Some say the decentralized nature of online communities creates an environment conducive to so-called socialist behavior. I wouldn’t say these tenets are examples of a new socialism* by any means. I think the medium contains too many overarching constituents to take into consideration before assigning it any sociological value.
Given my own experience with online communities I’d lean towards more of a populist approach* – and I also wonder:
Are there any underlying marxist elements at play when we think about how content is consumed?
Rapid technological advancement leads to costly hardware from iPhones, to gaming consoles, to media storage. On top of that, monthly bandwidth and data plans are required to make those things work.
Comcast employs a tier-based system of pricing models for various downstream and upstream bitrates. It’s recommended to have at least have a 1.5MB pull to watch video, a step or two above the most basic monthly package.
This ultimately leads to a pyramid of who can afford what. Are we leaving out those who have limited to no accessibility?
If so, how large will the rift be between the informed and uninformed?
In the print editon of July’s Wired, President Obama’s newly appointed CIO Vivek Kundra references online communities as the new public square where people will discuss government info soon to be released online.
He says that “...by democratizing data, the American people will be able to hold their government accountable, based on evidence rather than talk.”
This is great and the internet does act as a public forum – but only for those who know how to use it. Will this create an elitist class of those who have means to access this information?
We live and work more efficiently than we did 5 years ago. We have the ability to get more done while constantly staying connected to each other and the rest of the world. In this seemingly decentralized and transparent public sphere we can stream documentaries for free under public domain, read about issues that affect us at the local and global level and then participate. We can even download a free weekly video update from our President.
Information we choose to receive is free and widely distributed. However hi-bandwidth is required to download podcasts, stream video, and move quickly from window to window. We need speedy hard drives and vast amounts of storage space with software that frequently needs to be updated. Not to mention the occasional tech support.
Will those who don’t have these things be left in the dark?
In an emergency, would people with the pricey smart phone have an advantage in avoiding a crisis situation?
If I were part of a Union and there’s activity happening online whereby I can participate in issues that matter to me, firstly I would want to know where to find about it. Secondly, I’d be inclined to participate.
Who are the technological evangelists empowering people of all classes to leverage the internet to their benefit?
The Media Access Project (MAP), Public Knowledge groups are just two of the public interest groups fighting for issues like the expansion of broadband, open access and net neutrality. The Center for Social Media encourages the promotion of a dynamic and engaged public through social media. There are many similar organizations out there (see links to a few below).
Maybe before taking on the herculean task of making government documents public, we should take additional steps to set up programs for public access and consumption.
Content-holders should be encouraged to offer lower bitrated streams of their media. Cities should create a rock-solid plan for municipal wi-fi. Community colleges can offer free classes showing people how to navigate RSS feeds and publish online. We need to leverage new media to somehow to become a voice for all, rather than a privileged novelty for some.
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