“The inevitable surprise of political unrest”

20 Mar ’11

I admire this Philip Howard piece about the impact the internet has had on political unrest in North Africa and the Middle East. That impact has been perhaps the most momentous effect of the internet we’ve seen so far, but it’s important to remember that it is merely one manifestation of the destabilization the internet has inflicted on traditional power relationships.

The democratization of information means that people who have had to rely on elites to learn and speak about their world now do it on their own. But whether the subject is our relationship to political power, or the relationship between consumer and corporation, or between audience and publisher, or otherwise – in all things, it seems, the internet is slowly (and not so slowly) forcing dramatic realignments in traditional power structures.

This means an age of unrest about everything, political and otherwise. I believe this is why we are living through what I think of as the Death of Trust – the end of traditional faith in the historical centers of power. We now know enough to know, in pretty much every facet of our lives, that the Emperor has no clothes.

It is an age that is only just beginning.

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