Political Science in the Age of the Internet and Digital Revolution

The Digital Revolution and Powershift

Ever since the first personal computers began to make their presence felt in the late 1970s, a silent revolution in the way nations, politics, business, culture and society conduct themselves began to be apparent. Futuristic thinkers like Alvin Toffler wrote about the changing contours of business in the information age and extolled what they called the emerging Powershift that took power away from traditional sources and dispersed it among anyone who was savvy enough to realize the growing potential of the digital age.

Take for instance, the 2008 Presidential Election in the United States. Barack Obama was able to win mainly because his campaign team focused their strategies in leveraging the power of the internet and the social media to get people out to vote and to reach out to individuals in personalized ways. The other example is the way entrepreneurs in Asia began to realize the importance of the internet and the digital revolution wherein they needed minimal capital and minimal investment and all they had to do was to have a game changing idea and put in hard work. There can be no better example of this than this site on which you are reading this article that has leveraged the power of the internet to reach a global audience. Indeed, just because anyone with skills and hard work and some encouragement could harness the internet, the renowned expert, Thomas Friedman called this the emergence of the “Flat World” where everyone is in competition with everyone and everywhere.

The Empowering of the Citizenry

The other aspect about how political science changed with the digital revolution can be seen in the wave of protests that rocked the Arab countries in a movement known as the “Arab Spring” where protestors began to coordinate their campaigns using social media and mobile technologies. The power that these protestors had was of the informational and digital driven variety and the fact that they succeeded in some countries shows how the digital revolution is reshaping the world of politics, business, and society. Apart from this, consumers across the world are better informed and better aware of the choices that they have regarding the goods and services that they consume. In other words, the digital age has empowered ordinary citizens to find information about just about anything else and this has resulted in greater knowledge for them and at the same time, more responsible businesses who now know that their actions and activities are being scrutinized minutely.

The Internet can be used for both good and bad

Of course, this is not to say that the digital revolution is all positive and that there are only benefits. The perils of instant access to information have given scope for those who are not well meaning to manipulate the flow of information so that it suits vested interests at the expense of the majority. Indeed, as several incidents of misinformation and disinformation on the internet show, the potential for mischief is as greater as the benefits that the internet delivers. Hence, the key aspect here is that technology being value neutral has to be used in a productive manner. What exacerbates the situation is that those who wielded power in the status quo are not willing to cede ground to the emerging aware and informed citizenry and hence, these status quoists are making all out efforts to retain their positions and power. This can be seen in the way several movements against the establishment have been thwarted by simply denying them access to technologies that empower them.

Closing Thoughts

Finally, it needs to be mentioned that the digital age has made consumers more aware, activists more powerful, and the governments uneasy. Hence, the way in which the different stakeholders react to the coming convergence of mobile technologies, the internet, and even human biology would determine how nations, businesses, societies, and cultures would adapt or collapse depending on the strategies that these stakeholders adopt. The choice is with us and hence, the future would be determined according to the choices we make.


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Political Science