The Fate of The State- Government 2.0 and the Public

This weeks lecture on ‘The Fate of the State’ highlighted how the Internet is impacting government and corporations view of the populations needs, the populations increasing ability to contribute to the formation of social structure and at the same time, questioning IF populations really do make a contribution or if they are coerced into their opinions, weakening our perceived sense of democracy and potentially our value for it.

In Morozov’s article ‘The Real Privacy Problem’ (MIT Technology Review, Oct 2013), he posits the argument that ‘privacy is a means to democracy’ therefore with its erosion (enter the concept of algorithmic regulation), we loose that capacity of public awareness and thus loosen our grip on democracy, becoming increasingly self-focused.

This is seen in Morozov’s view that we can be “pinged whenever we are about to do something stupid, unhealthy, or unsound. We wouldn’t necessarily need to know why the action would be wrong: the system’s algorithms do the moral calculus on their own”. I think that he voices real concerns about advancing technology, ones that we are constantly debating, the article to my mind bore some similarity to concepts raised in Huxley’s ‘A Brave New World’, whereby the populous is conditioned (this is an extreme example) and secondly, sedate with being preoccupied with themselves, loosing the sense of public space and the exercise of democratic thought.

I think that this takes quite an authoritarian view of mass control, cynically believing that humanity would become offay with a lack of voice. When Morozov talks about this new digital infrastructure powering government and corporate desires for information through real-time data analysis, aiming to replace “the messy stuff of coalition-building, bargaining, and deliberation with the cleanliness and efficiency of data-powered administration” (Morozov:2013); I think that he underestimates the value that society places on freedom of speech and democratic rights. Bollier’s concept of sousveillance I think highlights this, its now two-way communication. The observers become the observed- and now thanks to the Internet, have a greater voice to express this with.

Styles point on Government 2.0 I think showcases this “new digital” infrastructure in a more positive way. She calls it the “future of greater transparency and collaboration” (Styles: 2009) – directly contrasting with Morozov’s view of “nanny statecraft”. Both are possible, but I feel quite polarised- optimistic and one pessimistic. The example in the reading of Finland’s movement towards open-source, allowing their citizens the power to propose and write new laws that the nation can vote for, I think backs Styles hugely, as does the concept of sousveillance.

Transparency and democracy are still cornerstones, while the threat or distrust of government and corporate access and use of big data and personalised algorithms is sometimes questioned, it is my opinion that the public citizens voice will not be dismissed, the social context it is heard in will change as technology progresses to allow further data analysis. The same way the worry about google glass has been raised, so too has technology like Open Ministry been founded and adopted.

Reference

Morozov, E (2013) ‘The Real Privacy Problem’, MIT Technology Review, 22 October, http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/520426/the-real-privacy-problem/

Styles, C (2009) ‘ A Government 2.0 Idea: first make all the functions available’, Making Manifest, 28 June, http://catherinestyles.com/2009/06/28/a-government-2-0-idea/

 

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