WikiLeaks and the changing forms of information politics in the ‘network society’

Authors: Sreedharan, C., Thorsen, E. and Allan, S.

Editors: Downey, E. and Jones, M.A.

Publisher: IGI Global


In taking Castells’s intervention as its conceptual point of departure, this chapter offers an analysis of one instance of ‘mass self-communication’, namely the website WikiLeaks. Founded in 2006 by Australian internet activist Julian Paul Assange and a combination of “Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians, and start-up company technologists from the United States, Taiwan, Europe, Australia, and South Africa”, WikiLeaks aimed to facilitate an anonymous electronic drop box for whistleblowers. Funded by voluntary donations from its readers, the site seeks to publish leaked documents from dissident individuals or communities in order to “expose oppressive regimes” and foster “better government and stronger democracies” by bringing about “transparency in government activities” (WikiLeaks, 2008). Over the years, especially after it published a series of scoops that shook the US government in 2010, WikiLeaks has promoted the cause of investigative journalism, organising citizens into a powerful force of news-gatherers, and laying bare a wealth of privileged information. By first disrupting and then decentralising relations of power, WikiLeaks encourages new ways of thinking. “It is only when a set of alternative values becomes visible in the realm of socialized communication (the communication process with the capacity to relate to society at large),” Castells (2010) contends, “that we can see a symptom of a transformative process with the potential of rewiring human minds” (2010: xxv).

This chapter, in considering WikiLeaks as an example of socialized communication, will explore the website’s capacity to empower ordinary members of the ‘network society’ to respond to the information politics of nation states and their institutions. At the heart of this process, we shall suggest, is a radical recasting of what counts as a public service ethos, one which promises to reinvigorate anew traditional conceptions of journalism’s role and responsibilities in a democratic culture.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Chindu Sreedharan and Einar Thorsen