Read this quarter’s Intermedia here



Share this

By Steven Michels

The 2011 Arab Spring was a moment of great hope for the advance of freedom in the Middle East. At the time, the narrative credited social media for making the movement possible, insofar as Twitter, Facebook and blogs permitted citizens to circumvent the state to share ideas and organise. But the result was not a wave of democracy. Autocratic states can also use communications technology to consolidate their power and accomplish their aims. Thus far, only Tunisia, the place that started it all, has moved to a constitutional democracy. Meanwhile, the focus has turned to more pressing matters, including the rise of the Islamic State, the conflict in Yemen, and the Syrian refugee crisis. The calendar is seemingly moving backwards, and spring has turned to winter.
More shocking has been the rise of nationalist sentiments in established liberal democracies, aided by digital technologies. Forty-seven per cent of the ‘remain’ supporters in the UK think social media was decisive in the Brexit vote, and Donald Trump’s narrow presidential victory included the emergence of ‘fake news’ and allegations of Russian hacking. Even techno-optimist Clive Thompson, author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better, concluded that the election of Trump was a time of reckoning for social media.
What does this mean for the future of self-government? If we follow Harold Lasswell in seeing politics as nothing more than ‘who gets what, when, and how’, then politics could have no end.
In fact, population growth, greater connectedness, and environmental challenges could make the coming decades a time of hyperpolitics. If, however, we take David Easton’s more normative definition of politics as ‘the authoritative allocation of values for society’, it is not difficult to see how digital technologies are making politics impossible.


Are digital technologies making politics impossible? It’s a question addressed by political scientist STEVEN MICHELS - who is not optimistic.

Intermedia Issue:
Vol 45, Issue 02
Issue Date:
July 2017

Vol 45, Issue 02 Features

EDITORIAL 14.07.2017
PLAYING FAIR 14.07.2017 Javier Tejado Dondé
DIGITAL DOHA 14.07.2017 Cristina Murroni
View All
Back to the top

The IIC is the world's only policy debating platform for the converged communications industry

We give innovators and regulators a forum in which to explore, debate and agree the best policies and regulatory frameworks for widest societal benefit.

Insight: Exchange: Influence

We give members a voice through conferences, symposiums and private meetings, as well as broad exposure of their differing viewpoints through articles, reports and interviews.

The new website will make it easier for you to gather fresh insights, exchange views with others and have a voice in the debate

Take a look Learn more about our updates
Please upgrade your browser

You are seeing this because you are using a browser that is not supported. The International Institute of Communications website is built using modern technology and standards. We recommend upgrading your browser with one of the following to properly view our website:

Windows Mac

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of browsers. We also do not intend to recommend a particular manufacturer's browser over another's; only to suggest upgrading to a browser version that is compliant with current standards to give you the best and most secure browsing experience.