What is your first thought when you hear the word “power”? The freedom for self-determination? The opportunity to effect change? Impartial government leadership? Or do your thoughts move immediately to suppression? The ideas, connotations and especially emotions that people associate with this word depend in part on socialisation and environment. The term is surely understood very differently in regions like Egypt and Syria than it is in Brazil, and Turkey, or indeed in countries free of uprisings and revolts.
In this issue we encounter many interpretations of power: from political freedom to government suppression; from civil power to social movements; from positive economic power that secures independence for young female entrepreneurs to economic cartels in China that provide the state with immense insight into digital life.
And while we are on the topic – in this day and age of life in the digital world, what even constitutes privacy anymore? The whole world is talking about data security and cybercrime, at very latest following the NSA affair. The surveillance state Orwell envisioned in “1984” is apparently becoming reality. Power 2.0 is characterized by the domination of digital data highways. Entire research centres – with NASA leading the way – now explore the issue of cyber security. But citizens are also arming themselves: the desire to take control of all the personal data coursing through the internet is driving individuals to cryptoparties where they learn how to encrypt emails. These parties, which started in Australia, are now enormously popular the world over. The internet offers many people the freedom to expresses criticism about the situation in their countries, yet conversely bloggers and critics must also fear that this same technical revolution will land them in jail or even end their lives. Wenzel Michalski, Germany’s Director of Human Rights Watch, offers a sad summation in his interview: since 2009 more bloggers than offline activists have been killed.
Transparency, open data, open government – all these buzzwords are indicative of a countermovement which demands that the state be transparent, not its citizens. The development of digitalization strengthens social and political participation in particular. Here too we offer a number of contributions on all the different forms of civil participation.
We hope our latest issue will provide you with new impulses and impressions of the term “power”.