Internet and New Activism: The dawn of a new democracy?

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The panellists, Murali Shanmughavelan and Jasmeen Patheja presented two opposing views on the politics of the internet.

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Shanmughavelan asserted that creating democratic structures and frameworks in the internet is an ongoing problem. This is further exacerbated by capitalist forces that have hijacked this free space. Shanmughavelan pointed out that the internet is not ‘open’ in a fair and equal manner, but is run largely on consumerism. Even as supporters of just causes, most individuals on the internet believe that their role is over, once they have signed a petition or ‘liked’ a page (or in other words, consumed them). Shanmughavelan argued that the political economy of the internet numbs individuals on a practical level – corporate interruptions in the form of spam are not upsetting, violence is quite easily embraced on the internet, and entertainment is the foundation upon which a user’s experience is built. Shanmughavelan concluded his argument by pointing out the clear lack of democracy on the internet: digital industries consist of only rich individuals, with no working class or union culture. If the internet is completely capitalist, there is no space for social activism. The structure of the internet, therefore, orients one to endorse a capitalist consumerist world.