Business Book of the Week : The Net Delusion by Evgeny Morozov

Belarus-born researcher and blogger, Evgeny Morozov, works on the political effects of the internet. He is skeptical about the Internet’s ability to provoke change in authoritarian regimes. He points out that the internet is used as a powerful tool to sustain authoritarian regimes and promote extreme nationalist views.

Morozov is currently visiting scholar at Stanford University, a fellow at the New America Foundation, and a contributing editor of (and blogger for) Foreign Policy magazine, for which he writes the blog Net Effect. He was previously a Yahoo! fellow at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, a fellow at the Open Society Institute, director of new media at a non-governmental organisation, Transitions Online, and a columnist for Russian newspaper, Akzia.

His writings have appeared in various newspapers and magazines around the world, including The Economist, Newsweek International, International Herald Tribune, Boston Review, Slate, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He was chosen as a TED fellow, and spoke there about how the Web influences civic engagement and regime stability in authoritarian, closed societies, and in countries “in transition.”

The internet has been described as a powerful tool for achieving ‘regime change’ by enabling social and political activism. Essentially, Morozov balances this view – reflecting on the ways in which it is used to suppress such movements and pointing out that it is rarely available as an instrument for activists at the time of such change.

His ideas are reflected in his book The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, whose publication in January 2011 coincided with a domino effect of regime change throughout North Africa and the Gulf Region. Undoubtedly the internet, especially twitter, was used by the activists most engaged in the transition, but Morozov’s work tempers the enthusiasm expressed by some journalists in describing its power.

In a previous post, I provided a link to Evgeny speaking at an RSA event in 2009. I would recommend this video, which puts across a longer talk in a shorter time scale.

However, if you prefer to see the man himself, his TED talk describes the key parts of his argument, though it is clearly delivered against a pressure of time and some of the logic is unfortunately cut short.

An important question that his work raises is the extent to which the ‘cyber-utopianist’ perspective is also being clung onto as a source of economic transformation in the current climate? Especially among the white-collar, middle-class, population that has been heavily affected by the present economic downturn, ‘digital democracy’, ‘cyber governance’, ‘e-wealth’ and ‘internet solopreneurism’ are all being proposed as mechanisms for transformation of both individual and societal conditions.

Best wishes
Graham Wilson – 07785 222380
PS My previous Business ‘Book’ of the Week was The Khan Academy flips Education w Salman Khan

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