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A Small World After All? by Ethan Zuckerman

The article discuses that nowadays the role of Internet in globalization is too much over-hyped based on this fact that actually in this so-called age of increased global connection the coverage of international news in western media and newspapers are half as many as it was in 1970’s and even most American Internet users read the news that is published in the United States; It emphasizes on the point that Increased global connection does not automatically lead to increased global understanding.

According to the article the main obstacle for a more effective global connection and understanding is the cold war attitude of finding secrets of the Other/enemy and the solution is changing this attitude to the one of tying to understand and decipher mysteries of other global communities. It suggests for reaching such a global understanding the Internet engineers should use some of even existing today’s functions of search engines and social networks to connect more diverse cultures, communities and nations together.

Although the article makes some thought evoking points but overall it underestimates the role of Internet in today’s global relationships between diverse cultures and nations and Its impact on political and activist movements around the world. In my opinion we are more effectively globally connected together nowadays than ever before and I would like to use some of examples that the writer uses in this article to prove my point.

Being an Iranian I see Internet as a very powerful and effective tool for global connection and understanding; the article depicts the connection mechanisms in 1979 revolution but not compare it to the later 2009 Green movement, a resistant and non-obedience protests to the fraudulent election, most importantly under a regime that has all media and papers in its hands with no international journalists being able to report the protests; Internet and digital connections was the only way not solely for inner movement connections to manage and schedule protests but also for international awareness of it; the writer admits the its global widespread coverage but do not consider that without Internet with the censorship of conventional media by the regime, the world would know nothing about it.

On the other hand it is important to know that the global connecting function of Internet was not only spreading the news, for example Iran Green movement made a new global pattern of using Internet, weblogs and social networks that created a powerful alternative media, a citizen-reporter that does not wait for TV stations or papers, activists that schedule their protest by internet, a pattern latter was used widely in Arab spring movements -a fact confirmed by Egyptian activists- and then becoming aware of the power of Internet as a powerful alternative media, Internet made a key role in Occupy movement through out many cities in United States. This point shows that Internet was successful in connecting diverse nations, communities and cultures through out world and helped them to influence and affect each other, giving us all the hope of more globally connected world in future.


63 comments to A Small World After All? by Ethan Zuckerman

  • Nancy

    “This point shows that Internet was successful in connecting diverse nations, communities and cultures through out world and helped them to influence and affect each other, giving us all the hope of more globally connected world in future.

    Good point, Negar” Do you believe there’s a point where connecting on the web loses its efficency.. In other words, good for making people aware, getting out info…but how good at getting people to act–Can change happen without being hands-on? After a Tahir Square?

    Please look at the other discussions on this piece… Clearly a subject that interests so many of you.

  • Jorge

    This is definitely a very interesting topic, given the political uses that social media has spawned recently, most notably during the “Arab Spring,” which is still upending regimes in the Middle East. The Internet has proven to be a powerful disseminator of ideas, and recently, a connector of people & ideas.

    Skimming the article and reading Negar’s response, it sounds like Zuckerman focused on pointing out how the Internet can & cannot connect us. I feel that, while worthwhile, this overlooks the ability of the Internet to not only connect us, but cause us to DO something in the physical world. The social revolutions that are taking place – not only in the Middle East, but the U.S. as well – are proof of this. There’s also plenty of social platforms, like Meetup and Foursquare, that attempt to create “real” face-to-face connections via digital tools. I’m not entirely sure of the long-lasting effect of these connections, but as an avid user of Foursquare, I can attest to how engaging it is; I keep coming back for more, every day.

    Despite the power of the Internet to create connections – not only digitally but physically – I think the crucial point is bridging understanding between different parts of the world. I definitely believe the Internet can eventually create connections that not only span different cultures, but also engender a certain level of understanding between cultures. I can speak from experience, having lived in several countries, that having some sort of empathy for other cultures is necessary in today’s “globalized” world. It’s important that we appreciate cultural differences, promote cultural diversity, and create a space where different perceptions – based on culture – are not only welcome but encouraged.

    Living in NYC and in a space like ITP, we can quickly and very easily forget how cultural diversity isn’t often so widely accepted elsewhere. I find myself in this situation every day. We live in the epicenter of the world and in a crossroads of cultures – we’re used to this diversity, we live and breathe it every day. I hope, and believe, that a medium like the Internet could one day bring this level (perhaps an even higher level) of cultural diversity and understanding across the world. Only then will we be able to create genuine, deep, and long-lasting connections.

  • kmb445

    You bring up some very interesting points, Negar…

    The Internet as is makes for a widespread pool of information that allows for one to choose (for the most part) what content they engage with. For some people this means drawing from many news sources and trying to piece together a more well balanced perspective of an event and for others it means making a conscious decision to avoid news sources altogether (with obvious gray areas in between). I think it can really promote and encourage an attitude of ignorance where people are incredibley isolated from information that can connect them to the events of the real world. This isn’t necessarily in contrast to television (which has many of these elements as well), but instead amplifies the same issues with global connectedness and television. At the very least on television a cable interruption would inform viewers of global or local emergencies, however on the internet for example, Amazon will not inform you of an earthquake in India while you are buying used books.

    Television, on the other hand, is a great funnel for information as it can encompass a great deal of information, but never as much as the internet. Television can at any given time only express a small fraction of content that exists on the internet, however that content (unlike that of the Internet) is a medium of privilege that only allows those with access to produce content.

    I think because there is more choices on the internet one can easily choose the content they engage with, which can also have its benefits. For those who are interested it means that they can hear from a multiplicity of voices on what is going on globally

    This topic raises some interesting questions though on the topic of obtaining information, choosing how to stay globally connected (or not), and the role of vehicles like television and the internet in our perception fo the global community.

  • Thank you all for bringing new angles and insights to this subject.
    What I was trying to prove here was that in contrast to the claims in original paper by Ethan Zuckerman, Internet as a new communication medium is actually successful in making the world a more connected place; We are in the beginning of information age and so much more should and would happen but from what has happened until now we should be optimist about the role of Internet for a more efficient global connection in future.
    Of course internet is only a medium for information and communication, a new and more interactive and effective one but still only a medium and it should not be mistaken with real act, in other words as Nancy mentioned it’s good for making people aware, getting out info… but it never replace the act itself; Internet only makes it easier to raise awareness and organize an act.
    Actually the “Tahrir Square” is really good example for how Internet as a medium with such powerful tools like social websites and blogs can cause and organize a real act, an Egyptian activist group “April 6 Youth Movement” formed in 2008 used Internet spaces such as their Facebook group page to spread and organize their opposition to Mubarak regime and promoted participation at protests at Tahrir square in 2011 that at last successfully became the Egyptian revolution.
    Another interesting point about this movement is that they were influenced and even took their “raised fist” symbol from Serbian resistant movement Otpor! A movement that helped bringing down the regime of Slobodan Milosevic and whose non-violent tactics were later used in Ukraine and Georgia and Iran Green Movement by the help of spreading them over the internet. Their tactics were based on Gene Sharp’s theories; The man whose book on non-violence tactics, “From Dictatorship to Democracy”, which is available on the Internet in 24 languages and was most influential to Arab Spring more than any other text. His work was reportedly taught in training workshops for Egyptian revolutionaries long before the events in Tahrir Square. These all shows how Internet could effectively connects people around the globe in past decade from different regions and helped their real causes and acts.

  • Asli

    I used to be part of an NGO called the Ari Movement* (helping with their quarterly publication Turkish Policy Quarterly) in Turkey. We received the below written e-mail from an Egyptian activist, in the midst of the revolution. D.Y. has an L.L.M. degree from the Indianapolis School of Law and had been working as an attorney at the Ibrachy-dermarkar Law Office before the revolution. She has been an active participant in NGOs in Egypt, especially around the subject of women’s rights. I read this while I was watching the news of the uprising from Al Jeezera. This does prove the very importance of the internet, yet what we do with it is more important than what it provides us with..

    (*ARI Movement is an independent social movement that embodies a core value system of primarily liberalist concepts. ARI seeks to create a more equal Turkish society through the promotion of free speech and progressive ideas that are brought to life by increasing participatory democracy. At the same time, ARI promotes equal rights by educating the future societal leaders of tomorrow and does not limit itself to the domestic arena; rather it encourages youth to think about the bigger picture, where they can solve global issues as well.)

    “Dear Friends,
    How are all of you? Really miss you so much. I am writing to you today in order to share with you the last updates about the Egyptian Revolution.. This Revolution which was created by the strong will of the Egyptian youth. This peaceful revolution will be turned to rivers of blood in the coming few hours!!!!!!!!the liberation square in Cairo will be full of the Egyptian blood may be tonight or tomorrow after the prayer!!

    I will not talk about how our revolution began. I will talk about how it will end!! In liberation square now in Cairo, the supporters of Hosni Moubarak and his illegal system in Egypt are holding weapons and are using them against unarmed protesters in liberation square with the help of persons in the Egyptian police wearing unofficial cloths. The army does not intervene as it seems that there is some kind of dirty co-operation between the army and the presidential institution. There are injured people and unknown numbers of dead people as there are different stories. That is not all the story, the very recent news is that all the members in the National democratic party which is the presidential party are gathering all the supporters of mubarak and his party in the villages and different cities and all of them armed with weapons and they are bringing with them a lot of armed criminals in order to finish the protesters in the liberation square!!!!!!!!!!!!!! similar stories will happen in the rest of the Egyptian cities! There is no escape from the massacre which will happen today at night or tomorrow after prayer !!

    After that Mubarak will turn to the rest of the protesters and will throw them inside unknown prisons!! he will throw them behind the sun as a source of revenge.
    I know that there is no freedom without sacrifices !!without violence and blood but the criminal Hosni Mubarak will turn the situation in Egypt into a civil war!! Tomorrow, all of us will be in the streets claiming for our freedom regardless what will happen.

    I hope that I was able to transfer a small part of the Image to you, hopping that the Egyptian Revolution will have supporters in the whole countries of the world or at least part of them. Dear friends, Transfer this image to your peoples in order to let them know what the Egyptians face to recover their freedom which was totally stolen from them since 30 years.”