Obama and the global web

Global web? Sounds like redundancy, but in fact many phenomena on the world wide web aren’t so global at all. Although non-western languages are of rising importance online, English still is the most spoken language on the web. And so it should be clear that Barack Obama’s election is mostly an American or perhaps Western affair.

But this is not the case. If you take a look at Google search for “Obama” in the last 30 days, the USA only rank fourth on the list of countries searching for the president-elect:

  1. Ethiopia
  2. Kenya
  3. Cameroon
  4. Uganda
  5. United States
  6. Senegal
  7. Benin
  8. Ghana
  9. Nigeria
  10. Cuba

Is this a language issue – Obama perhaps being a very common name or word in those countries – or is this really a sign for the emergence of a more globalized internet? Is it about Obama or obama? There is some evidence for the second explanation: 1) the search volume clearly peaks on 5 November, the day after the election, 2) the three top related searches are for “barack obama”, “obama mccain” and “mccain”, 3) none of the mentioned countries were in the top list in 2005.

So, are we really witnessing the beginning of a truly global internet or a worldwide discursive space? Manuel Castells spoke of the emergence of global networks in production, communication, consummation and power, but also of locales or regions that are virtually cut off from this network. Maybe Africa is not so unlinked anymore?

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