Elissa Park, Hideto Akasu, Si Min Chew
Our group conducted a survey on undergraduate students’ awareness of the potential for advancing democracy online through media and their own interaction with the media. We present our findings through an info-graphic titled: Active Citizenship. The title encapsulates and centers on our understanding that engaging with the media in an informed and critical manner represents an unprecedented form of democracy characterized by ordinary citizens actively using and interacting with the mass media in the Digital Age. We ask if students know who are Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, the two big whistleblowers of our time who are now in hiding in England and Russia, because even having the slightest awareness of them and their work represent an inkling of how the dynamics of democracy are changing online. Online databases and technological advancement allow governments to store more information than ever in their servers and in the same sense that governments are empowered by the Internet, ordinary people are too. Thanks to the efforts of whistleblowers and activist hackers, the information and knowledge that we are entitled to is revealed to us. Even if we do not understand the information, others among us may understand, and democracy requires governments to be accountable to their people.
The Internet is a double-edged sword in many aspects, one of which is the nature of the information available to us. The Age of Information requires that each of us is able to critically evaluate and take the news and information presented to us with a pinch of salt. Doing further research, remaining skeptical and knowing how our use of the media is influenced by the Internet and corporations online is essential to maintaining an objective outlook. Are we only reading what we want to read, only accepting and registering information that we want to because of our biased views or inclinations? Political awareness is the first step towards active citizenship and political participation but it is not sufficient. It remains, however, an important first step and it is valuable that the more we understand and learn about our use of media, we become increasingly engaged and contributive towards democracy wherever we are from and anywhere we are in the world.