Apr 26, 2010
Chapter 26 of The Information Society Reader revealed to me the things about the Internet I hadn’t really considered. The potential for public discourse on the Internet has always been there and it has always been utilized, whether or not that discourse has been about politics, science, of favorite bands. The real question is whether or not that means anything.
There are many message boards on the Internet, but now I can stop to think and ask myself “What are the chances that this message board will enact any change?” The answer is not likely. Having been on and posted on message boards, I agree that the opinions on these sites are most often hasty opinions. Most are never well thought out or rationalized unless that person has a deep passion for the topic at hand, in which case the Internet would not affect his opinion much. For the odd chance that one message board is full of diverse intellectuals who share their informed opinions with each other, it is still one webspace among a sea of trolls and flamers. Actually enacting change is just as hard online as it is in real life.
The problem with the Internet as a public sphere for democracy is not the Internet itself, but the legal system in the United States. Enacting any legislation was deliberately made complicated by our founding fathers to prevent hasty opinions from dominating public law. As such, enacting change is very difficult. Despite having access to a wealth of information, even if someone successfully filtered out all of it, the government itself does not allow a single individual to easily effect any change to public policy. With the current trend of the Internet, it seems more like a shout-box that allows people to express their opinions and/or vent their frustrations. Nothing more, nothing less.