Virtual Vicariousness


This week on Facebook: I decided to follow up my theme from last week to write about the virtual reality, and what is often the vicarious reality of time spent online. It is hardly surprising to find that virtual reality had taken on the form political protest, it would appear that the fictional dystopian world so often predicted, continues towards its political reality. It was thought that social media networks would herald the advent of a true democracy instead it has unleashed an anarchy. As more people gain access to social media networks, they add to the many diverse opinions already promoted on them.

It seems to me that the nature of the ultimate revolution with which we are now faced is precisely this: That we are in process of developing a whole series of techniques which will enable the controlling oligarchy who have always existed and presumably will always exist to get people to love their servitude. [Aldous Huxley — 1962 U.C. Berkley] 

Meanwhile, the silent majority whose unknown and inevitably disparate views negates their majority status, remain silent. Nevertheless, the silent majority are called on in support of politicians and protestors who both act on the assumption that they are representing them, and in a sense they are. However, as may be inferred from Monday’s article, protests on the social media — be they real or virtual — represents the views of those who at their very best could only claim to represent the views of a simple majority, something that they have yet to achieve.

There is little sense of a compromise between the users of the social media and the politicians desire to control it. The image below links to a rather long read on commercial lobbying within the EU, it could be deduced from it that the commercial interests of the lobbyists is conditional on them delivering a politically acceptable — yet undemocratic — internet and social media. Perhaps there is good reason for this as Tuesday’s article concludes.

Big Data Is Watching You — click image

The dystopian nightmare brought about by public administrations is, in effect, almost upon us. The lobby campaigns by the CEOs of internet and social media companies in their willingness to remain aligned with the wishes of public administrations, have already indicated their willingness to compromise the freedoms of their users. Wednesday’s article states that ‘the internet isn’t inherently liberating’, but it is becoming more inherently repressive.

Last week I posted that an unfettered social network is a political and social nightmare that can create an unsociable social media. Nevertheless, the counterpoint of increasing control over social networks by the public administration — which is now happening — creates an even greater nightmare. Something that Thursday’s article points to.

Social Media can only be the tool for protest, as Friday’s article suggests, if it is free and unfettered from political censorship and supports freedom of expression. Something that is increasingly unlikely in the political virtual reality world that lies ahead.

The internet and social media, as we now know it, did not exist when Justice Potter Stewart made the following statement in the Supreme Court of the USA in 1971. The last sentence may now have greater meaning by saying, ‘For, without an informed and free internet and social media, there cannot be an enlightened people’.

In the absence of the governmental checks and balances present in other areas of our national life, the only effective restraint upon executive policy and power in the areas of national defence and international affairs may lie in an enlightened citizenry — in an informed and critical public opinion which alone can here protect the values of democratic government. For this reason, it is perhaps here that a press that is alert, aware, and free most vitally serves the basic purpose of the First Amendment. For, without an informed and free press, there cannot be an enlightened people. Justice Potter Stewart, New York Times Co. v. United States, June 30, 1971


Monday — Virtual vs. Real Protests: If one believes that effective social change, especially in tough authoritarian conditions, can’t succeed without getting citizens to participate in old-school political processes then the ability to sign online petitions and retweet links to news articles may not seem impressive.

Tuesday —How are social media changing democracy? Political scientists have long pointed out that social media make it easier for interests to organise: they give voice and power to people who have neither.

Wednesday — Social Media Is Not Destroying America: Dissidents can’t afford to cede the social media battleground to authoritarian regimes. If governments are using technology to surveil opponents and spread official propaganda, then activists must use the same tool to push out their own narrative.

Thursday — The Dystopian Future of Holographic Protests: Governments world over are continuing to implement draconian laws that infringe on civil liberties and impose heavy prison sentences and fines for those who protest.

Friday — Social Media as a Tool for Protest: The role of social media in protests and revolutions has garnered considerable media attention in recent years. Current conventional wisdom has it that social networks have made regime change easier to organise and execute.



Virtual Assembly (pdf): The boundaries of our online groups raise difficult questions at the intersection of constitutional law, cyberlaw, sociology, and political theory. They also highlight the very real potential for state interference.

An Examination of Protest in Virtual Worlds (pdf): Modern virtual worlds support a very diverse population of inhabitants. From their roots as online video games to be played by white, male role players to the massive, interactive cities of today, virtual worlds have made a leap in both size and social complexity.

Previously I posted A Week On Facebook (July 2016) as Freedom of Expression and Democracy: — Vested interests voice their moral outrage over those opinions that they disagree with, in blatant attempts to curb legitimate freedom of expression, to the point of seeking to curb freedom of thought. In this they are invariably encouraged by a legislature who, for supine political purposes, invariably acquiesce to these attacks on those freedoms supposedly guaranteed in law.

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Hello, I’m Ed Conway, Economics Editor of Sky News, and this is my website. Blogposts, stuff about my books and a little bit of music

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Am I my Brothers keeper?

An Anthology of Short Stories

Selected by other writers

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