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Internet and Democracy
By: Anna Cassella
In a chapter of Web.Studies, written by Stephen Lax, he talks about the internet and democracy. Lax says,” For governments the democratic roles of ITCs (Information and Communication Technologies) lies in making democracy more efficient, by offering easier public access to government documents, and by allowing more direct communication between representatives and constitutes. The internet serves as both one-way and two-way network. There are two different types of information, official and unofficial. Official information is information which can be found by means other than the internet. Unofficial information, or alternative material, is information that would not be found on television, or the newspaper. Examples of unofficial information are personal webpages and websites of small organizations. Technology has advanced and information has become more available, does not mean that it is any easier to access than before.
There are two types of campaigning organizations that use the internet to build upon existing structures, professional groups and other groups. Websites of professional groups contain information about campaigns, contain downloadable documentation, membership forms, contact details, and links to other organizations. For other groups, the internet is mainly used to increase the number of supporters for a certain activity. In both of these organizations, the internet is used along with email and other technologies.
A problem with Internet and Democracy is that the people who have access to the internet, or show an interest in using it, are the people who are already politically participating. The people who do not have access or do not show any interest in using it, are people who are less likely to participate. Therefore, technology is mainly assisting people who already participate, rather than getting more people involved. But, as Lax states, “The internet remains a valuable resource in attempts to achieve greater democracy.”
The Digital Divide
In an interesting Web studies article, author Nick Couldry writes about the “Digital Divide” and the unequal spread of access to the Internet around the world. Not everyone has the ability to access the same media on the Web throughout the globe, and this concerning issue has been a topic of political debate for decades.
Couldry writes that in the 1980s the Web was thought to be an “Information Society” through which anyone in the world could access information instantly. Imbalanced access to technology across the globe subdued the Internet’s ability to reach certain countries, and something fairly obvious that was debated back then that is extremely relevant to today’s society is that countries with widespread access to technology have an unfair advantage over countries with limited access to technology. According to Couldry, many countries fear “fragmented globalization,” which would even further the divide between developed and developing countries.
Couldry mentions that political leaders have concerns not only about dividing Internet access evenly between countries, but about dividing Internet access evenly between citizens within the same country. In developed countries, imbalanced access to the internet could create a greater divide between the rich and the poor and have the same capability of isolating certain groups as it does on the global scale. There are countless obstacles to overcome with expanding Internet use, but giving people across the world access to the same informational luxuries others experience is imperative in order to avoid social inequality. The Internet is such a powerful tool but its power needs to be thoughtfully divided. If access to the Internet isn’t equally divided the gap of social inequality will continue to widen.
Women Using the Web to Make a Difference
In an interesting Web studies article, author Wendy Harcourt speaks about the Internet and how it is steadily becoming a tool of empowerment for women. Women make incredible use of the Internet for a multitude of positive reasons, the strongest of which are helping to stop violence against women and networking and organizing in order to fight for a cause.
Harcourt writes about the Web as a tool to fight violence against women and goes into specific examples of how women have come together to help give females who have experienced different degrees of abuse a voice. Women in the Global South who live in certain countries where officials turn a blind eye to violence against women are using the Web to express themselves, to expose their stories and to fight for other women who are being unfairly oppressed or wrongfully accused of crimes. Women around the globe are using the internet to assist women who have been wrongfully accused of crimes or who have experienced extreme injustice. Lives are being changed because the Internet has enabled females to accomplish extraordinary feats like making sure crimes like dowry deaths and honor killings do not go unnoticed.
Harcourt mentions that women are able to increase their networking abilities and connect with each other to fight together for female rights, which is a major reason why campaigns for positive change have been so successful. Through tools like chat rooms, e-mail petitions and website links, important information can be released and spread so quickly that unbelievable numbers of women are able to join together to initiate positive change.
The author mentions that in a world where most things “tech savvy” are typically associated with men, it’s clear that women are using the Internet to make huge strides for change around the world. The Internet has been a fantastic platform for women who want to make a difference.
The Digital Divide
By Katherine Bigley
In Chapter 15 of David Gauntlett and Ross Horsley’s book of Web Studies, they discuss the continuous debate of the Digital Divide. There have been governmental organizations set up to address this issue of inequalities in the media, international resources, and in access to the internet. The reason this debate was so popular originally was when the vision of having a global information marketplace, where consumers can buy and sell products arose. Countries found this to be unjust in that they would be isolated from the world if they did not have the internet access. Therefore, the Digital Divide became the forefront of international political debate.
Making Discrimination Known
By Katherine Bigley
In Chapter 20 of David Gauntlett and Ross Horsley’s book of Web Studies, they discuss the changes of women and their uses of online resources. The chapter elaborates how women are using the Web to help stop violence against women, how the Internet has enabled a vast outreach in women’s networking and organizing, and how women are creating new cross-cultural connections on the Web.
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