Internet has democratised us but questions remain: US expert

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New Delhi, July 16 (IANS) Internet has brought in a fundamental change as to how an individual can interact in a democracy and experience life as a citizen, thus democratising our society, says US-based political theorist Langdon Winner.

In a talk, titled “Beyond Techno-Narcissism: Self and Other in the Internet Public Realm” in the Capital recently, Winner said in the new network information environment, everyone is free to observe, report, question and debate.

“The declining price of computation, communication and storage has placed the material means of information in the hands of a significant fraction of the world’s population. Rapidly falling cost of technology supports the rise of a network information economy that is increasingly characterised by cooperative and coordinated action,” Winner stressed, quoting Harvard Professor Yochai Benkler.

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“Crucial are the ways in which large numbers of people from different geographical locations, walks of life have seized upon the opportunities by low cost network information,” he added.

The citizens now no longer need to passively watch news and monitor events, or depend on professional journalists or the judgments of media managers, but they can themselves react on various social media platforms.

“Internet allows citizens to change relationship to the public sphere. They no longer need to be consumers and spectators but become creators and primary subjects. It is in this sense that the Internet has democratised,” Winner noted.

Dwelling on the darker side of Internet, Winner said that besides using Internet’s power to express ideas, needs, demands and practical proposals, some people are also using targeted messaging, news feeds and computational propaganda to infect and subvert what had earlier been celebrated as information sharing and intellectual decision-making.

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As a result, politically relevant messages on the Internet can be tuned from a distant location by deploying a scrumptious troll farms, to decisively influence political election or policies.

Winner termed this as “new set of Internet maladies” and blamed giants of key domains of competing power like Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon who “achieved unparalleled dominance within their spheres of enterprise, complete beyond the infrequent feeble government attempts to regulate their expansion and conditions of operations”.



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