Digital Participation: How Important is it in Society?

With the advent of the internet, many began seeing the vast potential for people to become more connected within society in a variety of ways.  Both authors Schaeffer and Hindman discuss the idea of participation within the context of new media.  And the authors bring up some very interesting questions.   Schaeffer begins his article by looking at some of the research that deals with the production and participation of digital artifacts.  He makes statements such as how Web 2.0  “thrives on the imminent promise of user participation in social interactions”, and how “we seem to have finally become a participatory culture”.    He even mentions a “utopian ideal of a user-controlled participatory culture.”   Much of this article is predicated on the assumption that such participation is a desirable goal or, perhaps a necessary function for the 21st century. What are some of the tangible and concrete benefits of this participation? Was life before this phenomenon somehow inferior to what it could ultimately become?    Fifty years ago, no such interaction with producers existed.  Is that to be viewed in a negative light?  Free market capitalist might make the argument that consumers are certainly able to participate.  They may or may not use the internet, but they certainly will express their desires through their pocketbook.  The producers, in an attempt to make higher profits, will manufacture a product that conforms to the consumers’ needs or desires.  At least, that is the theory.

Hindman, on the other hand, looks at participation from a political standpoint.  The need for participation in a democratic society is clear. Without participation, a democracy cannot function effectively.  The issue of web neutrality is very interesting.  Should the government play a role in ensuring that search engines provide unbiased, noncommercial searches that are not dictated by commercial sponsors?  The gatekeepers exist on the internet. What should we do about this?

Leave a Reply