Re-examining the Relationship Between Civil Society and the Internet: Pessimistic Visions in India’s ‘IT City’

The increasing frequency and proficiency of Internet use by civil society groups is touted by its proponents as proof of the Internet’s democratic credentials. Studies that highlight the Internet-civil society relationship assume: firstly, that intertwining of online and offline activity furthers democratic goals and secondly, the willingness and ability of civil society actors to effectively utilize the Internet. Such assumptions are critically re-examined in light of fieldwork conducted in Bangalore city, India in 2011–2012. This article examines attitudes towards the Internet among members of Hasiru Usiru, a largely Internet-based network of concerned citizens and groups that works to protect greenery and other urban commons in the city. In-depth interviews with the ‘core group’ of active members revealed intense scepticism towards and refusal to engage deeply with, the Internet for activism. The article focuses on the apparent dichotomy that arises from the propagation of a pessimistic view of the Internet by actors who are regular Internet users, situated in a media rich environment of the ‘IT City’ of India. These findings are relevant in light of the commonly-held belief that new technologies are uncritically and automatically embraced by civil society in its democratic quest.


Tags

Activism, Bangalore, Civil society, Cyber-pessimism, Internet


You may also like