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Political power of social media is a myth-I
Social media resurfaces in a complex set of digital sociability that makes it almost difficult to pinpoint in an explicit public sphere analogy. Yet, few factors are important in making sense of public sphere through social media platforms, which configure a connective public in the Indian context.

Public spheres are spaces of discourse, often mediated. Public spheres often allow room for new and excluded discussants and not expected to hinder it by the structural constraints. In the public sphere, issues discussed are often political and civic in nature. Here, ideas beseem judged by their merit, quality and generality and not by the standing of those who speak and those listen the speaker. It offers deliberative, participative, contentious space for all those social groups historically marginalised.

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Nevertheless, how far these criteria have fulfilled by web based platforms toss shadow on the apparent political potential of social media on the backdrop of Indian Internet. Since Indian Internet has been in news always for reasons that do not sound pleasing for the digital utopians, most often, now there are few doubts in respect of its liberating potential at various corners.

Importantly, social media deliberations often work as if mediated discourse. The platforms are highly structured in Internet. Search engines such as Google and Yahoo systematically funnel Internet traffics. Few websites and platforms owned by corporate entities, political class, media establishments, selected advocacies and celebrities are attracting large audience.

The traditional form of public spheres in India developed bodily in face-to-face meetings in coffee houses, cafes, town squares, as well as in the media, letters, books, drama, and art are now seemingly different in social media age. Public sphere is not open to all in digital media platforms, since winner-take-it-all pattern reflect Internet behaviour.

Not all Twitter, Facebook, YouTube profiles are popular. Intellectuals are lonely in platforms. One or other way, fifth e-states are shrinking to the exclusion of marginalised. Solo individual profiles and web pages with political purposes have very few follower lists. No one is more interested in reading or viewing political debates, and discussion by socially committed people.

Techno-polis, i.e., the new structure of political power of social media, in fact is taking place in a profound manner. In the days ahead, it is predicted that politics in India will be not in streets, in town squares and in ?maidan? but it will be tweeted, uploaded and blogged and largely conducted in Facebook and YouTube. Since social media, now the public sphere we have experienced in coffee houses, saloons, ?literacies? and public gathering, now resurfaces in our pocket or leather bags that carries our Cell phones or the small gadgets with us.

However, how often do we know that we are deviating from the real issues and moving on to be superfluous and stick on to surface reality? Social media has resulted in a new kind of sociality and activist chemistry in India. The platforms in Internet provide newer avenues for mediation and channeled discourse. Yet, the medium is not new; it is just a mediated sociality.

Social media do not allow room for fresh, previously expelled, discussants, of course, is the reigning reality. In fact, people have largely pulled to an impression that social media configured political sphere lead to include anxieties of previously excluded social categories.

Aseem Trivedi, Ambikesh Mahapatra, Subrata Sengupta, Shaheen Dhada, Ravi Srinivsan are few examples of people who used the alternate media space for making contentions that sparked flickers and spurious discussions concerning freedom of expression and rights. However, social media echoed the city. Certainly, it has represented the middle class India.

To be continue...

About the Author: Biju P R, teaches Political Science at Government Brennen College, Thalassery, Kerala. Researches on social media and political interfaces in the Indian context. Currently writing two books on the same theme. (Clicking Alone: Mechanics of protest and change in digital India) and (ConnectivePolitics: Reflections on digital public in India)

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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