Ever since the emergence of Internet as factor, deeply imbedded into the matrix of today’s socio-political discourse, the way in which it affects post-industrial realities has been discussed from a variety of different perspectives.
Nevertheless, even though most social scientists agree with the suggestion that the existence of Internet contributes rather heavily to the promotion of democracy, there is a difference in how they assess the qualitative essence of this contribution. As of today, researchers’ approaches to discussing the subject matter can be generally defined as ‘technical’ and ‘evolutionary’. The proponents of ‘technical’ approach to assessing the role of Internet in advancing the cause of democracy suggest that this role is being strictly concerned with Internet’s functioning as informational medium. In his article, Hurwitz (1999) states: “Internet activists have succeeded remarkably in making government and political information available to netizens” (656). According to the author, by being exposed to Internet-based information, people automatically embrace democratic values.
Essentially the same idea is being promoted in Rodan’s (1998) article: “The Internet affords unprecedented access to information and new avenues for individual political expression” (64). The reading of this particular article leaves very few doubts as to the fact that the author envisions the role of Internet within the discursive framework of politics alone. The advocates of ‘evolutionary’ approach, however, imply that the role of Internet should not be solely thought of within the context of how it provides people with the access to alternative/uncensored information. According to them, the foremost benefit of an Internet is that it relieves people’s archetypical anxieties – hence, creating preconditions for the course of scientific and social progress to become ever more exponential. In his article, Yang (2003) states: “Technology is used by members of society; its diffusion and use depend on social conditions. The conditions of society, in other words, shape technological development” (406).
According to Yang, the rapid progress in the field of IT technologies will inevitably result in rendering a variety of currently legitimate socio-political concepts outdated. What it means is that it is quite inappropriate to regard Internet as the tool of democracy, by definition. Such Yang’s point of view is being shared by Warf and Grimes (1997), who point out at Internet as the instrument for promoting counterhegemonic discourses: “The Internet sustains counterhegemonic discourses, challenging established systems of domination and legitimating and publicizing political claims by the powerless and marginalized” (260). Given the fact that, as of today, the concept of democracy enjoys essentially hegemonic status on world’s political arena, it would only be logical to suggest that, due to Internet’s counterhegemonic essence, its continuous development will eventually begin posing challenge to democracy, as a static political dogma. It appears that the line of argumentation, on the part of proponents of ‘evolutionary’ approach to discussing the influence of Internet on democracy, makes perfectly logical sense. The realities of today’s living point out to the fact that in very near future, the considerations of ensuring democracy will cease to represent one of people’s foremost existential concerns.
And, the reason for this is simple – on this planet, there is no room under the sun for all. Within the matter of last 50 years, Earth’s population has doubled in size, while making this planet utterly overpopulated, as it is already. Therefore, it will only be logical to conclude that in the future, the role of Internet will be shifted from promoting democracy to promoting ‘post-humanism’ or ‘cyber-humanism’, as a new socio-technological concept, concerned with creating preconditions for only selected part of humanity to continue on evolving, and for the rest of humanity from Third World to attain a status of ‘specialized’ specie, much like trilobites, which even now can be found in ocean’s depths, despite the fact that they had stopped evolving three hundred millions of years ago.
Hurwitz, Roger “Who Needs Politics? Who Needs People? The Ironies of Democracy in Cyberspace”, Contemporary Sociology, 28.
6 (1999): 655-661. Print. In his article, Hurwitz discusses a variety of ways in which the existence of continuous development of Internet affects socio-political dynamics in Western countries. According to the author, throughout the course of nineties, Internet did serve the cause of spreading the message of democracy to people in world’s different parts. Hurwitz implies that even in Western countries, government’s attempts to limit citizens’ access to ‘sensitive’ information, while subjecting them to ideological censorship of political correctness, have been thwarted by availability of Internet-based alternative information.
Nevertheless, author concludes that, due to the rise of ‘cyber-reality’, the functioning of Internet will eventually become utterly apolitical. Rodan, Garry “The Internet and Political Control in Singapore”, Political Science Quarterly, 113.1 (1998): 63-89. Print. In his article, Rodan aims to provide an explorative analysis of how the implementation of Internet into Singapore’s socio-political and economic life had affected the workings of citizens’ mentality. According to the author, this implementation had resulted in creating a situation when more and more Singaporeans grow increasingly alienated from traditional ethics.
Whereas, before the advent of Internet era, most Singaporeans used to pay a hypertrophied attention to how society would perceive them along the lines of a patriarchic tradition, it is now no longer the case. Rodan considers such his observation as the proof to the fact that the rise of Internet did cause the ever increased number of Singaporeans to adopt democratic ideals as the integral components of their existential mode. Warf, Barney & Grimes, John “Counterhegemonic Discourses and the Internet”, Geographical Review, 87.2 (1997): 259-274. Print.
In their article, Barney and Grimes strive to provide readers with the insight onto Internet as essentially counterhegemonic phenomenon. According to the authors, the very fact that Internet provides users with an unrestricted access to information, results in undermining the effectiveness of governmentally sponsored ideological oppressiveness. As of today, Internet became a channel, through which the representatives of marginalized political circles provide citizens with their opinions on the matters of socio-political importance – hence, undermining government’s monopoly on interpreting the actual significance of these matters. Nevertheless, authors came to conclusion that there are no reasons to believe that the existence of Internet will always be associated with promoting democratic values, as it is the case nowadays. Yang, Guobin “The Co-Evolution of the Internet and Civil Society in China”, Asian Survey, 43.
3 (2003): 405-422. Print. The foremost thesis of Guobin’s article can be formulated as follows: the way in which Internet helps to advance the cause of democracy is not being as much concerned with promoting the freedom of speech, as it is being concerned with endowing people with what he refers to as ‘techno-mentality’.
According to the author, in technologically advanced societies citizens are being automatically instilled with the respect towards the ideals of democracy. Nevertheless, the more people’s intellectual horizons are being broadened, due to people’s their exposal to internet, the less likely they will tend to think of these ideals as representing an undeniable truth-value. Goubin concludes his article by suggesting that in the future, the very notion of ‘civil society’ might cease being synonymous to the notion of ‘democratic society’.
Hurwitz, Roger “Who Needs Politics? Who Needs People? The Ironies of Democracy in Cyberspace”, Contemporary Sociology, 28.6 (1999): 655-661. Print. Rodan, Garry “The Internet and Political Control in Singapore”, Political Science Quarterly, 113.
1 (1998): 63-89. Print. Warf, Barney & Grimes, John “Counterhegemonic Discourses and the Internet”, Geographical Review, 87.2 (1997): 259-274. Print.
Yang, Guobin “The Co-Evolution of the Internet and Civil Society in China”, Asian Survey, 43.3 (2003): 405-422. Print.