Can we produce a global public sphere by the ICTs?

In today’s public diplomacy conference hosted by International Communication Program of American University, one of the major themes is about “listening”. As the moderators and speakers mentioned in the conference that public diplomacy is not delivery of message like “Telling America’s story”. But on the contrary, public diplomacy should be bilateral information exchange. I think every nation has learned a lot of lessons by selling their own political ideologies, life style, does not mean the receiving nations will listen, let alone bridging the cultural gap to achieve the mutual understanding.

Think about how we have evolved from technological discontinuity, from print media, to radio, TV, to the wide spread use of Internet and then to the wireless communication, to the new social media technologies such as wiki, twitter and so on. But how our global politics has been transformed? It is true like some people say that our whole world is moving towards democracy. Just like Castells says that the control of information and communication could be manifesto of authority power throughout history. But with globalization, the nation states’ capacity might be weakened by the international flow of information, capital, services and so on. Some nation states might feel they are vulnerable confronting with globalization. While some nation-states are trying to adapt to the globalization by inventing new social mechanism, provision and design new models for governance. For example, some governments are trying to build up the e-Government in order to encourage more citizens involved into political participation.

But I also agree with Castells that because of the mobile technologies, there is an emergent phenomena of People Power. As Castells gave some examples such as the demonstrators used cell phone attempting to overthrow the regime of the president of Philippines. But as Castells also mention that every country has different situation due to their current political environment. So the people power might have various influences on the policy decision-makers. But even in China, still an authoritative country, the Internet has becoming a more and more powerful communication channel. The grassroots people especially the young people at their twenties or earlier-thirties, use some well known public online forum to discuss issues and exchange ideas. They also use renren website, which is a Chinese version of Facebook to post videos, and discuss some dark societal issues. At least, I feel those new media could potentially have more influence on China’s policy. Because of those new media and mobile technologies, the grassroots people’s voice could be heard and might be amplified.

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