Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Information Revolution and the Iranian Demonstrations -- a thought

There has been a lot of publicity noting that Iran is heavily "wired", with large numbers blogging and tweeting. Dishes receiving satellite TV broadcast are ubiquitous. Cell phones have multiplied there as everywhere and the network of personal phones is ubiquitous. Pundits have suggested that the huge demonstrations that have been occurring since the election would not have been possible without this infrastructure, not to mention that we would be unaware of the tumult in Iran without the information being sent out of Iran by regular citizens via the global information infrastructure.

What would you bet that the forces of conservatism are also "wired", that they are watching events via the information infrastructure, that they are burning up the wires and airwaves discussing what to do. If the decision is to use military force to stop the demonstrations, the military will no doubt utilize information and communication technology in all aspects of its preparations and actions.

What would you bet that the U.S., Israeli and other intelligence agencies are picking up huge amounts of traffic on the events, and are using lots of very high technology to observe and analyze what is happening.

If the 21st century technology is enabling the forces of opposition to mobilize and protest the elections, then too it is 21st century technology that may be used to suppress the movement.

I have in the past suggested that technology is a double edged sword, and that whether it will be used to enhance or suppress democratic processes is unclear, likely to depend on other circumstances in which it is applied. I still say so!

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