Sunday, November 1, 2009

People Power

The writings of Bennett, Castelles and Hanson make me optimistic of the increasing influence of popular risings prompted by communication technology (I know what you're thinking, Laura M, and yes, I did manage to become even more optimistic about ICTs and development from this week's readings!). In a mass media environment of less diverse political content, individually controlled, multifaceted and mobile communication tools allow for interactive networks of global activism.

Although I don’t think Rhengold’s “smart mobs,” Hunter’s “network army” or Arquilla and Ronfeldt’s “netwar” appropriately describe contemporary grassroots political organization, the concept of a wireless public space for the formation of counter-power is unquestionable. Whether analyzing the case of the Philippines’ President Estrada or the Korean presidential election of Rohn Moo-Hyun, I found that conjoined use of mobile phones and other new ICTs can be effective for decentralizing media monopolies and dominant institutions. Tools for autonomous communication reflect modern social dynamics of globalization, resulting in “collective individualization.” Activists, motivated by their discontent with existing powers, the universal production of content and interactive international networks, mobilize around shared ideologies and challenge the control of governments and the mainstream.

Bennett, Castelles and Hanson claim that if the digital divide closes, mobile technology gains credibility and varied mediums are employed, civic involvement will continue to be amplified. If current social, political and economic globalized dynamics continue, these obstacles will be overcome and speedy, political organization via wireless ICTs will become an increasingly real threat to more authoritarian institutions.


  1. Wait -- how did I get this reputation for being the blackbird of gloom? I'm cheery! I'm optimistic! I just like a little balance, that's all. I won't disagree with you that ICT convergence is good for the opposition. But won't you at least concede that it can be used by the powerful to perpetuate their control? What about China? News Corporation? Disney? Obama? Plenty of the political and corporate elites are tech-savvy, too. That said, I totally dug this week's readings, with the whole tweet-truth-to-power vibe they had going on.

  2. Hello!
    I think you bring up a great point regarding the challenge of power that mobile technologies facilitate. Mobile technologies help to, as you suggest, decentralize media and relieve power from the central media monopolies. Mobile technologies are fascinating in this way, in that they have the power to subvert grand corporations and assemble civil society organizations. This was a very interesting point.