Column: Untitled


Karla Roasas


I do not disagree with the idea that the Internet represents our era’s public sphere. However, when it comes to the Internet’s and its effectiveness in the public sphere, I opt to take the path of the skeptic.

also .Certainly, it’s done wonders for our ability to connect, organize, and inform each other.

The public sphere, however, doesn’t just represent the medium. It also represents its potential for effecting change..

We’re constantly bombarded with the notion of the Internet as empowering the common folk against the elite, but have we really taken advantage of that power? If the answer is no, then Internet’s role in the public sphere remains incomplete.

Bear with me readers, if what follows reads like the worn-out anthem of a self-styled political romantic.

a “millennial” and for the most part my childhood included having the . As a child of the Internet, I have witnessed it become such a useful-some might say necessary-part of our lives. In fact, it’s likely that at this moment, you are carrying something in your pocket that can access billions of people on the Internet. You can also just as easily walk to the Monroe Library, log-on to a computer and, bam! You have instant access to that same audience.

Consider the fact that there was once a time when the only people with that amount of human attention at their disposal were those who owned the printing presses and televisionTV stations.

While those people are still around, that power is no longer exclusively theirs. If those people decide that a certain idea isn’t worth airing, then one simply needs to go viral-if enough people accept that idea, then it’s internalized and becomes a part of their lives outside the Internet. Take that, establishment elites!

As the children of the Internet, we’ve obviously inherited a fantastic medium for public discourse. We’re constantly in touch with the social evils of our day through words, videos, and images. Because of the Internet, we have almost immediate knowledge when injustice happens or politicians overstep their bounds.

We’re connected, we’re intelligent, and-if the things I see on Facebook indicate anything-we’re not satisfied with the way things are. These are all elements of the public sphere that are made possible by the Internet, but the public sphere is also aimed at causing action. Ahowever,

TheExactly earYes, th less- people, or even creating B””however, ” [] A term that I think applies to many of us, myself included is, “slacktivism.” “Slacktivism” refers to activities such as signing Internet petitions, copying and pasting socio-political messages onto social network statuses, passively joining an organization or changing one’s personal data to reflect commitment to a cause.

In doing this, we feel satisfied with the thought of ourselves as having contributed to some cause despite the fact that our actions had little or no practical change. “Slacktivism” is typically associated with the Internet. Does that mean that all Internet-related activism is “slacktivism?” No!

The two obvious examples are the Arab Spring Internet revolutions and the online protests concerning the proposed “Stop Internet Piracy Act.” All across the Middle East, activists have – and continue to – use various social media outlets to express their dissatisfaction with the government and demand reform. These people, however, aren’t content with just storming the Internet. They have also taken their word onto the streets.

Two years ago, when Congress introduced the Stop Online Piracy Act, massive public unrest resulted. Wikipedia, Google and Craigslist among others voluntarily “blacked out” in protest of the Acts and .an online petition circulated. People wrote angrily to their elected representatives. Their combined efforts caused enough of a stir that the act was shelved.

Inthe U.S. But for the most part, these instances are the exception.

I don’t have some gloomy view of the Internet as somehow degrading the quality of human beings or human interaction. In fact, I think that the sheer amount of information we are exposed to via the Internet has resulted in a better-informed generation. The Renaissance man? Ha! He pales in comparison to Millennial men and women.

Within every child of the Internet there rests an economist, a film critic, a political analyst, theologian and philosopher. This is exciting and indicative of how the Internet is not creating less-intelligent people, or even creating inferior people.

Just because we’re able to have better discussions, however, doesn’t mean we should necessarily clappat ourselves on the back.

Unfettered discussion on the Internet may be a part of our era’s conception of the public sphere, but if we don’t utilize our discussion as a platform for action, one can hardly say we’re truly engaging in the public sphere.