Asia.Com: Asia Encounters the Internet

By K. C. Ho; Randolph Kluver et al. | Go to book overview

11

The Tamil diaspora, Tamil militancy, and the Internet

Shyam Tekwani

Every new innovation in communication technology since the printing press has worried governments about the resulting impact on sovereignty, but these worries have been misplaced, as these governments have been able to use the technology to strengthen their hold on public opinion (Perritt, 1998). The Internet may yet, however, prove to be the exception. Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the Internet that makes it more threatening to governments than earlier advances in technology is that it is not susceptible to the same physical and regulatory controls as print, telegraph, telephone, radio, and television technologies.

Overseas ethnic diasporas have traditionally formed networks to exchange goods and services, including news and information, with other members of the diaspora. Even before the advent of mass communication technologies and the mass media, members of these diasporas always found ways to communicate with the home country and to keep abreast of the community in the host country, either through the post and telegraph, telephone, or the newspaper or radio and television. However, the spread of the Internet has added significantly to the ability of the diaspora to create and sustain such networks. Although these networks have used every available mode of communication through the ages to maintain the networks of trade and communication, the Internet is particularly suited to their needs, as it is relatively inexpensive and allows for almost instant, one-to-one communication. Online media, unlike other forms of capital-intensive media such as broadcast media which follows a top-down and hierarchical model, allows easier access and is non-linear, largely non-hierarchical, and relatively inexpensive (Karim et al., 1998).

Karim (2002) documents how diasporic communities have become extensive users of online services such as email, Internet Relay Chat, Usenet, Listserv, and the World Wide Web. As the number of language scripts and translation capabilities of online software grows, an increasing number of non-English speakers are drawn to the medium (Karim, 2002), thus increasing the potential impact of the Internet on these communities.

Activist groups, within ethnic diasporas, have the potential to become a strategic asset their home countries and territories can draw upon to help

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