Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Has the digital revolution intensified anxiety about democracy?

Nov. 18, 2011, 3:41 p.m., Posted by Robertson Adams

Above: Reed Hundt, former chairman, FCC and current chairman, IDEA.

This post is part of "The Digital Revolution and Democracy" series. For more information on the series, read "Digital Democracy: A More Perfect Union."

“In the early days of the Internet as a commercial and social phenomenon, the thought was that the Internet would be the global common medium... building a platform for the world to connect to each other," says Reed Hundt, former chairman of the FCC during the Clinton Administration.

The pace in which it has connected people - 2 billion participants in 20 years - is "astounding," he said.

However, as the Internet has exploded in growth, the commercial interests in it may have diverged from public interests.

"We have a lot of legitimate discontent with the functioning of our democracy. Overwhelmingly Americans are unhappy with the functioning of democracy. Has the digital revolution, has the common medium intensified that anxiety? I think so. Has it produced a solution? Not yet."

Knight Foundation's Dennis Scholl interviewed Hundt at the Aspen Institute’s Forum on Communications and Society 2011, as part of Knight's The Digital Revolution and Democracy series.

He concluded by questioning where the Internet might go over the next 20 years. “We’re engaged in a very very important debate here… over whether this common medium will hold to the values of openness and freedom.”