Remember when TIME magazine selected You – Yes, You – as Person of the Year? It was back in 2006 when the magazine’s editors decided that the year’s big story was about community and collaboration on the internet – i.e., “about the many wresting power from the few…and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.” Given the overarching theme we have explored over the last thirteen weeks – that the international system is undergoing fundamental and irreversible changes in its structure – we think it is only right to close the first part of our three-part Editorial Plan by revisiting TIME’s initial claim. We believe it’s right not only because social media has stopped being a “massive social experiment” and has become an integral (and complex) part of people’s lives, but also because the topic points us towards the second part of our plan, which will begin on April 2.
Indeed, if the initial part of the plan focused on answering a simple question (how is the structure of international system changing at its most fundamental level?) then the second part begs us to answer a follow-on question – if the international system is transforming itself in major ways, what impact are these changes having on power relationships throughout the world, whether formal or not? While answering this question is our next overarching objective, we have a transitional one we need to address this week – are the internet and social media helping to change the international system by empowering non-state actors and individuals? In other words, is the internet further eroding the state’s traditional monopoly on power when it’s the state that ultimately controls access to new and old media in the first place?
These are the questions we consider this week in our dossier, “The New Information Revolution.”