:
This course examines cultural change resulting from new technologies, scientific discoveries, demographic changes, political conflict, and changes in the environment. Special emphasis will be given to how effective communication can help to resolve (and miscommunication can escalate) conflicts and stresses arising from such change.
With that being said, I now welcome you to a brief summary of the assignments I completed throughout this interactive and learning-intensive course.........
***The Internet: A Democratic Illusion
It has been said that the Internet allows everyone a voice, but does this “voice” promote democracy or does it provide the masses with an illusion of democracy?
Barker (2008) suggests the Internet can be seen as a force which enhances democratization as it allows everyone who has access to the Internet a platform through which they can express their opinion. Therefore, we are all – even those of us are the most disenfranchised in society – allowed some sort of outlet to express our thoughts, perspectives, grievances, and even propose solutions. As stated by Barker (2008), “previously excluded groups are allowed to participate in democratic processes and thus new aspects of social life are drawn into the political process” (349). I agree with Barker’s words as I feel that the Internet does indeed enable and perhaps even invite individuals everywhere to announce their opinion using social platforms such as blogs, social networking websites as well as educate themselves on the opinions of their contemporaries. In that sense, therefore, one would think the “voice” created by the Internet does indeed promote democracy. Further, academic scholars everywhere seem to be of the opinion that the Internet is promoting democracy. For example, I note the words of researchers at Harvard University featured on the Internet and Democracy Blog (2008), all of whom state, “the Internet allows people to communicate their interests to a broad audience and, as a result of that communication, to form interest groups that pool resources which allow the individuals in those groups to exert power on political decision-makers.” Barker (2008) seems to agree with these Harvard researchers as evidenced by his words that, “the process of Internet democracy will infiltrate into the wider society because as Net users experience democratic discussion, so they will demand it in other spheres of their life” (350).
In theory, the arguments posited by Barker (2008) and the Harvard University researchers (2008) sound very practical, logical, and even sensible since the Internet does offer so much opportunity for decentralized discussion and dialogue among groups of people from all walks of life. However, I am not convinced that the Internet truly is promoting democracy as democracy cannot be promoted simply by giving individuals a voice. It is also necessary for the figures in authority to listen and respond to the voice which is attempting to make itself heard. More precisely stated, simply because I write a blog on the various financial injustices currently occurring in United States (corporate greed, my dissatisfaction with the amount of taxes I pay etc.), will my grievances be heard and addressed by anyone with the authority to change my circumstance? Will my comments on the Mayor’s Facebook page or my direct messages to our Senator’s Twitter feeds ensure that my voice is heard or listened to? What about if I gather around my computer, in a chat room with many other people who have similar grievances? Can we, by educating ourselves together on why financial injustice occurs and all the reasons why it shouldn’t occur, somehow impact the fact that it does occur? The answers to these questions appear to be no.
Based upon my interpretations of the reading material and outside research, it seems that while the Internet does allow me the opportunity to interact more closely with authority figures as well as individuals who may share my same sentiments - thus giving me the illusion that I am able to exert some sort of meaningful impact on the governance of the country – in fact, there are no guarantees that my voice will make a difference in the political governance of my country. As Barker (2008) states in his counterargument, “the Internet can give rise to the illusion of dissent in the face of actual powerlessness….many websites exist explaining about global warming and how governments and individuals can impact it, yet it is unclear that major progress has been made by politicians and the captains of industry” (356).
I now look at Occupy Wall Street which is not only the subject of my Capstone but also a topic of significant interest in this course as an additional example to prove my argument. As I understand the literature composed about Occupy Wall Street, its participants, and their overall methods of unifying themselves, it would appear that the Internet played a huge part. For example, I note the words of a blog site known as Space Chimp Media (2012) whose authors stated, “with today’s advancements in social sharing, citizen and traditional news are being shared through thousands of outlets via social media, giving Occupy Wall Street a larger and more effective outreach system than previous social movements.” While this may have been (and most likely was) true, it does not change the fact that Occupy Wall Street did not have a very large impact on the political governance of the country. However, the fact that so many people were able to communicate via Internet platforms, unifying their cause and discussing their reasons for participating did give the illusion of democracy and may have deluded many into believing they were helping to change some aspect of the country. As Barker notes (2008), “even in areas where online political discussion does occur, feelings that political processes are occurring may be fueled, even though few tangible achievements are actually delivered” (355). This statement seems to exemplify Occupy Wall Street which does not appear to have had the type of political impact they most likely hoped for. Indeed many authority figures quickly took action against OWS to ensure their message was not heard (i.e. police riots and the removal of occupation sites).
I conclude with Barker’s (2008)’s words that, “politically the Internet could enhance ‘the use of electronic networking to bring about a more direct form of democracy” (358). Yet, unless the words of those who communicate via the Internet are taken seriously by those in authority, the presence of the Internet simply deludes us into believing we are powerful.
Barker, C. (2008). Cultural Studies. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Space Chimp Media (n.d.). How Occupy Wall Street is Using Social Media. Retrieved September 17, 2012 from http://spacechimpmedia.com/how-occupy-wall-street-is-using-social-media/
Joyce, M. (2008, May). The Democratic Power Shift on the Internet. Retrieved from https://blogs.law.harvard.edu/idblog/2008/05/14/the-democratic-power-shift-on-the-internet/