Sunday, October 31, 2010

Some thoughts before class

We haven’t had class yet, but I’m reading Castells and finding him much more interesting now. His article for this week brings up a lot of interesting power play dynamics between technology and social class and the state. The People Power II movement in the Philippines is a great, positive example of, “power of the Internet and mobile communications technology – not to mention broadcast media - not only to shape public opinion but also to mobilize civil society when push came to a shove." But for some reason I always think back to Rwanda and the horrible ways in which radio communication technology was used to facilitate genocide. The startling differences between People Power II, which was an overall peaceful movement in comparison with the first Philippine People Power movement and Rwanda, serve to demonstrate the importance of societal framing when using technology.

Castells is clear to point out that the glowing reviews of the progressiveness of People Power II come from the middle class. In Rwanda it was the oppressed Hutu's that were uprising… Technology in the hands of socioeconomic classes means something different. Even in the Philippines, the reaction to People Power II, “Poor People Power” was classified by violence.

In Korea, Roh and the youth movement draws a lot of similarities to Obama and his ascent to the presidency. Both were based on a sort of disenfranchised youth uprising, taking back the polls and effecting peaceful political change. But the train bombings in Spain are another example where the powers of mobile technology were used for evil. And it had some drastic political consequences, not only for Spain, with the election of a new political party but also for the international community and the US with the withdrawal of the Spanish coalition from Iraq. But something missing from all the case studies is exactly why mobile communications had the effects they did. Castells sees it. “…the particular usage of wireless technologies is shaped within the social context and political structures of a given society.”

Is it really still about social class? The use of mobile technology obviously can have revolutionary effects but only in weaker states? In the US, protests coordinated by mobile technology had much lesser effect because the state had the same, if not better tech capabilities to monitor the protestor’s efforts. In China, the state had such control over media as so almost erase news of early outbreaks of SARS. I can’t make out exactly what it is that determines the effect of mobile technology in inciting political change, but is it going to change as the state catches up to the population, or will the fact that there will always be a poor population balance against that?

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