Re-examining the relationship between civil society and the internet: Pessimistic visions in India’s ‘IT City’

Anuradha Rao


The paper critically re-examines some assumptions associated with the internet-civil society relationship, viz., that intertwining online and offline activity furthers democratic goals, and the willingness of civil society actors to effectively utilize the internet. A case study of Hasiru Usiru, an internet-based civil society network in Bangalore, India, unearthed intense scepticism towards, and refusal to engage deeply with, the internet for activism. The paper examines the reasons for the propagation of a pessimistic view by wired civil society actors situated in a new media-intensive environment, viz., the ‘IT City’ of India. The finding that working within the context of a technologizing city need not result in greater internet use by civil society is a departure from the prominent view of the internet as furthering the democratic cause of civil society..

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