We have started to look at the topics we’ve covered over the last 6 weeks on deeper levels. ‘Power and Economy’ is the first theme – really, quite pertinent as I have decided to focus my final essay for this unit on politics in an Australian context.
When asked to provide a thesis statement for the essay, I offered the following:
“The Internet reinscribes democratic expression and political participation by providing opportunities for instantaneous collective action and citizen journalism within communities.”
I have been researching extensively of late – even though this essay is limited to 1500 words, I have read through lots of information in order to break my essay down into three sections to make this outcome possible. It’s a dense topic and I could easily pass thst word limit if I’m not careful.
My approach to the essay will be as follows:
In this essay, I shall consider how the Internet has changed the nature of political activity in an Australian context. I will use examples from other countries to illustrate how the Internet has the capacity to challenge existing power structures with more immediacy. Consideration will be given to the possibilities of what the future might hold for the empowerment or dis-empowerment for collectives, political movements, government and the nation. In addition, the practice of everyday life in a global and digital age by Australian participants online and offline will be explored, examining how technology and society intersect. The essay’s objective will be to communicate the similarities and differences in the way the Internet is experienced politically, how it is represented in private and public discourse, and how the themes of community and power permeate throughout such a topic.
I have also decided that my main sections will focus on:
Politicians using social media to get in touch with the people – does this translate into power at the election ballot box? Is their use of social media to communicate with their constituents effective? Or, does it highlight their inadequacies, rather than give citizens confidence? Political hashtags, Facebook causes, other social media – can citizens use them to effect real change in governmental policy and thus, in everyday life?
Using an example like GetUp!, I will discuss how effective campaigning and lobbying by grassroots organisations can provide real power for change. I will also examine ways in which the wisdom of the crowds may/may not be effective for change in similar contexts.
Citizen journalism, political blogging and the Fifth Estate
Do these have the power to contribute to the national political discussion and influence citizens? Examples from The Drum, Crikey and NewMatilda web sites may be used here.
Of course, none of this is set in stone – I’m sure that the purpose of the aforementioned submissions was to get us to think carefully about what we plan to present as our final and largest assessment. These proposals will be tweaked and altered in the coming weeks, I’m sure. However, the topic I’ve selected fascinates me and I am looking forward to seeing what is ultimately produced.
In the meantime, we have been focusing on ‘Power and Economy’ and now, we’re covering ‘Community and Identity’ – I’m trying my best to keep up with all the reading. It’s difficult when one works full time and sits in front of a computer most of the day.
The following questions about ‘Power’, in particular, were posed on the discussion forums… we were asked to limit our responses to half a page, but many of us didn’t… myself included.
1. Are there limits to when, what (sites), how much, and where you access the Internet?
There are less limits as to where I can access the Internet from and for how long. Wifi and a multitude of devices are at my disposal and all are connected to the Internet, whether it be from work or from home. If I’m in a place where there is free wifi, I take advantage of it and connect. If not, I will happily use my own connection with Telstra (for my mobile devices) or iiNet, for connecting within my home. I have opted to have unlimited access to the accounts I have with Telstra and iiNet, but recognise that if an ISP or a wifi hot-spot is having connection issues, I won’t necessarily have access as I expected. This has occurred on rare occasions, but I am pleased to say that I can access the Internet for most of my waking hours. Despite my need to sleep, though, my iPhone and iPad are connected 24/7 and I never miss messages, emails, tweets from other parts of the world – they are checked again first thing in the morning upon waking. Some sites I would not be able to access, I’m sure – that could be due to being behind a pay-wall or, perhaps to the fact that they are of an illegal nature (e.g. child pornography). In these instances, the powers of the authorities would come into play. I would be breaking the law if I tried to access them and would ultimately have to serve a sentence of some kind if I were to be discovered.
2. How can you transgress those limits and what are the possible consequences?
I’m sure there are ways around these restrictions – knowledge of hacking would assist, or being able to traverse the web without leaving a digital footprint in one’s wake. However, since I have never partaken of any of these kinds of activities, I am not an expert on the subject. Beside damaging those involved (i.e. children), the consequences for the violator could be prison terms and a criminal record… perhaps even being completely ostracised from a community if allowed to walk free after serving time… experiencing the power of the people taking collective action.
3. Is it possible to lose your access and what are the ways this might happen?
The inability to pay for the equipment and connections necessary for access to the Internet may result in the loss of access. Or, in some cases, this kind of access may have never been attainable. This has been documented by Macnamara, Sakinofsky and Beattie (2012, p. 625), as they state that “… a continuing digital divide exists in terms of socio-economic and sociocultural factors, such as education, gender, class, ethnicity, income and occupation, as well as digital-media literacy.”
As mentioned earlier, pay-walls may never be accessed or lost due to the inability to pay for such services and access to information. This leads to the “… maintenance of a large number of people without the capacities for informing themselves, the dynamics of the new media are infused with power relations that rarely come to light…” (Mansell, 2004, p. 98).
Power can also be usurped by those who can innovate in the areas of technological media. Developers can indeed “… experience power relationships that are expressed as an elitism of the inner circle and exercised as the right to hinder a person in contributing to the common good” (Bergquist & Ljungberg, as cited in Mansell, 2004, p. 101). The alternatives to this technological progress? Online resistance, protest and opposition. However, accomplishing this successfully is difficult to imagine as, in the Western world, we are increasingly reliant on such enabling technologies.
Macnamara, J., Sakinofsky, P., & Beattie, J. (2012). E-electoral engagement: how governments use social media to engage voters. Australian Journal of Political Science, 47(4), 623-639. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10361146.2012.731491
Mansell, R. (2004). Political economy, power and the new media. New Media and Society, 6(1), 96-105. http://10.1177/1461444804039910