Sounds Iranian

December 17, 2006

The Significance of Perspective and the Criticality of Common Experience

Filed under: Uncategorized — calexander @ 10:27 pm

A few thoughts and responses to both the GV questions and to Jordan’s comments:

How can we use the Internet to build a more democratic, participatory global discourse?

First of all, I think that Jordan brings up an excellent point about the role of “democratic” rhetoric in discussions about the internet. I share his sentiment that Western-oriented thinkers must be wary of falling into a Euro-centric worldview. I too shall leave alone the question of whether democracy is the ideal form of governance and instead assume that at this time democracy is the most beneficial outcome for our current geopolitical situation. While democracy itself is a worthy goal, its global success depends on expanding its meaning to include a more malleable model. Successful democracies share commonalities, but this does not mean (as we have seen) that we can merely make cookie-cutter versions of Western democracies for the rest of the world. Indeed, even within the “Western” experience- forgive me for using this term so repeatedly- there are numerous different types of “successful” democracies, each with their own unique twist.

I believe that in order to utilize the internet in a populist sense we are going to have to cut through the common Western rhetoric and instead appeal to a more fundamental sense of community. We need to avoid falling into the frames of reference created by governments with investments in certain geo-political climates. I go into this later, but in short this means focusing on what brings us together, instead of starting at what differentiates various blogospheres from each other. This strategy takes creativity, and it takes a willingness to reach out to those who may have significant differences of opinion on many fronts. Talking to, and not just beyond other blogging communities must start with those of us who wish to use the internet as a tool for dialogue and, ultimately, understanding.

How can we create a more inclusive conversation about what is happening on our planet, and how human beings in different parts of the world are impacting each other in countless ways we don’t realize every day?

Again, responding to Jordan’s post, I think his suggestion regarding the idea of “mapping interconnectivity”is an interesting one. I personally don’t believe that the blogosphere as it is now will ever be able to compete with more professionalized news coverage. The incentives simply aren’t strong enough for either blogger or reader to replace their traditional news with blogger news. Having said this, I do think that blogs have the potential to- indeed already do- play an incredibly influential role in the filtering, framing, and publicizing professional news. The openness of the internet often forces the traditional news media to address issues that they would not normally have the incentive to cover. Blogs can be used effectively to evaluate and criticize the bias of media coverage. I find this one of the most important strengths especially of bridgeblogs, since the perspective of a country’s or region’s news coverage (nationalized or not) can often be dramatically different from a different news outlet’s take on the same event/process/situation. We need to work to increase this potential of the blogosphere.

How do we bring more unheard, ignored, or disadvantaged voices into the global online conversation? How do we help people speak and be heard – even when powerful people try to stop them from doing so?

I like that fact that Jordan once again brings up the question of perspective. What specific voices are we actually looking to enfranchise? However, while acknowledging the politicized nature of our questions is important, I do think that inherent in projects such as Global Voices Online is a basic vision that is universally agreeable. I think that while we can argue about the benefits of this or that political ideology, we can agree to such fundamental ideals, such as peace and justice, which we should work to further. I see a problem with incorporating more and more voices into a (cyber)community if, as we have mentioned in this blog previously, these voices merely talk past each other and not to each other. I find however, that there are things, many things actually, that a great many of us can agree upon. I think that the key to utilizing the internet effectively is by strengthening global connections through things that bring us together, rather than by focusing on what separates us. This is a critical step towards real dialogue, and one that I think is important to cultivate.

Beyond this I think that keeping the internet “neutral” and increasing the access to it are the two most important factors to increasing its reach. Current attempts to “corporatize” the internet in the US could ultimately have much the same affect that current efforts by authoritarian regimes to control internet usage. The control of internet access is a real threat to the ideal of “democratizing” internet. Access will increase as a result of economic incentive, both as a means of doing business and as a means of consuming. As long as we can control the manipulation of the internet as an economic tool, we can experience the benefits of increased internet access with the negative manipulation that this will obviously invite.

Thanks to Jordan for his very insightful comments, I enjoyed reading them very much. As always, feel free to add input or criticize.

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1 Comment »

  1. Blogs can be used effectively to evaluate and criticize the bias of media coverage. I find this one of the most important strengths especially of bridgeblogs, since the perspective of a country’s or region’s news coverage (nationalized or not) can often be dramatically different from a different news outlet’s take on the same event/process/situation. We need to work to increase this potential of the blogosphere.

    Excellent point.. I like this idea of yours of the blogosphere as the new ‘fifth estate’, so to speak. I think it’s definitely worthy of elaboration.

    Once again, the rest of your analysis also resonates well. I feel like we’re really all on the same page here… I’d be interested to know how many others there are out there, perhaps writing in other languages, mulling these same ideas. It feels like we’re onto something quite significant, and it’s really encouraging to read posts like this that echo similar thoughts!

    Comment by Jordan — December 21, 2006 @ 9:37 am


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