FutureChallenges.org and Google’s Internet and Society Collaboratory are running a “blog carnival”, inviting comments on the cultural aspects of Internet-driven globalization. They’ve asked the following questions:
“Do globalized telecommunications and communication across borders and cultures have any impact on intercultural practices? Does the Internet create a bigger space for cultural similarities? Or does it instead have the opposite effect? Does it increase awareness of the cultural differences all over the world?”
A few years ago, I watched a TED Talk and read a book by Clay Shirky, who offered an impressive range of examples of the social “surplus” created by the internet. Being a somewhat early adopter of technology as well as an avid user/consumer of social media, I have made many of these positive experiences. Yet a uniform effect on “culture” seems hard to identify: On the one hand, there are scale effects that lead to huge rewards for those who attract the most attention (“there’s only one Google, or maybe three”). On the other, niche markets and social groups also prosper online (Anderson’s “long tail”). So the internet allows you to focus on your obscure obsession, but also makes sure you know about Justin Bieber.
I’ll leave it to more qualified observers to comment in detail on the internet and culture as a whole. What I want to do instead is look at a tiny set of online communications, namely (micro-)blogging about politics and political science.