The Internet and Global Activism [pdf]
W. Lance Bennett
(Chapter in CONTESTING MEDIA POWER, Edited by Nick Couldry and James Curran, Rowman and Littlefield, 2003)
When networks are not decisively controlled by particular organizational centers, they embody the Internet’s potential as a relatively open public sphere in which the ideas and plans of protest can be exchanged with relative ease, speed, and global scope –all without having to depend on mass media channels for information or (at least, to some extent) for recognition. Moreover, the coordination of activities over networks with many nodes and numerous connecting points, or hubs, enables network organization to be maintained even if particular nodes and hubs die, change their mission, or move out of the network. Indeed, the potential of networked communication to facilitate leaderless and virtually anonymous social communication makes it challenging to censor or subvert broadly distributed communication even if it is closely monitored. These points are elaborated by Redden:The fact that it is a decentralised, distributed network currently makes it hard for any elite to control online activities. It allows fast one-to-one, one-to-many and even many-to-many communication in web and conferencing forums. Together, the technological and economic aspects of the Net allow for cheap self-publication without mediation by corporate publishing....Of course, cheap is a relative term. The Net is cheap, not in absolute terms, but relative to the efficiency of message distribution. It is clearly not a panacea that guarantees freedom of speech for all. But while it is not accessible to everyone who has something to say, it does dramatically increase the numbers of people who can afford the time and money to distribute information translocally to large numbers of other people. In short, it allows individuals and community groups to reduce the influence gap between themselves and wealthier organizations (Redden, 2001, n.p).
The capacity to transform time, space, costs, and the very roles of information producers and consumers also enables the rapid adaptation and transformation of political organizations, and the creation of new sorts of power relationships (Bennett, forthcoming). W. Lance Bennett
Debates on whether those in power should try to control this new media tend to centre around issues of 'objectivity' and anonymity. They allude to the issue that the new media is having a decentralising effect on information dissemination. The new power relationship is that the PAP are having to 'deal', 'manage' and possibly attempt to 'control' this new media that is open to all in Singapore who have crossed the digital divide.
The 'fear' issue that for so long resulted in those who contributed to this online open society 'self-censoring' has infected those institutions that have for so long had unfettered access to information dissemination.
Is all this talk of 'chaotic chatter' and attempts to undermine the work of bloggers, podcasters, etc mere verbal manifestation of their fear for the future of their hegemonic domination of Singaporean discourse?