Is the Internet a Democracy?

Over time any social community would naturally evolve towards a preferred type of organization. The internet, like any community, is evolving too. Is it evolving towards a democracy? In the beginning of course it was filled with technical people (geeks in other words), and to some extent it is still dominated by techical experts - designers, web developers, and scientists. But as the internet opened up to regular people, its getting full of people who just blog about their everyday life, photos, family, in short it maybe boring stuff, but the point is that they are doing whatever they want.

I was reading an article the other day about a new book The Myth of Digital Democracy:

It "...reveals that, contrary to popular belief, the Internet has done little to broaden political discourse but in fact empowers a small set of elites--some new, but most familiar."

This got me thinking about the whole domination and hype about western politics on the internet - especially that of US and UK. In fact if you look at the top 10 Technorati blogs, arranged by authority, the first is by a journalist who I have never heard of, who mainly blogs about US politics. This is of course of no relevance to me. Although I was briefly interested in Obama's run to victory, I'm hardly as interested in him as the average American may be.

Secondly, techie blogs are obviously on the top (they reflect the majority of geek internet users and their interests). Back to the Technorati top 10 we see MANY of them - TechCrunch, Mashable, EnGadget, The Official Google Blog, and Arts Technica. I mean, I was surprised to see that almost all of the top ten blogs are techie blogs. Shit, I like reading that stuff too, but how BORING has the internet become? Is this what people do on the internet all the time?

Anyway, we come to porn, obviously. The amount of porn on the internet is amazing and at the same time, natural. Due to the insane amounts of male porn, the patriarchy of the internet can never be questioned. Here I am trying to download a movie and my poor brain is bombarded with images of women with huge breasts in various positions - banner ads. I have trained myself not to see them, but I despise it, and now I stick to websites which dont have the stuff, although you cant really avoid it all the time.

And then, Social Networks. This is one of the best things about internet. They say that although you regularly facebook/orkut only a handful of people, like about 5 or 6, just like calling by the way, it helps strengthen your social ties. When your boss etc. try to block facebook or chat, they are actually isolating you in a way that a 50's factory worker was isolated from their family and friends without a mobile phone and internet. The internet has in a way, helped democratize intimacy. Great!

[But I can't help but think that although mobiles have democratized communication in India, even at factory worker level to some extent, internet is relatively nowhere right now.]

Now for a round-up: We've covered 1. Too much american politics, 2. Techi Elitism, 3. Too much porn, and 4. Awesome social networks. My conclusion would be, despite all the boring techie stuff and american politics, and elitism, the internet is by far more democratic than any other democracy. Although they may be hard to find, there are several blogs like gems, web comics, art, and thousands of e-books, - thats what I call a democracy of entertainment - the  internet.

Aditi KulkarniComment