Does the internet really give us more power?

So I’ve been thinking about Benkler and how he argues that the internet has been changing power dynamics.  He uses wiki leaks as an example of this.  I do understand the argument he’s trying to make.  However in some respects I almost think that it minimizes and individuals power.  With thousands of millions of people tweeting, and blogging and lots of other ‘ings’, I think it creates a constant chatter.  Kind of like sitting in a coffee shop.  Yes you can hear lots of people, but there still is probably only one persona that you can actually understand or hear above the noise.

In many respects the internet has just increased the volume of noise so that it’s more difficult to actually hear what is going on.  It has given us a space to have a voice, and say our opinions, but people have been finding ways to express themselves for centuries without this, and in many different forms.  There has always been some kind of public tv channel, many schools have these as well, call-in radio stations, zines, graffiti, cafe’s dedicated to different organizations.  People have always been organizing and finding ways to voice their opinions.  Regardless, there are still only so many people who are heard, or become influential.  I don’t think that this number has really changed, its just become more difficult to find the people that actually have something good to say.  I’ve always liked the saying that just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  However the internet has practically eliminated this all together making it easy for people to express themselves, and communicate, but often more to just hear themselves “talk” than to actually say something worth hearing.

Ultimately I don’t think the internet has altered the real power dynamic, in many ways its made it easier to find ways to discredit and silence people (but that’s another story).  The people that actually become heard of or work on sites like wiki leaks would be doing something similar and still be “known” regardless of whether the internet existed or not.  It hasn’t provided them with any real power just a different medium.

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One Comment to “Does the internet really give us more power?”

  1. I think it is interesting that you are comparing the internet with coffee chats. I do agree with you that the internet can be “overlapping” aka the overlapping conversations we would hear in the cafe, but why would the internet minimize power? Isn’t Wiki leak very powerful? The guy who invented it-got arrested. Why? He was powerful for knowing more information that he should. It is almost like how Hayden described it in class- the web of networking. It does not matter if you are the president of the United States or just a farmer. If your networking is “out of the ball park”, it does make you more powerful than the other. So, I see the internet as the same thing- it is a web of where people would connect and express more information without any restraint. I do think it depends on an individual on if they decide what they want to hear rather than just “hear.” Maybe I have friends on facebook who constantly post up different statuses. Sure, I might just read what they say and don’t really “listen,” but it gives me a chance to screen out to the ones that I really feel it is worth something to hear about. Isn’t that some kind of power? You have the power to choose what you want to hear and what you don’t want to hear. It is almost like sitting in a cafe. You might hear everyone else talking, but maybe you eavesdrop and happen to find someone else’s conversation interesting. So, you tune out everyone else, and listen to that person’s conversation on the next table. You have the power to do that, just like the internet.

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