Friday, June 09, 2006

Rethinking internet optimism in China

In an earlier post ( New Chinese Words) I supported the opinion of internet optimism in China. This view holds that CCP's censorship efforts are crude plugs in a breaking dam that is about burst with a flow of ideas and discourse that not even the Three Gorges project could hope to contain.

I am no longer so sure. Google's entry into the scene changes things.

This one company has changed the entire culture of the internet, and perhaps the world, by organizing billions of discrete ideas, groups, and individuals into an online nation with an indexed map that anyone can use. The individual of the internet in the mid nineties was a lost particle, a jane003490, in a vast sea of irrelevance. The user of today finds that no matter how unique his desires, his ideology, he will find a community that he is seemlessly made a part of. Google has not just allowed people to search masses of webpages, it has allowed individuals to zoom in on themselves from up above and know just where they fit into this new world of created identities and endless choices.

But if Google is already transferring these capabilties to government censors -- capabilities that allow observation of the movement and development of thought on a individual and collective scale -- it might be that the personal computer in China, and its integration into social life, will represent an era of greater repression and thought control.

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