The Importance of the Internet for Democracy

The rise of technology and increasing use of internet has led to a radical paradigm shift between the old and the new. As citizens, we are not just consuming content as mass media consumers, we are now both consumers and producers of the media content we ingest. This shift from print to digital media has affected how we produce news itself, how we curate the end piece or final result of information, and how we as users of information contribute to the content being delivered to us.

Leah Lievrouw, author of Alternative and Activist New Media asserts that the internet has allowed for participatory or open source journalism as an alternative to mainstream news and opinion. This “participatory journalism” is a part of a circular process of news creation as a result of changing technologies. Lievrouw remarks on the importance of this new digital shift because individuals no longer have to just respond to the media, we can now be the media. The internet offers citizens an opportunity to play an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing news/information that might not be presented in mainstream media. Social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and of course WordPress, are a part of this new type of journalism, which allows for people to act not only as the new gatekeepers. We help control how/what information gets filtered, what stories/content are released to people like us who are consuming this information.

One major issue I wanted to quickly mention is the issue of net neutrality because on February 26, the FCC will be meeting to decide on whether or not the internet will be left free to the public (as it has always been) or if cable companies will have control over which websites get priority over others (money based of course). The intent of this media participation is to provide free digital social platforms for independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that democracy requires. It allows for greater opportunities for divergent voices to be heard, for relevant information at a local/individual level to reach the public without the corporate bias that mainstream media interjects. It’s extremely important that the internet is left without as many restrictions as possible because like we mentioned in class discussion, if we are truly a democratic society then our media should reflect that as well.

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