I have been reading a couple of articles from Evgeny Morozov, and I listened to him on Al Jazeera’s Listening Post and (Dutch) VPRO’s Tegenlicht. And he strikes me as interesting due to his very critical standing on the notion that the Internet can solve all our problems. More interestingly, he also is sceptical of the role of the Internet in the uprising in the Arab world, and the ‘revolutions’ that have followed.
I was thus hoping to find some ‘straightforward’ – direct – answer from him as to why he believes what he does.
Most of the things of what I’ve heard him say, and read, were his vague attempts to refute the works of others, or other fragmented statements on particular events.
Yet, it is not limited to that. He tells us that the Western governments and corporations have been significantly contributed to the censorship technologies of the regimes particularly in Egypt, Iran and Myanmar.
As countries like Belarus, Iran and Myanmar digest the lessons of the Arab Spring, their demand for monitoring technology will grow. Left uncontrolled, Western surveillance tools could undermine the “Internet freedom” agenda in the same way arms exports undermine Western-led peace initiatives. How many activists, finding themselves confronted with information collected using Western technology, would trust the pronouncements of Western governments again?
In his recent article, a critical book review entitled Why Social Movements Should Ignore Social Media, (where he fails to directly speak of social movements) he informs us that
[t]here are two ways to be wrong about the Internet. One is to embrace cyber-utopianism and treat the Internet as inherently democratizing. Just leave it alone, the argument goes, and the Internet will destroy dictatorships, undermine religious fundamentalism, and make up for failures of institutions.1
Another, more insidious way is to succumb to Internet-centrism. Internet-centrists happily concede that digital tools do not always work as intended and are often used by enemies of democracy. What the Internet does is only of secondary importance to them; they are most interested in what the Internet means. Its hidden meanings have already been deciphered: decentralization beats centralization, networks are superior to hierarchies, crowds outperform experts. To fully absorb the lessons of the Internet, urge the Internet-centrists, we need to reshape our political and social institutions in its image.
I know this post is kind of random and incoherent. However, my aim was not to tell all about the views of young (born 1984) Evgeny Morozov, but rather tell inform those who did not know about him, that there are people also sceptical of the ‘virtues’ and infinite possibilities of the “Internet”. Apparently Morozov despises the word Internet.
After having read his 2011 book “The Net Delusion”, I will offer some summary points of his views. Because, his work surely has a lot more to offer, especially in my search for a balanced view of social movements and social networks.
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