Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Electro-Democracy

The definition of electronic, according to the New Oxford American Dictionary (on my Mac) is: relating to or carried out using a computer or other electronic device. In order to complete this assignment, for instance, a computer or other electronic device is needed. Professor Gade felt the need for this class to complete assignments and engage in discussions online. There has got to be a reason for that.

A democracy, by virtue of the same dictionary, is defined as the practice or principles of social equality.

An electronic democracy involves the principles of social equality being carried out via electronics.

Based on the definitions of the words alone, it would appear to be quite clear, but it’s not that simple.

The focus of our reading and the biggest thing Friedman discusses, as a “world-flattener” is the ability to upload. Anyone with a computer can upload things. Apparently even sever-year-olds can with the new Windows model. Twitter allows us to upload up-to-the-second statements that can include whatever we want them to. The ability to upload things had a role in beginning this new-age “land run” of technology. Generally, whoever could say that they were the first to do something online, could hang their hat on that and become a reputable source on the origin of whatever it is that they did online (the equivocal ‘U.S. flag on the moon’ moment). Friedman’s idea is that the blog serves as a personal virtual soapbox.

Hear ye, hear ye. Destined for Greatness is standing on his soapbox.

This passage is meant to be portrayed in an opinionative way, because that what blogs were created for. Back when I was a teenager, Xanga was the big thing. It was an online journal. There was an empty canvas for the computer-savy 13-year-old to jot down anything. Every kid had an online journal back then.

I don’t know that it is still around, but it was used for the purpose of letting people know your thoughts without being burdened with the task of speaking to people. Blogs remain the same today in the idea that people can present their own thoughts without being burdened with having to convince people to agree with them. My voice, my online voice that is, has the power to be presented just as loudly as anyone else’s.

The ability to upload information, and then to create news has allowed people to address the news as they see it, directly. No more letters to the editor. I’ll just post a comment in the ‘comment box’. Friedman uses an example of this new ability on page 167, where he talks about the emergence of YouTube effecting sports referees.

He uses the all-too-famous example of the Oregon-OU game of 2006, where the onside kick that was clearly recovered by Allen Patrick, was officially ruled recovered by Oregon. Immediately following the game, fans went to YouTube to post their own coverage of the blown call. Friedman goes on to explain that the titles like “cheaters!” and “The Officiating That Changed My Philosophy on Life” were uploaded and linked everywhere. The overwhelming fan response led to the suspension of that official. Normal fans made a difference for once; an immediate one at that.

This is what is meant by an electronic democracy. The use of online polls and online surveys has changed the way media direct its content. No longer do news corporations have to guess who’s paying attention. The media consumer is no longer just a consumer. Anyone has the opportunity to do or say something worth remembering. The media do not spoon-feed the consumer any longer. Consumers can pick up the proverbial spoon, and feed the media.

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