Sunday, November 1, 2009

Identity and Politics

The case studies presented in Castells article highlighted intriguing differences between the use of wireless media and their impact. On one hand, the ousting of President Estrada in the Philippines, defeat of the Spanish PP government and the election of President Moo-Hyun in Korea are all excellent examples of technology being used to empower social movements to affect purposeful political change. However, there were other examples of technology being used and it did not make a big difference in the outcome. With the 2004 Republican National Convention protests, Castells gives many reasons why the use of technology was not as effective. I see the most important reasons for this being the use of impersonal text-messaging systems and uncoordinated goals. The power of the first three movements lies in their person-to-person texting that created a personal connection and motivation to the issues along with a single driving issue to rally behind.

Both of these issues relate back to Bennett's idea of defining the context surrounding global activism and its impact on individualization. Increased communications are breaking down the traditional ways of defining personal identity and allowing for it to develop in new ways. One new way people are defining themselves is through associating with global protests or issues. As Bennett writes, "As identities become more fluid, and less rooted in geographical place and political time, individuals are freer and under greater pressure to invent themselves and their politics."

Politicians and activists must walk a fine line when trying to attract support to their cause. The Republican National Convention protests lacked that personal connection that people identify with and was instead based more on what Bennett calls 'old ideological activism.' Another example that Castells describes was the massive text message campaign by Prime Minister Berlusconi the night before the election. It triggered an outraged in the public who viewed it as an invasion of privacy. Again, they had no personal connection to this mass text and no way to identify with it and saw nothing in it to rally around. The Internet and wireless technology are not creating this identity but are tools that facilitate the exchange of a global political dialog.

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