Politics and Internet
Same as in other fields, Internet is by far more enabling, than the way it’s currently being used.
Although Modern Movement developed its philosophy based in already existing materials, social structure and imagery, it exceeded by far the expectations of its time. In fact, there are examples that “look” modern even today, after more than 80 years.
However, being “avant-garde” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avant-garde) is much more about innovation, than invention. It doesn’t bring creation out of nothing (although Modern Movement claimed a “tabula-rasa” status to be imperative as a starting point). It’s a fact that not only Alvar Aalto, Mies van der Rohe or Walter Gropius based their designs on the background of traditional architecture, but even Le Corbusier proved to be more “traditional” than he was considered to be.
What I mean by this is that, even when we are being able to get access to it from our phones and it seems it has already flooded our everyday life, Internet is still today at a very primitive stage. There is much more ahead to explore than what has been already developed, and it is not a matter of new technologies but just to put our imagination to work and think all its potential still to be unveiled.
In the book “La Galaxia Internet”, Manuel Castells includes several chapters dedicated to the topic Politics-Internet, already by 2001. It was quite clear by then, that the spirit of Internet included a great deal of freedom (from it’s university environment origin), the concept of communication and interaction between pairs (a “web” connecting nodes in a horizontal matrix, not under a hierarchical pyramid), and a global scope (“world wide”).
Chapter V is completely developed around Internet and politics, and its title actually is (translation is mine) “Internet Politics I: IT networks, Civil Society and State”. It is absolutely amazing, in retrospective, the example of De Digitale Stad (DDS) in Amsterdam, which constantly changed its aims and purposes, as often as it jumped from one scale to the next. It grew in such a way, that it became irresistibly attractive to investors, which in the end, was somehow the reason of it’s later disappearance.
Further more, under the title of “The politics of Internet” he dares to glimpse, very carefully and cautiously, the potential of Internet to enhance the expression of the citizens rights, and communication of human values. Castells puts this context of social and democratic exchange as the new “Public Agora”. However, he also adds that freedom is a constant struggle, and that Internet will not be a source of freedom itself, that there will have to be ways of control of this Agora by the people.
In Chapter VI, “Internet Politics II: Privacy and freedom in cyberspace” (again, my translation), the author exposes two sides as if trying to avoid conflict but also without being contradictory. He closes with a very smart approach stating that governments are not precisely “allies” of freedom. However, he quickly counteracts any possible misunderstanding by defending the institutional democracy. It is very suggestive again, his proposal that Internet could support further control from people to governments, but the means he describes is merely the improvement of information availability to public scrutiny.
My belief is that so far, Internet in terms of Politics, is still in the stage of the “www 1.0”, while in the commercial and business environments the web is about to exit the 2.0 stage. This means we are hardly able to do more in Internet (in terms of civil and political actions) than search information, download forms to fill in, read norms and laws, and eventually, visit and comment on the Facebook pages of the Parties / candidates, which are obviously there for electoral purposes.
There isn’t any kind of sign yet, that Internet would turn into a true interaction tool, where voters and governments are at the very same level and the dialogue between parts, could allow to feed our representatives with our decisions in real time. And this is not due to a lack of technology.
This challenge will be the next chapter and we will have to write it together.