At the same time that technology has made it possible to perform digital tasks from anywhere on the planet, cultural debates seem to be increasingly driven by geographical divides.
The chasm has been increasingly pronounced in Toronto, where the 15-year-old decision to amalgamate the city core with its former boroughs is still blamed for the downfall of municipal management, as the sensibilities of downtown condo dwellers don’t match the mindset of suburbia.
Meanwhile, politicians at all levels of government seem loathe to even acknowledge regional antagonisms. Provincial and federal politicians are forced to appear impartial toward the capital cities where they do their work, lest they lose any rural votes, while many of Toronto’s city councillors continue to rely on the trope of a city united in its diversity.
In spite of this, such divides persist, and like so much of our politics these days, they’ve made their way onto the internet. Here in Toronto, a full 380,000 voters cast ballots for Mayor Rob Ford, but you’d be hard pressed to find those people online. According to a poll conducted by the Toronto-based Social Media Group, Ford’s popularity among plugged-in Torontonians hit new lows this summer, with some 61 per cent of all blog posts and tweets expressing negative views towards the mayor.
Similarly, when Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti turned to Facebook for advice on how to reduce the city’s deficit, he was met with, to quote The Globe and Mail, “wide ridicule and derision.”
The internet’s bias towards progressive or left-leaning ideas is hardly unique to Toronto. The popular website If the World Could Vote asks online users about issues of the day and the results are seldom surprising. During the U.S. Presidential election in 2008, the site revealed that a majority of netizens the world over would vote for Barack Obama, and at the time of writing, a poll pertaining to Wikileaks reveals that 86 per cent of users feel Julian Assange should not be charged for his role in leaking classfied documents.
The politics of place, and how they relate to technology, will be discussed in the next Metaviews Telseminar. We will examine the ways in which the divide between the urban and suburban, and the rift between online and offline overlap, and ask why the internet fails reflect the entire political spectrum.
After all, is the internet simply the domain of “urban elites”? Is Twitter just a big digital gala? Or is there something about the interconnectedness of living online that makes users more likely to lean to the left?