Democracy in the Age of Google, Wikileaks and Facebook
Moderated by Wolfgang Merkel
We live in a revolutionary age of communicative abundance with many media innovations. In the field of politics, hopeful talk of digital democracy, web 2.0, cybercitizens and e-government is flourishing. Too little attention has been paid, though, to the troubling counter-trends, the decadent media developments that encourage concentrations of cunning power without limit, so weakening the spirit and substance of democracy. Clever new methods of government censorship - the Chinese and Russian cases are the most sophisticated - and the use by governments and corporations of spin tactics and back-channel public relations are the most obvious examples. Echo chambers, rumour storms, Berlusconi-style mass media populism, flat earth news, cyber-attacks, online gated communities, publicity bombs and organised lying and media silence in the face of unaccountable power are trends that also bode ill for democracy. The lecture offers a guide to understanding and explaining these trends, and how best to deal with them.
John Keane is Professor of Politics at Sydney University and Research Professor at the WZB. Among his publications are The Media and Democracy (first print 1991) and most recently The Life and Death of Democracy (2009). He has a blog on issues of democracy: http://johnkeane.net/blog/
Wolfgang Merkel is Director of the WZB Research Unit on Democracy.