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Nationality online

Updated Sunday, 1st January 2012
Evgeny Morozov of Foreign Policy and The Open University's Ray Corrigan praise the chances and weigh the challenges offered as nationality moves online.

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Evgeny Morozov welcomes the chance offered by the web for smaller nations (and non-nations) to build a sense of identity.

I think it’s actually a positive thing for smaller nations, and it’s even a more positive thing for nations which don’t yet exist within certain geographic boundaries.

And you have Assyrians for example, right, who didn’t even have a nation for a number of centuries now but they’re still asserting their national identity online.

Whether it’s through newspapers which are run, and there is very interesting localised Assyrian newspaper in Sweden which now has a website and is run by Assyrians spread throughout the entire world, right, and in Europe in the US and elsewhere.

And now in this very small Assyrian Swedish club, football club, you know, which only plays in some very obscure sort of second league of the Swedish championship, it’s actually almost the national team of Assyria because it just doesn’t have a football team, right.

So I think for these non-existent and spread nations it’s definitely a way to assert themselves in this new global public sphere.

For small nations who show great interest I think it’s also a way to promote their languages, preserve their languages which open ...[unclear] and to develop a new culture.

And it’s amazing to me how many versions of Wikipedia you have now, right, it even exists in languages which do not really exist themselves, right. So I just think that it can be a powerful driver but, you know, again you have the same thrust as you have with globalisation in general.

And of course the use will be gravitating towards content in English, of course they will probably be preferring movies produced in Hollywood to movies produced locally but I think the web is quite resilient. I mean you do see very strong and powerful communities which, for example, produce subtitles, right, and do it for free and do it in a very collaborative manner.

So I think there are balances even to the threats caused by globalisation, so overall I think it is a very good thing for small nations and nations which don’t yet exist.

As well, I mean I think for nations which may not necessarily be real ones and are the artificial product of history, they are definitely strong because you will see a resurgence of nationalism. So I mean if you go to a country like Russia which consists of, you know, dozens if not hundreds of different ethnic groups it may definitely pose a threat.

But for other nations, you know, I don’t even think it is a problem. I mean and again, you know, for more homogenous nations, I mean I don’t really think it’s a problem in Germany, for example either, or France.

There the division I think will be much more along the, particularly in France will be much more along the religious lines between Islam and Christianity than it will be around language issues or geographic issues or nation issues, so, you know.

But again, I think we have to be really careful with the role that the internet is playing in enhancing, augmenting our religious commitments and aspirations.

And I think a tool like iPhone now has become the centrepiece of new religious gospel where you have hundreds of various iPhone applications which help you to pray, help you to connect with other people in your religion, and I think we do not yet entirely realise and understand the kind of impact that technology will have on religion.

I certainly do not think that it’s going to kill it, we may actually be entering this new age where it is becoming much easier for people to adopt these ideas and do experiment with their own identities and ...

New technology hasn't created global tensions, says Ray Corrigan. but does offer new tools and new challenges.

Okay, and thinking about whether the web is a positive or negative influence or resource then there’s no simple answer because it’s both.

What’s a network for spreading innovation, for sharing enlightenment, information and facilitating community development, etc, is also a network for spreading viruses, for facilitating crime, for networking criminals and for spreading hate and propaganda.

It’s undoubtedly, the web and the net, are undoubtedly terrific tools for nationalist and religious communities of the kind that Morozov refers to, but the kind of tensions that he talks about exist independently of the technologies.

What these technologies do is complicate the world in which the tensions exist, so you now have the capacity for young ethnic Russians living within the Estonian borders to be able to contribute to a cyber attack on Estonian government websites when there is a dispute between the two countries.

Nobody knows what the future of the technologies hold but it’s possible, for example, that the web might be just seen as a blip in the history of the net in 50 years’ time.

The only thing that we can say is that the world in 50 years will be a different place, a completely different place as a result of the development of these technologies.


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