The divorce between the Internet and politics?

Despite some blunt criticisms, where Malcolm Gladwell has succeeded by his recent New Yorker article is in opening a rich debate. Another article that joined the debate was the following from the New York Times.

Facebook Politicians Are Not Your Friends

It immediately grabbed my attention because the author talks about “the idealized narrative of digital democracy”. After all, if I had to summarise my 600-page thesis into one sentence, it would be that the Internet is as much a metaphor as a technology. And I discussed this through the framework of horizontality versus verticality. Then I have recently come across a couple of articles considering Internet-mediated political activity from the perspective of scale – i.e. the struggle between macropolitics and micropolitics. Fascinating. I am excited thinking about how I could combine these two frameworks.

Having said that, what I also want to point out here is that the question might not be the suitability of social networking sites – or the Internet in the overarching sense – for a ‘revolution’. I am wondering if the assumption that we start from, that users must want to use a given technology for politics, is valid. I don’t have data about other countries yet, so let me share a study about the Korean cyberspace first. A major daily Joongang Ilbo and a data mining company Daumsoft conducted a large-scale study, analysing over 60 million posts (worth about 10 billion words) from around 1.2 million blogs in the Korean language for the past 2 years and 3 months. The most significant finding is that political issues are now far less mentioned than before. According to the analytic results, the watershed point was the previous president Roh’s death, and since then, topics of sports and showbiz have instead taken over the space. Perhaps political disenchantment has reached the online world as well?


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