One process that characterizes the world today and that, perhaps more than any other, shows its innovation is the extraordinary development of information technologies and global networks which superimpose themselves over traditional forms of social interaction invariably influencing every level of political life. The impact of technologies that are part of the so-called ‘Internet of Things’ affects social habits, everyday practices and the behaviour of individuals in public spaces. For these reasons, much attention has been dedicated recently to the effects of digital globalization on lifestyles at the global and local level as well as to the presence of a line of tension between technological innovations and the practices and values of traditional democratic life. In particular, through the inclusion of an increasing number of individuals into new circles of public discussion, new forms of mobilization and information seem to profoundly alter the behaviour of citizens in the face of politics, the attitude of institutional political actors towards the electorate and, not least of all, the way in which popular movements act.
At the centre of the articles in this issue of “Glocalism” is a new interpretation of these phenomena, which deepens the debate on social, cultural and above all political effects generated by technological innovation in diverse national realities such as India, Iceland, Germany and Iran. A central position is occupied by the influence exerted by new technologies on the relationship between rulers and citizens and by the perception that the various generations of voters place on democratic political engagement. In this regard, the essay describing the influence of social networks on the participation and political activism of millennials in Iceland and Spain is significant with the analysis of two emblematic case studies: Kitchenware Revolution and 15M.
After a comparative examination of these two experiences, united by the desire to regenerate the bottom-up democratic system, the author comes to the conclusion that social platforms have initially encouraged the participation of young people in politics but have not necessarily led to their best representation within the forum of public opinion and institutional politics. On the contrary, it is argued how the possibility of communicating through social networks had a positive effect in Nigeria during the election campaigns of 2011 and 2015. The main platforms had in fact been a privileged space for the expression of popular will and gave an opportunity for the candidates to face each other in the area of expanding civil rights and defending democratic values.
Today’s innovations seem to question the ideas, beliefs and even the form and content of collective memory as is seen in the case of Social Bookmarking in Hamburg as well the “diaspora” theme in Iranian film productions. More specifically, the German case helps us understand how an innovative cultural project helped to uncover an historical episode that has remained unnoticed until today, while the textual reading of the films taken into consideration demonstrates the unifying force of the Iranian diaspora: cutting across genres and social classes and transcending physical boundaries until it recreates a figurative return to the motherland.
As is well known, new technologies also make significant changes in the material world thanks to the interaction between technological devices and entities of the physical world. This has led to dealing with innovations introduced by the mobile app Waze as all as its effect on the ‘spatial practices’ of its users. This study is an excellent starting point for a reflection on the reconfiguration of urban space generated by the interaction of users of an online network such as Waze. These networks of sharing seem to have played a primary role in the formation of new forms of belonging and communication between citizens; generating a complex dialectic between the physical world and the digital sphere from which new types of interpersonal collaboration arise.
The issues expressed above are conceptually related to the contents of the article dedicated to Tesla self-driving cars. By paying particular attention to the possible political transformations that will follow the introduction of independent machines, the issue of power relations between local rulers and large technological companies is addressed as well as the problems associated with the redevelopment of public infrastructure and the need to maintain its availability to all citizens. It is also interesting to outline the ‘worlds’ that will be generated by this type of innovation with the purpose of identifying viable solutions able to overcome the inefficiencies and inequalities that characterized the era of traditional cars.
In this issue of “Glocalism”, the discussion of the development of complex interactions between technological innovation and political innovation seems to be animated by an investigative perspective that respects the specificities of the individual local realities considered but at the same time encourages a reflection on the benefits, risks and global repercussions that such phenomena exert in today’s connected and interdependent world.