Internet and Democracy

Does the internet help our society?

Many people talk about the internet as it is a saviour for the our societies communication and the democracy. But does it really help us? I would like to offer my thoughts about that. First we have to go back to the first principles of democracy, which are: equity, freedom of choice, freedom of the information and the possibility of a passive and active participation on the opinion-leading process. My argumentation leads my to a comparison of these principles to the current media and contemporary communication scene. The pre-internet media, like radio and the printing press had the problem, that they were not able to guarantee all the democratic principles. Of course they were way forward in comparison to the early 19th century, but newspapers and radio stations created only a subordinated public sphere, which allows you to choose between different preselected information. To take part on the conversation you needed the good will of the media station. So you could never become a equal partner. Since the 20th century the regular media scene is dominated by big companies and the states. It depended on money and political influence if you voice could be heard.

In the Internet can everybody write everything and of course read everything what he wants. It is obvious that the internet gave us more freedom and more equality in the media case. But that isn’t changing the fact that there is still a preselection ongoing. The difference is that the filter isn’t completely controlled by money and political power. Of course there is still a great influence from the global players and the states, but it is much easier to avoid this influences by type in the url that pleased yourself. The preselection in the web is basically controlled by social competence. Social competence – also called soft skills – means in this case the power to interact and a kind of control discussions with people and developments of opinion-building processes in social network. Your weblog for example will be only successful, when you find people who read your posts. But for that you need a network, people who think that you are an expert, a person which they want to follow.

So what’s happening now is, that people or groups which have a great social competence – the so called peer-groups – get more power. Things like morals, norms and a form of lifestyle will be decided in these groups, not in a national debate anymore. So we are less depending on the national media or the will of the state – we start to depend more and more on peer-groups. In the Text “The daily we” warned the Jurisprudence-Professor Cass R. Sunstein against the further balkanisation and like may people he is afraid about this process. He claim that “a common set of frameworks and experiences is valuable for a heterogeneous society”. I agree with that, but I can’t see incoherency to the peer-group phenomena. We can build the a common value system only when we’ve found our own value system. And it seems to be much easier to find yourself in your peer-group, than in the state. And if we don’t find a answer to ore questions in one group, we can join another or found our own. That is the new freedom. Of course we have to be careful. Social competence can be utilised. But I’ll be confident that the community will handle these problems.

To come at least to my incoming question. I would like to answer that the internet can’t be seen as a saviour. Ok, it helps us. But it is only a tool. Like the spade for the gardener. But digging and planting flowers, we have to do by ourselves


One Response to Internet and Democracy

  1. […] In one of my last blogs I gainsay Cass R. Sunsteins fear about a radicalisation of balkanaised groups, he pointed out in his text “The daily we”. Surowiecki mentions Sunstein’s studies and the phenomenon of group-radicalisation in his book. But Surowiecki identifies the radicalisation only as problem of group-compositions. For that reason he cites a study of Alan S. Blinder and John Morgan, which shows that a good organised small group can be smarter than every single member of the group. His conclusion is, that groups are only smarter, when there decision comes off a free, open and unhierarchic discussion. […]

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