An excerpt from a timely review of The Master Switch and The Net Delusion
A question raised by this debate is whether the Internet, in comparison to previous communications technologies that also intensified connections among dispersed peoples—the telegraph, radio, television, telephones, fax machines, and cell phones—has unique properties that favor its users, “the people,” over centralized authorities. A related question involves what communications technology may actually do to advance free speech and assembly, or to help dissatisfied populations revolt. That is, are communications systems and media best understood merely as neutral means of transmission, largely incidental to the human and political struggles conducted over their lines and airwaves? Or, if a particular communications technology does, by its structure or effects, have a more active influence in bringing about political outcomes, what precisely is that influence?