THE INTERNET is reinforcing privileged voices in politics rather than opening the process to more diverse voices. We live in a "Googlearchy" ruled by search engines that contemplate attention on just a handful of "winner-take-all" sites. The idea that the internet is empowering more ordinary people to be dynamic participants in the process is by and large a fable.
The pullout in The Times of India’s online edition, ‘Anna Hazare’s movement is anti-social justice, manuwadi’ has received Google + 11-Recommend, 2.8 K “Likes”109 –tweet and 1340 Comments as 18-12012. The Facebook community ‘India Against Corruption’ as on 03-09-2011 received 509,649 'likes'. On the issue, the community has posted 2007 topics. 5th Pillar Corruption Killer, which received 2,527 “Like” mark as on 03-09-2011 and 10 notes are posted on the community on the topic. The Facebook community Anna Hazare has 372,906 “Likes' as on 03-09- 2011.
It is evident that the online space is marked by higher focus of commercial interest and big players are monopolies of the internet space and the sites of such players have greater traffic.
The debate surrounding democratizing of Indian democracy in Indian political scenario, nowaday, occupies a theme about political engagement through social media platform. From press to academia, the concern is more about how digital we are? Which politicians are most active as online campaigners? Which political entity has more “Likes” on Facebook? Who benefits the maximum from social media enabled political engagement? Unfortunately, most discussion is about number of politicians and online users? Who is engaging voters through websites, whose Twitter account is fake?
It is ridiculous and disgusting to learn that we are unnecessarily pre-occupied with a digital mania and almost all of our political engagement has been just an imitation of what American elections are facing and what American politicians are doing in electoral democracy.
No one is concerned about the complex problem of who and why is digital? Who networks? What messages are communicated? What effect did it bring about in the actual politics? If all online engagements are actually transformed to electoral result? Is social media use a necessity for a cultural landscape like that in India? Is social media a techno-sociality and techno-centrism of an unwanted kind? The questions are plenty but facts are mystifying.
A powerful trend is clearly underway in the direction of greater similarity in the way the public sphere is structured across the world. In the process, the political class across the world is becoming increasingly alike. Political systems are becoming ever more similar in the patterns of communication they incorporate, especially social media. India too is infected in this phenomenal process of homogenizing global political sphere.
The trend towards global homogenization of media systems, the public sphere, and political communication apparently has morphed into reinforce an American eco-system for politics and political engagement via digital supremacy on social media platforms and other forms of exposure to western technology and social norms. The political class and their political entities and political communications actively pursued on social networking sites in India on the guise that people can be easily contacted by a click are nothing more than an attempt to hide the pitfalls and ills of political class itself.
Technologies we have imported are technologies having ethnocentric values. The most of social media platforms are American and such platforms represent the social values of American society. If implemented in other societies are perhaps a mismatch to our ethos and social norms we have cherished.
The political class knocking at every door for face to face interaction is vital pillar of democracy. Political tribe requesting us via social media for our votes and support is actually not a norm we have cherished from national movement and freedom struggle. Exploring into the categories and variables which configure Americanization of political communication in India is need of the hour. It drags our attention to assume that social media are American value. Globalization has just teleported this technology to India and on the way has infected us like a transmittable disease and spilled over in to the artilleries of our politics and society. Let us learn a bit from Chinese model of digital sociality.
Internet appears as a shrinking public space. Obviously, the Internet space in India is highly monopolized by big players who are already dominant before the coming in of Internet. The space is highly commercialized and run with market interest. The so-called free space in Internet probably is a myth and a fairy tale. It does not exist as we imagined it could be. Wired politics is nothing more than a shrinking public space to commerce and monopolies. It exists between ‘digital islands’ and ‘digital empires’. An empire of monopolies and island of digital natives.
(Contributed by Biju. P. R. and Gayathri O. About the Contributors: Biju. P. R. is Assistant Professor and HoD, Department of Political Science, Government Brennen College, Kerala. Gayathri O. is Assistant Professor/PDF Scholar, Department of Political Science, Kerala University.)
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