How the ‘New Digital Age’ Is Reshaping the World
Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt and Google Ideas director Jared Cohen sit down with Condoleezza Rice at Stanford Business School to discuss ideas, technology, politics, and the future.
Governments in the U.S. and Western Europe have different goals than countries like China and Iran when it comes to the free flow of information online
The purpose of this essay is two-fold: (1) to provide an overview of the impact of global communication on international relations in the theoretical discourse, military, diplomatic, economic, scientific, educational, and cultural arenas, and (2) to draw out the implications in each arena for further policy research and development.
Global communication at the turn of the 21st century has brought about many effects. On the one hand, it is blurring technological, economic, political, and cultural boundaries. Print, photography, film, telephone and telegraphy, broadcasting, satellites, and computer technologies, which developed fairly independently, are rapidly merging into a digital stream of zeros and ones in the global telecommunications networks (The Economist, March 10, 1990; October 5, 1991; September 30, 1995). Economically, separate industries that had developed around each of these technologies are combining to service the new multimedia environment through a series of corporate mergers and alliances. Politically, global communication is undermining the traditional boundaries and sovereignties of nations. Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) is violating national borders by broadcasting foreign news, entertainment, educational, and advertising programs with impunity. Similarly, the micro-media of global communication are narrow casting their messages through audio and videocassette recorders, fax machines, computer disks and networks, including the Internet and the World Wide Web. Culturally, the new patterns of global communication are creating a new global Coca-Colonized pop culture of commodity fetishism supported by global advertising and the entertainment industry.
On the other hand, global communication is empowering hitherto forgotten groups and voices in the international community. Its channels have thus become the arena for contestant of new economic, political, and cultural boundaries. Global communication, particularly in its interactive forms, has created immense new moral spaces for exploring new communities of affinity rather than vicinity. It is thus challenging the traditional top-down economic, political, and cultural systems. In Iran, it facilitated the downfall of a monarchical dictatorship in 1978-1979 through the use of cheap transistor audiocassette recorders in conjunction with international telephony to spread the messages of Ayatollah Khomeini to his followers within a few hours of their delivery from his exile in Paris (Tehranian, 1979, 1980, 1993). In the Philippines, the downfall of the Marcos regime in 1986 was televised internationally for all to witness while alternative media were undermining his regime domestically. In Saudi Arabia, a BBC-WGBH program on “The Death of a Princess,” banned by the Saudi government as subversive, was smuggled into the country by means of videotapes the day after its premier showing on television in London. In China, despite severe media censorship, the democracy movement in Tiananmen Square spread its message around the world in 1989 via the fax machines. In the Soviet Union, computer networkers who opposed the Moscow coup of 1991 and were sympathetic to Yeltsin, transmitted his messages everywhere despite severe censorship of the press and broadcasting (Ganley & Ganley 1987, 1989; Ganley 1992). In Mexico, the Zapatista movement managed to diffuse its messages of protest against the government worldwide in 1994 through the Internet. In this fashion, it solicited international support while embarrassing the Mexican government at a critical moment when it was trying to project a democratic image for admission to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In Burma or Myanmar, as it is officially known, both government and opposition have employed the Internet in their political struggles. E-mail has been used to achieve rapid global mobilization for withdrawal of Western companies from Myanmar in protest against the government’s repressive policies (The Economist, August 10, 1996: 28).