Digital captives in controlled societies?

18Dec08

An interesting piece on the International Herald Tribune warns not to take for granted some Net features embraced by its users (especially teenagers) in democratic societies of North America and Western Europe:

“The early enthusiasm for the Internet as a tool of political change has been pegged to its promise to transform the international order: As the benefits of unrestricted access to information and easy group mobilization were to propagate around the globe, even the most heinous dictatorships were expected to founder. The Internet promised a global triumph of liberal democracy, responsible governance and radical transparency. The digital natives were expected to be in the avant guard of this movement; Facebook was supposed to make the Little Red Book irrelevant.

To the dismay of most policymakers and technology enthusiasts, this has not happened: The Berlin Wall may have fallen, but the Chinese Firewall has been erected in its place. What if the original premise was wrong and the Internet is not a great force for democratic change but rather the clay that keeps authoritarian regimes together?”

The author, Evgeny Morozov, a fellow at the Open Society Institute in New York, has a point when he further explains:

“We have to be aware of the fact that the Internet has given the youth living in controlled societies infinite venues for digital entertainment – without any religious or social censorship – that may not necessarily be enhancing their digital sense of citizenship and civic engagement. Risking the comfort of their bedrooms – with their hard-drives full of digital goodies – for the gloom of a prison cell does not appeal to many of them. The governments are all too happy to promote this new cult of “cyber-hedonism.” Whatever keeps these troubled youths from the streets is inherently a good thing. Digital captives are, after all, cheaper to sustain than the real ones.”



One Response to “Digital captives in controlled societies?”

  1. I agree Berny. The risk is that we will only sign online petitions, make great articles about politcs and witness the environmental collapse from our screens, while we post on Twitter, Facebook with millions of people doing the same. This can go on until we will face a planet which could not wait for our cyber torpor. When the mental bubble will burst we will need to take care for the real planet and for our impoverished inner lives as well.


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