Revolution by Information
"...socialism was reaching the end of the road. Not because the Soviet or Eastern European leadership was inept or lazy or negligent. The real issue was that socialist ideology was based entirely on the assumptions of the industrial society and could not survive in a world in which the knowledge-value revolution had become the dominant force."
Taichi, Sakaiya; The Knowledge Value Revolution; Page 353.
Technologies of Freedom
Power struggles throughout history have long focussed upon not only physical muscle, but on the efforts to shape public opinion through controlling the flow of information and mis-information.
During the American War of Independence, this was represented through the debate over the freedom of the press.
More recently, revolutionary groups in Eastern Europe and Africa have focussed their attention upon seizing control of the television stations and other communications centres.
In the past, the ability to shift or maintain control was often linked to the ability to hide the truth - events unsavoury to the reputation of the prevailing authority were hidden from view.
George Orwells book 1984 portrayed the infamous "Big Brother" as the prime instrument of tyranny in society. Orwell was correct in noting the advancing ability of new technology to monitor the behaviour of individuals within society; to pry; to eavesdrop and to maintain control through repression.
However, he failed to realise that technologies that enhance information flow will work to undermine the mis-information and propaganda intended to hide wrong-doings or to coerce a particular viewpoint. In effect, this creates technologies of freedom.
Access to Information
The entire world is currently witnessing a dramatic increase in access to information, through increasing numbers of information technologies.
In China, the increases over the 10 year period from 1978 to 1987-8 have been most spectacular:
- Letters Delivered - Increase 215%
- Telephone subscribers - Increase 300%
- Long-distance calls - 348%
- Long-distance lines - 318%
- Television sets - 3866%
- Facsimile Machines - 5875%
These figures for China are particularly interesting relative to the confrontation between students and the military at Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989.
Within days of the dramatic events, vivid television footage was beamed around the world. Yet, most of the people in China itself had no knowledge of the events that had taken place.
Efforts by the Chinese government to cover-up the confrontations included a news blackout and a declaration of martial law.
However, the news from China that flowed around the world through the television pictures returned in other forms of electric technology. Chinese students, particularly in the United States, sent a flood of telephone calls, letters, facsimiles, videos, photocopies of news bulletins and photographic images to friends, relatives and any known contact in China.
Computer networks established listings of known facsimile numbers in China and these were saturated with stories and pictures relating to Tiananmen Square. Political pressure was also generated and broadcasts were created on short wave radio, in particular Voice of America.
This information was further spread throughout China through the use of photocopiers and the traditional forms of word-of-mouth and wall posters. More people in China heard of the events in Tiananmen Square from sources outside the country than those in China!
The Global Grapevine
The example of the flow of information surrounding the events at Tiananmen Square in 1989 clearly demonstrates the impact of information in creating political revolutions. The Global Grapevine leaves no place to hide!
Given this level of impact at a political level, one can begin to comprehend the changing relationship that technology causes in our daily lives. The enormous flow of information itself, let alone the content of the information, is the driving force behind a world wide transformation and the source of globalization.
Martz, Larry; "Revolution by Information"; Newsweek; London; June 19, 1989; Page 20-21.