Monday, October 29, 2012

The Internet and Democracy

Although to us it may seem foreign to imagine a world as disconnected from one another as it once was, as media studies students we are well versed in how society has been affected by new media. What really interested me in the Castell reading was his discussion of how democracy and politics have been affected by the Internet. In a presidential campaign year like this one, public political interest has undoubtedly risen. One would think that the interactivity of the internet has allowed people to be more engaged in politics because contacting people in political offices is often easier, and politicians seem even more accessible through facebook and twitter pages. Another argument for the strengthening of democracy through the Internet would be because the wealth of knowledge available online, citizens are more informed and would understand the processes more. In addition, we have talked a lot about the presidential debates in class, and there have been a few blog posts on reactions to the heightened political atmosphere online through memes, Facebook status etc. I would these contributions of the Internet, among others, would help strengthen democracy but Castell argues a different point.

Castell argues “rather than strengthening democracy by fostering knowledge and participation of the citizens, the use of the Internet tends to deepen the crisis of political legitimacy by providing a broader launching platform for the politics of scandal”(158). I think this is an interesting point. There are without a doubt many political scandals of which the Internet only fuels the flame. He brings up the Monica Lewinsky affair, which was first reported on an Internet newsletter. There have been countless political scandals since. However, I think that in this case the good outweighs the bad when it comes to strengthening democracy. There were political scandals long before the Internet, and yes maybe they spread faster and reach more people now, but so do political advertisements and all sorts of campaign propaganda. I think in terms of political awareness, the Internet has actually strengthened democracy by creating a outlet for discussion as well as knowledge gathering.  

1 comment:

  1. One other thing that Castells mentions (I think) is that politicians often pay lip service to the interactive potential of the Internet, without really using those capabilities. Instead, web sites get put up and tweets are sent out primarily as broadcast tools rather than actually allowing feedback. When was the last time you checked out a senator or local candidate's web presence? Sent an inquiry? How long did it take to get a response? And was it generic? Good things to ask during this season. Here are some examples: Barbara Boxer's official site and local Berkeley mayoral candidate Jacquelyn McCormick's campaign site.