Power, Hierarchy, and the Internet: Why the Internet Empowers and Disempowers

By Robin Mansell.

Published by The Global Studies Journal

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: March 11, 2016 Free Download

This paper examines some of the reasons for the persistent debate about whether the Internet is empowering or disempowering for civil society actors. The Internet is sometimes associated with the end of hierarchy because of its technical architecture and, at other times, with a disempowering lack of transparency. In the “big data” era power relations are giving rise to hierarchy, notwithstanding the flat architecture of the Internet. The paper considers models of governance to demonstrate that available models are ambiguous with regard to the exercise of governing authority. It concludes that mediated communication is neither wholly exploitative nor liberating. What it is in practice is conditioned by the ways in which authority is articulated through institutional norms. Research is needed to better understand the mix of governance models operating in practice and on the extent to which this leads to disturbances that give rise to unpredictable outcomes for citizens.

Keywords: Empowerment, Big Data, Governance, Privacy, Surveillance, Citizens

The Global Studies Journal, Volume 9, Issue 2, June 2016, pp.19-25. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: March 11, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 482.960KB)).

Robin Mansell

Professor, Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK


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