Your New Nobel Laureate: The Internet

Crazier things have happened

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Does the Internet deserve a Nobel Peace Prize? The Italian branch of Wired magazine is pushing the notion, and 2003 prize winner Shirin Ebadi is also supporting the nomination. Not everyone's on board, though, and bloggers have had a fascinatingly abstract few weeks debating the peace-promoting merit of their medium. The pro-Internet camp celebrates the facilitation of human connection, while the opposition questions the value of awarding a Nobel to a technology. Others say Obama's Nobel has set a low enough bar the Internet shouldn't have much of a problem.

  • 5 Reasons the Internet Shouldn't Win  Evgeny Morozov, Foreign Policy's tech writer, thinks "there are worthier technologies" out there, like the book, the syringe, the pacemaker, and the mobile phone. He also thinks the Nobel could "kill Internet ativism in authoritarian states ... undermine the reputation of the Nobel Peace Prize," and "stifle a very important and still unfolding debate about the Internet's broader impact on society." Finally, he thinks it might make politicans think technology, rather than politics, is the key to opening up authoritarian states.
  • Have You Any Idea How Much Junk Is on the Internet?  Robert Brockway pens a satirical Nobel acceptance speech for the Internet. Among the subjects: the "stunt" factor of awarding the prize to an "abstract ... concept" and the crucial contribution of pornography to the spread of the web. At The Awl, Alex Balk is in a similarly sardonic mood: "The BBC notes that, 'It is unclear who would accept the prize if the internet were to win,' but I'm pretty sure it would either be the Star Wars kid, that Peter Pan guy, or the dude in the cat outfit from ChatRoulette."
  • Rebuttal: the Argument for the Internet  "Those who consider the Internet simply as a new media, or a neutral tool, are missing a point," says Riccardo Luna of Wired Italy, the organization that originally submitted the nomination. He points to numerous prominent figures hailing the Internet as a network of people rather than computers, and announces a Twitter debate with Foreign Policy's Morozov on the Internet's fitness to win a Nobel.
  • The Heart of the Matter  "What exactly is the Nobel Peace Prize recognizing?" Asks Libero Della Piana at People's World, trying to unpack the controversy. "Is the prize for the grassroots peacemakers, pragmatic diplomats or contemplative visionaries?" He points out that if Obama's Nobel--seen by some as undeserved--was a "call to action" in the president's words, perhaps the Internet could win a Nobel upon the same premise.
  • Pros and Cons  The Guardian's Bobbie Johnson wonders whether the "connections" praised by the pro-Internet crowd "are just as likely to encourage divisions" as bridge them: "just look at the wide extremes of behaviour on political websites, the insipid sofa activism of Facebook campaigns or the kneejerk reaction of some Twittergasms." He, too, though, thinks that "if Barack Obama can win the prize without really doing anything, it's surely up for grabs."
  • 'You Don't Honor Paper for the Brilliant Novel Printed on It'  At The Columbia Chronicle, Luke Wilusz offers a thoughtful rebuttal to the nomination:
Wired should have looked at Internet activists and people who have used the medium for social improvement as potential nominees instead of trying to honor the tools those people use. Free speech in the face of oppression is an undoubtedly noble endeavor, but there are people to honor and recognize for that. You don’t put a medal on a microphone for a prolific speech, and you don't honor paper for the brilliant novel printed on it.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.