In the fantastical IC cocktail party in my head (and yes, there's a fantastical IC cocktail party in my head) Elizabeth Hanson is the person who bounces around the room talking to everybody; Castells, et. al. is the circle of people having a heady, fascinating intellectual conversaation you can't quite break into; Jeffrey Juris is the guy who grabs your wrist and leans in a little too close when he talks to you; and W.L. Bennett is the guy you run into by the guacamole and end up talking to the rest of the evening. (For the record, Aronson and Cowhey are the guys you accidentally sit next to on the couch and try to politely ignore until your roommate notices your desperate eyebrow semaphores and comes to rescue you.)
I absolutely loved this week's readings, but Bennett's was my favorite by far. The idea of using ICTs for global/social protests was fascinating to me. Some of the examples were familiar to me (the Zapatista movement, the Madrid election, the Nike and Fair Trade Coffee campaigns) and some were totally new (the Estrada ouster, Korea election, the Coca-Cola campaign). What I liked about Bennett's essay was that he was able to examine the events without getting swept away by enthusiasm for the potential of ICTs or anti-globalization movements, which (in my opinion, at least) gave him leeway to reflect a little more on the implications.
Bennett says that governments and institutions and corporations use communication networks to perpetuate the existing political-economic regime -- a regime which, presumably, already benefits them. BUT, activists have also used the same technology to find creative and innovative ways to challenge that power, which is very similar to what Castells said. So, essentially, these new ICTs are benefitting both the status quo and the opposition. To what degree is obviously a contentious matter, which explains why Castells and co. think the Chinese government won the SARS PR situation and Hanson thinks the people did.
All of this ties nicely back to the idea of the "noosphere" (much as I hate the word, I like the concept) and the idea that political movements are heavily influenced by the stories and ideas people try to introduce into the public domain. OK, I realize I'm totally geeking out over these readings, but I really did enjoy them and now I've got all of these interesting ideas buzzing around in my brain. Or maybe that's just the cocktail party chatter...