Old Forms/ New Forms

February 1, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Events in Egypt show us the dichotomy at play with technology and society. Historically, regimes have been the gatekeepers of communication in a society. Access to communication networks came at the expense of companies within a society; however, the government which oversaw the network or which utilized regulatory bodies to control a market had the largest amount of control. Again, Tim Wu’s The Master Switch is a great resource for this relationship.

Globalization created a global internet and lead to the revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt. The internet did not cause these revolutions; instead, they broke down walls that have historically limited interested but small revolutionary factions. Social networking has played a unique role in the Egyptian revolution by functioning as a connection platform for multiple small groups. Often a revolution is driven by a sole source whose ideological foundation is implemented and used to carry through the change in power. This isn’t taking place in Egypt, it seems that multiple groups are coming together to change the leadership. Perhaps in cases where popularity is so low or the levels of abuse are so high the coordination of disparate elements becomes more likely.

There is much to learn from the events in Egypt. A technology focused reflection suggests that governments have yet to mesh with a connected society. Slow to respond and often fragmented in message, even the United States has shown a level of slow-handedness in the affair. 24/7 media have been quick to seek out perspectives and leaders have been off-message or off-key in multiple situations. Note the moment on Friday when Secretary of State Clinton, President Obama and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs presented three different outcomes. A connected environment greatly reduces or perhaps even eliminates the planning time governments have had in the past. There are no hours to consider the right message- when the media needs a sound byte it will find it. Real time news leaves little real reflection.

All major events can be viewed as “teachable moments”, to borrow a phrase from President Obama’s rhetoric, and this is not an exception. Coupled with the Wikileaks fiasco, we learn from the Egypt revolution that an informed population exists beyond government control. Disparate figures are better skilled at using modern communication networks and actively seek out (and find) holes in government networks. Governments need to accept the fact that the population has the ability to amalgamate rapidly and possess a cadre of tools to assist and expand at levels beyond historical models.

The old forms of government will either fall Egyptian style or evolve through a process of implementation. There is no room for dictators in the modern era. The internet eliminates the ability for a leader to act as gate keeper to knowledge. The modern network creates a system of universal access wherein the entire planet can focus and provide support to a population of victims. Too often we view globalization in terms of economic perspectives. Beyond the financial implications we see a drastic expansion of human rights concerns and a growing perspective of a collective human species. When Egyptians lost internet connectivity there was a slew of concerned citizens who tweeted alternative DNS connections and 56k dialup numbers. The world saw a crime being committed and responded with ease.

The old forms of government are quickly seeing a transformation via modern technology. The new form of government is one with recognition of its connected population. The new model of government recognizes a population of highly aware and highly skilled citizens whose ability to work together towards a common goal to be far simpler than in the past. In order to fulfill the roles of representation and the maintenance of society, these new governments should strengthen the now crucial social bonds and integrate the machinery of government in the network. A connected population will only support a government that works together. Representation begins with connection and the connected world is now online.

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