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Democracy, Tyranny, And The Online Revolution

vertigo
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When status quos collapse, for whatever reasons, are their replacements necessarily better? Does the demise of traditional media powers mean that new media powers will lead to more Democracy? Will cultivated professions which require years of training and mistakes and experience – such as Medicine – give way to amateurs who can succeed in creating appearances of Authenticity?

Last century, not everybody could publish their thoughts without expending some form of considerable energy. Now, with Twitter, anyone can tell the world what s/he thinks at virtually zero expense (save the time value of their tweets). This is no doubt a radical shift in communications and publishing and connecting.

It’s easy to call this democratizing. But is it? Or is what’s happening a radical shift from one era of power dynamics to another: one where those who accumulate the greatest amount of social capital emerge as the major powers, powers which will dominate and rule over a new kind of oligarchic imperialism? One where a few hold sway to enormous influence while the many busy themselves in self-reinforced delusions of democratic liberation, confusing technological connection with the human kind?

Real-time media like Twitter sure do give off the seductive appearances of level playing fields where I can connect with you and you me. But what are the essential realities of the evolving Web? Are they balances-of-power? Or are they in fact towers-of-power, new status quos which create a condition of what Andrew Keen calls Digital Vertigo?

Here is the Antichrist of Silicon Valley himself discussing the dangers of the Real-time web and Power.

We are living through the inflection phase of technological evolution. It’s hard to see beyond the exponential curve rising above our heads. Today’s gifts may be tomorrow’s sorrows. With Twitter, I can tell a friend something that makes her day. In the not-too-distant future, though, someone else just might detonate a bomb with a tweet. And then we can say Goodbye to Twitterville.

Is the Web bringing forth more opportunity than danger? Granted, it can’t be stopped at this point. But: may one promise of the Web (Democracy) eventually be betrayed by one danger (Tyranny)? Are we truly creating a Digital Level Playing Field or might we in fact be creating the conditions for chronic Digital Vertigo complicated by the illusion of Authenticity?

What do you think?

*This blog post was originally published at phil baumann online*


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One Response to “Democracy, Tyranny, And The Online Revolution”

  1. Carmen says:

    Phil:

    I think with any disrupting technology you can say that democracy looms large and the possibility of tyranny is always near. The printing press brought knowledge to wider circles (democracy), but once the presses were owned by concentrated wealth, the voices shrank (tyranny). There’s always a push-pull going on. I resist hyperbolic claims that any single technology will bring down the house. The atom bomb should have done that years ago. Instead, the process of change is accelerating at such a clip, that I’m not sure any tyrannical force can keep up in the long run.

    C.

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