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Is the Internet an Effective Forum for Public Debate?

Complete video at: Liberal author and columnist Alexander Cockburn argues that the so-called "Digital Commons" has not evolved into an effective forum for public debate. ----- "Digital commons: Does new technology add up to a new public sphere?" at the 2007 Battle of Ideas conference hosted by the Institute of Ideas. New technology has become so closely associated with public engagement, both culturally and politically, that it has been heralded as a new democracy in and of itself. Undoubtedly we are in an era in which people have the freedom to access and create public information like never before, challenging traditional expertise and deference to authority: citizen journalists break stories, bands shoot to No 1 without A&R men from major labels, and presidential candidates connect with their electorate via YouTube. But how revolutionary is new technology really? Often it is respected off-line institutions that seem to dominate the digital commons, even setting-up shop in Second Life. Add to that 10 Downing Street e-petitions, MPs? blogs and the mainstream media flocking online, and is the internet not just coming to reflect the existing power structures of real life? Are multinational corporations and political parties simply using new technology for their own traditional ends? - IoI Alexander Cockburn is co-editor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the twice-monthly muckraking newsletter CounterPunch, whose Web site,, now has a world audience in the millions. He has established a reputation as one of the foremost reporters and commentators of the left by writing newspaper and magazine columns for three decades. Cockburn?s areas of interest include the American political scene, economics, the environment, labour issues and international policy, the perils of conspiracism. The author of a bi-weekly column for The Nation called Beat the Devil, Cockburn also writes a syndicated newspaper column that is distributed nationally by Creators Syndicate and has appeared regularly in such papers as the Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Examiner, Minneapolis Star-Tribune and Detroit Free Press.
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