WikiLeaks and the Public Sphere: Dissent and Control in Cyberworld

By Nathalie Marechal.

Published by The Technology Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper analyzes the competing discourses that are informing the debate about privacy and transparency on the Internet, through the lens of the WikiLeaks controversy of 2010-2011. The WikiLeaks affair is simultaneously 1) emblematic of a new world order, 2) the product of state power encountering a technologically-enabled counter-power, and 3) a focal point for the (re)negotiation of norms and values governing the control of and access to information. This public controversy concerns the rights and responsibilities of citizens and the state vis-a-vis information, with profound implications for public life, diplomacy, and international relations. Not only is it substantively about the media, it is also in the media and argued through the media. Drawing from a variety of disciplines such as communication studies, rhetoric, sociology, political science, and international relations, this paper examines public discourse in the forms of official rhetoric (coming from the U.S. government, WikiLeaks and proxies for either party), as well as the comments of media and scholarly observers, as representative of arguments that work to define and constitute these ideas as discursively sustained institutions of civic and political culture. This qualitative study relies chiefly on archival research focused on news articles published by the global newspapers that collaborated with WikiLeaks on the so-called Cablegate releases, feature-length articles from prominent newsmagazines, and other publications.

Keywords: WikiLeaks, Hacker Ethic, Hacking, Cybersecurity, Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Chelsea Manning, Information Security, Leaks, Whistle-Blowers, Privacy, Transparency, Surveillance

International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp.93-106. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 477.096KB).

Nathalie Marechal

American University, Washington, DC, USA

Ms. Marechal is a doctoral student in Communication at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Her research interests include media and international relations, media history, international and comparative media, media ethics, technology and society, and cross-cultural communication.

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