chapter  9
Virtual Politics
ByMary Hawkesworth
Pages 103

This chapter examines virtual politics in its incarnation, contrasting its democratizing potential with its oppressive applications. It deals with a brief history of the very short life of information and communication technologies and explores the proliferation of political uses of this technology. The chapter traces the strengths and limitations of new media as a political tool and it considers virtual politics in relation to the microphysics of power, the politics of representation, and geopolitics. It considers question of the politics of transformation and empowerment, situating the emancipatory potential of the Internet in the context of discussions concerning the replication and intensification of existing racial, gender, and global hierarchies. Cold War politics and United States efforts to improve communication among its nuclear weapons sites and command centers provided the impetus for the creation of early forms of computer networking. In circumstances that preclude typical modes of critique and dissent, politics as an "action-media event" affords a mechanism to challenge oppression.