Week 5: Karpf/Glaisyer

This week’s readings talks about how much power digital communication tools have on society. More specifically Karpf and Glaisyer mainly focused on talking about political activism and collective action based on using digital tools. These communication mediums can be used to create movements and organize a group within a society to let citizens become active within their government, but this also depends on what type of governmental structure the country is organized because this can determine how effective digital communication tools can be to the people.

Karpf mainly talks about measuring how successful political campaigns end up being when they are digitized in a social networking environment. He measures how often people use digital communication devices as a source of political action for the campaign and then also measured how successful the campaign was. Karpf used Youtube as an example of where political campaigns gather and how the success of political campaign on the Internet doesn’t necessarily mean the campaign was a success it just means it was successfully exposed to many. In conclusion digital communication is given more credit than it deserves in how many people it can affect.

Like Karpf, Glaisyer talks about the empowerment of digital activism but sheds a different light. Glaisyer talks about what happens when digital activism and governance become intertwined and the different outcomes that we’ve seen in history as example to further his points. He talks about open and closed governments (democracy vs. authoritarian) and how both types of governmental structures can either adapt to digital communication tools and digital activism or cannot and what each of these governments do with this political “collective action” by the people. Naturally, living in a democratic society where digital communication is a party of my everyday life, the section on open democratic societies didn’t interest me as much as the section on Repressive Authoritarian Societies. Closed societies such as Iran and China have adapted to digital technology but when its citizens form activists groups digitally, the government does everything in their power to repress any form of activist actions by keeping surveillance on its citizens web browsing and shutting down any “red flags” that may catch the governments’ eyes.

As much as social networks are helpful to user in open governments, do the same social networks help closed governments, and in what way make their usage different from each other? Also, the Internet is taking over how citizens gather their political information not just through news sites but mostly blogs, social networking and interactive sites, is this making citizens too dependent on the web? How can this be different from an open government and a closed government?


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3 Responses to Week 5: Karpf/Glaisyer

  1. janesugi says:

    You raise many good questions and they all are very similar to the same questions that I too had after reading the articles. Looking at how fast the Internet and new social media outlets have changed since the release of the Pasek study conducted in 2006, it is clear that not only has social media evolved but so too has our dependence on gathering political information. I do think that we have become very dependent on the Internet as our information source. I denote that this is due in part to the fact that it is easily accessible, in contrast to having to wait for news in the newspaper every morning.
    Additionally, all of this goes back to Pariser’s idea of the “filter bubble.” The reason why people often refer to blogs and “follow” people on Facebook or Twitter is because this information resonates with them and is a part of their “filter bubble.” When you analyze this in a larger aspect in relation to the open vs. closed government system, the bubble will change because of the limitations or lack of limitations by authorities. I think that Pariser’s theory of the “filter bubble” is spot on and explains much of why our societies are the way that they are. It also explains the patterns in which citizens behave and educate themselves.

  2. stephmfarr says:

    This post did a good job of identifying main points made by both authors, and the questions at the end suggest the further applications of their ideas. I would definitely think that social networks can be very useful to authoritarian governments, if merely for surveillance purposes. I would expect there are a multitude of techniques that these governments could use social networking sites for, from reading blog posts, comments, logging what people click on, and the most obvious, who people associate with. Should a person be considered in dissent of the government, it would be easy for the government to see who that person is interacting with. This, of course, is a large negative to social networking sites.

  3. ariellme says:

    From my point of view, Internet usage in open and closed societies is drastically different. In open societies, individuals are able to network and share their ideas with one another freely – i.e. without government censorship (to a certain extent). Due to the fact that media is highly censored in closed societies, Internet usage in these countries is even more imperative. Access to the web in closed societies cannot be completely regulated. Hence, the citizens who are able to identify small gaps in censorship are able to extract outside information about their own state and foreign countries. However, it may be difficult for them to determine which information is accurate and which information is influenced by the state. As Glaisyer explains, the news that citizens in China, for example, receive from state television or newspapers are largely a reflection of the government’s interests. Although the Chinese government has taken great strides to censor the Internet and influence the content that its citizens are able to view, the web provides more of an opportunity for Chinese citizens to obtain factual domestic and international information.

    The question of whether individuals are becoming too dependent on the web is interesting. As pointed out in The Filter Bubble, the Internet has become increasingly personalized. There are positive and negative outcomes of this (e.g. encourages networking), but overall I think that the Internet is a great resource for society. As of now, the Internet is not overused, but this could be a possibility in the future.

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