The Internet has gained dramatic power and popularity since its invention in the 1980’s and even more since the contributions the World Wide Web has provided since 1990. That is what the documentary series, History of the Internet- the Virtual Revolution sets out to explain. Episode two of this series shows how as the Internet has gained popularity among the masses, it has also found a place in politics as a new battleground.
Connection and Division
In this documentary, Al Gore says that the Internet will have a “more profound impact on human civilization than did the printing press.” The Internet is our gateway to the world beyond our reach. One way it has vastly impacted society is by giving people the ability to communicate with people far beyond the scope of daily life. It provides an interactive space where people can communicate in real time. Online societies form everyday, and this connects people with similar thoughts and ideas. As the video shows, a person interested in an issue such as environmental protection can go online and become a part of such discussions. Large cyber groups can make an impact on the politics in a country. Even in strict authoritarian governments like Russia, politicians feel the need to respond to online bloggers. There is great power in numbers, and the Internet provides a community of infinite possibilities.
The Internet also connects people by
providing a power to route around the censorship of the traditional (and sometimes oppressive) state. Videos and pictures can be posted about events such as the violence in Iran, and the world can become aware and respond.
But while the power of the Internet can bring the world together, it can also be a tool for division. The freedom the Internet provides has become a “homeland” for groups to socialize and function for ill purposes. Take the terrorist group Al-Qaeda. Because it is very difficult to track and monitor cyber activity, Al-Qaeda used the power of the Internet to communicate and plan their attacks. It gives them more power because these people are not located in one area; they are spread out over the world and use the Net to communicate because of its ability to collapse distances.
It is inevitable that there will be disagreements in the world. The polarity of the Internet comes in when the playing field is fully accessible. Yes, people with similar ideas will come together, but it can also reinforces the idea of something the episode refers briefly to as “cyber-vulcanization.” Cyber-vulcanization is the concept that the ability for these regimes and people who may believe in them gain strength and durability because of the constant reinforcement of the same ideas. The Internet becomes a weapon of the people to not only speak their mind but force action.
Although the power of the Internet is not unlimited, and there are those that wish to limit it even more, the ability of thoughts and ideas to travel instantaneously means that the world will begin to change more rapidly. Politicians cannot simply ignore the Internet. It gives a voice to the people that they have never before had, a constant voice. As we venture into the future with Internet technology, I see the endless capabilities there are to produce good in the world; a place full of the free spread of knowledge and communication. Unfortunately with the good there also inevitably comes the not so good. Cyberspace is a new homeland and a new battleground. Where it can bring people together and tear them apart simultaneously.
Photo credit to DonkeyHotey