People have embraced the internet so much that even in a country like
ours, Honorable Finance Minister (Dr. Baburam Bhattarai of CPN-Maoist)
has a Facebook
profile (looks genuine so far). He (or whoever maintains the profile
on his behalf) regularly updates his status. Sometime back, while I was
busy with work and couldn't catch up with news, his status updates
served as a good substitute. He also posts pictures from events he
attends. The most followed part, in my opinion, are the notes he posts
to his profile- interviews, articles published in newspapers, political
notes, and other pieces. The problem, as stated by many of his "friends"
(well, facebook friends) is that he never replies (or interacts with)
their queries and comments. There is a feature called "Facebook Page"
that he could have used to update his "fans" (just another facebook
word), without engendering expectations of interaction in them. There
are other ways of avoiding interaction on the internet too. While I
appreciate Dr. Bhattarai's efforts to make use of technology at a time
when most Nepalese leaders struggle to use even the basic tools, I
disagree with his mode of operation.
What the Internet is NOT?
First, it is none among the printing press, telegraph, radio, theater
and television. It is also not what it used to be a few years ago
(called web 1.0). There are some common characters among all the
- The content producers are limited, few, elites and consumers are
many- the mass of ordinary people. For the mass to produce any content
that could reach similar numbers and make equal impact is almost
- There is some sort of authority that controls information, either
the governments or the powerful companies and/or families. Information
is a privilege to everybody else, exercised at the mercy of their
- They are highly centralized and undemocratic. Therefore, they have
unfair advantage over others and they misuse it pretty often. The bias
and influence of the media houses like FOX, especially during US
elections is enough evidence. We have heard numerous stories regarding
CNN's ill motived reporting during the first and second Iraq wars.
- They have failed in informing the people. "83% of the
people do not live with free press," says the media expert Sasa
Vucinic. "They don't know what goes on in their countries."
What the Internet IS?
Internet is a phenomenon, nothing of whose comparison has ever occurred
to modern human civilization.
- Everybody is a content producer
Ordinary people, even amateurs have become superstars overnight. They
have written books, produced movies, composed music and started business
without the need for any publisher's approval. They have earned millions
and created masterpieces. Anybody can write his opinions and share his
creations for the world to see. Nobody is elite just because he can
produce content for others to feed upon.
- It is decentralized
There is no single (or multiple) authority who controls the internet.
The internet is a very mad system for those not used to this concept-
there is absolutely no owner and control. It's power lies in this very
fact. But governments are trying to impose control and breach user
privacy by introducing several regulations and acts- if they succeed,
the system will fail.
- It is a system of governance
The Internet is the perfect example of a democracy and values like
freedom of expression and citizen rights. It has also proved to be the
most effective political medium.
Combine the power of Wikipedia, blogs and web services (google earth,
youtube, flickr, picasa, digg, delicious, reddit, twitter etc.), and
realize where the world has come to. It is self-regulatory (freedom of
expression), and evolutionary (the only way to survive is to respect and
satisfy the users).
- It empowers
Does this need any explaination?
To Dr. Bhattarai
Your practice smells of elitist and feudalistic values, that is soon
going to be obsolete, at least on the internet. It smells of the
snobbery fitting of the traditional "content-producer." It, in no way
smells of the revolutionary leader you claim to be. I assume that you
might have been influenced by the internet-savvy practices of Barack
Obama. I respect it to a large extent. But your disrespect for the ways
of the internet, and the values it stands for disappointed me.
Lastly, the secret to internet's success is that it thrives on the
notion of sharing and collaborating, of preserving and spreading
knowledge and of ethical values like freedom and respect. The internet
community, the loose group of people who care for it ensure that such
values are safeguarded and the structure internet remains as it should -
messy, unregulated, uncensored, free and democratic. The threats from
governments and corporate-tycoons are very high, but let's hope the
community will succeed, like always.
The man in question, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai has had a change of heart. One of his acquaintances, commenting on the original blog, writes that he became aware of the concern and has now decided to interact with his friends on Facebook in important matters. He will manage sometime for it and ask his secretary to keep him updated. Here is the link of the comment: http://bibekpaudel.wordpress.com/2008/10/29/what-is-the-internet/#comment-1451
that's rather amusing. your own post is an example of exactly that which you're talking about :) engaging with "the internet" as a way to say that people in positions of responsibility and power should "engage with the internet". love it.
regarding dr bhattarai's decision: it's great that he recognises the necessity to interact - yet at the same time he has to be pragmatic. lack of experience led him initially to not be responsive at _all - and now he has the rather hard task of deciding how to say "yes i'm listening", and to whom.
we've had quite a bit of experience with this, but he hasn't.
what are the implications of him _only_ listening to people listed as "Friends" [on facebook]? does that mean that he will only listen to those people with whom he is "comfortable"? what about when somebody has something to say that is "uncomfortable", or beyond the experience and capacity of the "listed friends"?