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The Forum > Article Comments > Taking to the streets in cyberspace > Comments

Taking to the streets in cyberspace : Comments

By Mark Bahnisch, published 7/8/2006

The challenge is for the media and politicians to wake up to a social and political revolution that is well underway in cyberspace.

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Mark, youíve touched on it with your references to MoveOn and GetUp, but I donít think youíve sufficiently foregrounded how much new communication technologies are giving voices to people who never felt they had a voice before. And not just young people - grumpy old folks are also getting the internet's wind under their wings.

Hereís something thatís both scary and empowering:

http://www.washingtonwatch.com/

This site monitors every piece of legislation that comes before the US congress, and calculates a dollar value per family or individual. Currently at the top of the listing is a bill to limit financial transactions available to people who gamble illegally on the internet Ė cost US$0.02 per family. The site is showing that 81% of respondents are against it.

Not that the statistics are a reliable predictor for a billís success: currently 82% are against the 2007 budget. Generally (but with some odd exceptions), visitors to the site appear to be voting against anything that costs them money, and for anything that saves money.

Obviously this is empowering, because it gives voters quick access to comprehensible information about legislatorsí activities. However itís scary, because it skews the decision-making process in favour of money values, and expands the opportunities for a tyranny of the majority. Effectively itís push-polling for the small-government lobby, and finding a way to counteract it will be a big challenge, should it prove to be influential.

I guess itís only a matter of time before an Australian equivalent is available in our RSS feeds, and who knows what other platforms will evolve, and what kinds of political discourse they will afford.
Posted by w, Monday, 7 August 2006 4:15:36 PM
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There are many people who are still not on the internet because of poverty, lack of computor education or lack of language/writing skills to describe their own opinion or circumstance to a broad readership. I am thinking of the majority of Aboriginal people who, although a small minority of Australian (and global) society, yet are a key fundamental element of Australian political discussion, in particular as relevent to notions of identity, either collectivley as "Australians" or individually in our search for connections to the earth and the natural environment.

Many young Aboriginal people learn about computors at school but do not have them at home. Many homes don't even have a phone. Palm Island only got internet access in the past couple of years and it is a new dynamic on the Island with few skilled paractitioners. (but the police run a cyber cafe for young people) So, nationally at least, the widespread internet discussion is a somewhat colonial one at present, existing disconnected from a key pespective of the non-cyber world and political discussion, Aboriginal perspective.

I have no doubt that a purely socio-economic analysis would reveal the same dynamic in broader groups of people, bringing a class exclusiveness into the situation, especially on a global level.

There are many glaring exceptions to my generalisation, especially webmasters such as Dr. Gary Foley and the Vibe website discussions, but taking a big picture these Aboriginal excursions into cyberspace are nowhere near as wide spread in Aboriginal society, especially young people, as in mainstream society, limiting the nature of cyber politics.
Posted by King Canute, Tuesday, 8 August 2006 3:47:09 AM
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