Looking Through the Wrong End of the Telescope: Internet Democracy vs. Public Access



Chapter  7 considers the question of whether social media on the internet constitute a public forum that is similar to or superior to that established for public access. Like other technologies, the rise of digital communications and the internet was accompanied by forms of technological optimism that promise that new digital technologies are inherently democratic. In the work of Stuart Brand and the pioneers of digital technologies, the personal computer enabled creative activity within a networked world of community that was inherent in a wired world. Originally conceived as something opposed to the corporate world, it became tied to the neoliberal orthodoxy. This linkage was not accidental. Although social theorists and media theorists have stressed the democratic potentials of the internet due to its decentralized pluralistic nature, which disperses central authority, the democratic potential of the internet has not been realized. It requires a democratic political culture for its realization. Largely this failure can be attributed to the private ownership of the major social media by large profit-seeking corporations which seek eyeballs and engage in large-scale data mining. The individual is not an autonomous entity but a has become colonized and marketized—though not totally. In the world of social media, winners take all and traditional media still predominate as sources of information. Although there are some important examples of internet activism, overall the internet does not promote activism more than traditional media, and the weak bonds of solidarity created through activism are not easily dissolved. Certainly, social media as private property does not provide the kind of public forum that PEG channels create. Social media publics are segmented, fragmented, and self-selecting, They have not developed into general public spheres.


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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.RochesterUSA

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