Egypt’s apparent move to shut off Internet has called for revisiting the so-called “dictator’s dilemma,” i.e. the idea that authoritarian governments cannot have their Internet cake and eat it, too….
1- The capacities of the Internet that are most threatening to authoritarian regimes are not necessarily the spread of censored information but the ability of people to form a counter-public that is outside the control of the state. In other words, it is not that people are waiting for that key piece of information to start their revolt and that information just happens to be behind the wall of censorship but that they are isolated, unsure of the power of the regime, unsure of their position and potential.
2- Dissent is not just about knowing what you think but about the formation of a public. A public is not just about what you know. Publics form through knowing that other people know what you know; and also knowing that they know what you know. Yes, all those parts of the Internet that is ridiculed by some of the critics of Internet’s potential, the LOLcats, Facebook, the three million baby pictures, the slapstick, talking about the weather, the food and the trials and tribulations of life are exactly the backbone of community and ultimately public.