The Internet and the Public in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Jelenka Vockic-Avdagic

Preconditions of the Use and Functioning of the Internet in Bosnia and Herzegovina | The Media and the Internet in Bosnia and Herzegovina | The Internet and Everyday Life in Bosnia and Herzegovina | The Role of the Internet in the Formation of the Public Sphere in BiH | Conclusion


Abstract


The influence of new media and new forms of communication on the public is increasingly visible as public response changes with the advent of new technology. It is therefore crucial to examine the precise ways the Internet as a global communication medium influences the formation of the public and the emergence of new forms of public consciousness, keeping in mind the history of such transformations in developed countries. It is a special challenge to ‘determine’ whether this process has started in BiH where the Internet plays an ever-greater role in everyday and political life and where the new developments in the electronic sphere are followed more closely than many other technical and social trends.
Preconditions of the Use and Functioning of the Internet in Bosnia and Herzegovina [1]

Information technologies tend to change faster than any other aspect of life; their achievements constantly transform our everyday behaviour as their infrastructure becomes simultaneously global and local, private and public.

Yet are we prepared for the effect of new information technologies and forms of communication (the Internet) on traditional social phenomena, which communication science has tried to analyse by expanding the field of its interest from traditional mass media to forms of communication in the information-oriented society?

We cannot discuss the structure and operation of Internet communication without touching on the definition and history of the Internet and the relationship between communicator and recipient in the mass media and the Internet, i.e. interactivity as differentia specifica of the Internet.
What are the basic and specific preconditions of the Internet in Bosnia and Herzegovina, or what are the forms of this communication (what opportunities are there for the development of modern media in the public discourse in BiH)?


The Internet as the Media of Elites

While most of the population in Bosnia and Herzegovina is concentrating on the problem of survival, the Internet is mainly used for the exchange of information among the intellectual elite that follows world trends in communication, and more or less among businessmen, politicians and students.

The Internet was introduced in BiH in 1995 through the university line UTIC (University Tele-Information Centre). Several months later BH PTT offered the service for its users. A year later BIHNET was founded to become the biggest BiH Internet provider. So far the profile of users has not changed much. There are three public telecommunication operators in Bosnia and Herzegovina:

• JP PTT BiH, based in Sarajevo, covers the territory of the Federation of BiH and District Brcko (since May 2002 it is called BH Telecom),

• Telecom Srpske, based in Banja Luka, covers the territory of Republika Srpska and District Brcko,

• HPT Mostar LTD., based in Mostar, covers about the same territory as JP PTT BiH.

None of these operators has been privatized yet. The state has a complete monopoly over the system of communication in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The lack of real competition leads to the supremacy of these operators over their clients, resulting in high prices and an overall poor connection to the Internet. In fact the officials of these operators barely know the number of their users.

First licenses for private network operators have been issued recently (11. 4. 2002.) to:

• Boslink Sarajevo,

• Er COM Banja Luka.

Personal computers and mobile phones are not affordable for most of the population in BiH. Hardware prices are not that high; one PC costs approximately KM 1500 or more depending on the quality. Yet, having in mind that average salary in the Federation of BiH is KM 500 and in Republika Srpska KM 350, it is obvious why the new media is not widely introduced.

One hour of using the Internet costs 70 convertible Pfennig, and BIHNET requires a monthly subscription fee of KM 6. Private providers, such as LogoSoft or Smartnet, have no subscription fee.

BIHNET users often complain about the deplorable quality of the connection. Sometimes transfer rates are so slow that it is pointless to stay online at all.

For those who do not have Internet access at home, the number of Internet Cafés is rising daily.

Research in some Internet Cafés showed:

- 250-300 visitors per day;

- The price of using computers (online or not) varies from place to place. The Internet Café CLICK offers 20 minutes for KM 1, in the Internet Club CYBER 1h of use costs KM 3 and in CANARA 1h of use costs KM 1.5 for permanent users and KM 3 for ‘guests’. The price is more or less the same everywhere and barely affects the number of visitors in these cafés.

- The age of the visitors is 7-50 years.

- The users are mostly:

1. high school and university students
2. primary school students
3. middle-aged people
4. foreigners


All of them are using the Internet, except for primary school students who go to the Internet Cafés to play games.

High school and university students check their e-mail or chat and rarely do studies-related research online. Foreigners working for various foreign organizations and companies in BiH use the Internet for the same reasons or treat the Internet café as a surrogate office where they perform a lot of work-related tasks.

Some faculties of the University of Sarajevo provide computers and Internet-connection to their students. Although the students can easily access the Internet, this option is usually the last one they use.

The ‘digital divide’ in BiH runs deep. Although most young people know how to use the Internet, few do so without complications. There are about 50,000 usernames in BiH, [2] many of them belonging to companies and Internet Cafés. What is left? What is the ‘real’ number of ‘small’ users? BIHNET officials could not answer this question. One cannot take for granted the results of existing research in this area, as it can only give us an overview of BiH Internet reality without covering the whole population of Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Who and How Uses the Internet in BiH?

One of the rare researches (if not the only one) [3] into the ‘profile’ of BiH Internet users shows that most of the population in BiH does not even know what the Internet is, what can be done with it or how to use it.

Most Internet users in BiH are young: the average age is 27 years. The women/men ratio is 1:2. The percentage of women using the Internet is between 10 and 30%, rarely over 30% (the average percentage is 14%). Over 56% of users say they pay the bills for the Internet themselves, which is surprising, having in mind the economic situation in BiH.

The Internet has a growth tendency of 100%, but people believe that it will a long time to replace traditional mass media. 56% of BiH users use the Net for library research. Most of the time spent on the Internet is used for:

• browsing - 11 hours

• chat – 4 hours

• e-mail – 4 hours

• newsgroups – 2 hours

We can (more or less) suppose that the Internet is being used 5 to 20 hours a week (Media Online, 2001).


Connection to the Internet in Bosnia and Herzegovina

According to unofficial statistics, there are about 12,000 subscribers and 50,000 users of the Internet in BiH, which is less than 3% of population (of 4,5 million). That means that every 60th or 70th person is a user (i.e. half the number in neighbouring countries, for example in Croatia, where every 30th person is a user).

The biggest provider BiHNET has no more than 15,000 users, while LogoSoft, the biggest provider in Sarajevo, has around 4,500 users (though the numbers vary).

Local providers offer connection to an additional 8,000 users, which add to a total of 23,000 users, i.e. 1.5% of the country’s population.

The first research to determine the exact number of users in BiH will be done in September this year, but according to available data BiH is below the standards of Europe.

There are 27 providers in the country. In addition to the abovementioned BIHNET and LOGOSOFT there are also: SMARTNET (Sarajevo), CITYNET (Sarajevo), UTIC (Sarajevo), URC (Banjaluka), SPICANET (Trebinje), NT-TEL (Pale), MAX.NET.BA (Mostar), GENELEC (Tuzla), etc.

BiH has no search engines in the true sense of the word. There are only portals partially serving this purpose (but they cannot replace search engines since they do not have enough domains). There are, among others, Bosnia ba and Bosnia Online, both offering the same services. They are interesting since:

1. All information regarding BiH is both in Bosnian and English.

2. Their catalogue consists of various topics:

a) They have sites in Bosnian: http://www.info.ba (computer magazine), the address of the private provider LogoSoft, an Internet guide to BiH (http://www.bihlinc.com), useful information on how to do your own internet production (http://www.bihwebmaster.net), Adobe Photoshop in Bosnian, a dictionary in Bosnian (http://www.geocities.com), electronic literature (http://www.bookclub.net), a monthly magazine (http://www.readme.ba) and the bihmail.com e-mail service, free for Bosnian nationals.

b) There are also sites on culture, art, media, science, education, politics, economy, religion, health and entertainment. [4]

Of 204 registered country domains BiH ranks 110th, between Mongolia and the Cook Islands.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has 1084 registered domains ending in ‘.ba’. [5] Besides, many BiH sites use other countries’ domains.

Sites from neighbouring countries are of big importance for BiH users, since the issues they tackle often overlap with BiH interests. The language they use is close enough to understand, so most BiH users take them as ‘their own’. What’s more, neighbouring countries usually offer more adequate Internet services. [6]

We have to mention that in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as in most parts of the world, the favourite search engine is GOOGLE.

The existing situation is expected to change soon, although most of the questions regarding the better use of the Internet remain open. [7]


Regulation and Control of the Internet

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, online communication is set up differently in the Federation of BiH and Republika Srpska. In the FBiH communication is routed through telecommunication centres, while in RS private providers have offered these services from the very beginning. Their field of work does not overlap, so everyone has a relative monopoly. By the end of 2001 there were 19 ISPs in BiH, equally divided in both areas. [8]

ISP licences are issued by the Communications Regulatory Agency (CRA) in BiH. This Agency has been established in March 2001 to regulate telecommunications in BiH. The number of ISPs is expected to decrease as CRA defined new preconditions for the proper functioning of ISP. On the other hand, both users and BiH domains continue to multiply. [9] CRA has three sectors: the IMC sector for radio and television; the Spectrum sector for frequency licences and the Telecommunication sector providing licences for mobile phone companies, landline companies and ISPs.

The policy of the telecommunication sector [10] is oriented toward:

a) rapid, continuous development of the telecommunication sector and information-communication technologies towards complete and competitive telecommunication services;

b) further development of the regulatory framework ensuring competitive communication services;

c) ensuring maximum benefits for the state and its citizens in the operation and privatization of telecommunication facilities, etc.

All Bosnia and Herzegovina citizens merit not only basic phone services but also good Internet services to promote quicker economic development and global integration. Service regulations should be completely liberalized before the opening of the sector to private investments. One of the phases of this deregulation of landline services is the liberalization of non-verbal services (data transfer and the Internet).

Nowadays existing operators have a certain monopoly over data transfer networks, since they have licences for international services. The conditions, quality requirements and price ranges for using the infrastructure are yet to be specified before the process of licensing ISPs starts. CRA gave licences on a non-exclusive base. Licensed ISPs can define their policy toward subscribers, without however restricting access on national, racial, religious, political, and territorial or any other grounds, which might violate constitutional human rights and freedoms.

Licence is paid in accordance with the CRA Regulation on the Amount of Compensation for ISP: a) Compensation for application – KM 500; b) Compensation for licence – KM 4,000 per year. CRA Rule on Rented Lines and CRA Rule on Interconnection apply on rented lines and interconnection. This Rule on Interconnection (adopted on March 11, 2002) defines issues regarding interconnection of public telecommunication networks and providing public telecommunication services by licensed operators and service providers in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

CRA monitors and controls these processes between licensed service providers and licensed operators. This forms the regulatory basis of Internet services in Bosnia and Herzegovina where ISPs must comply with the conditions set by the Regulatory Agency. [11]

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The Media and the Internet in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Mass-Media Online Editions [12]

The Internet as a new medium is open to all forms of symbiosis with the classical media. The best example of this cooperation is the existence of online editions of magazines, daily newspapers, radio and TV stations. However, the disparity between BiH and Western sites is as obvious as the relationship between the quality of web design and the solvency of those who pay for it.

Although no proper research has been done, 1996 data showed that at the time BiH had a great number of online media editions per capita. By 2000, however, BiH was the country with the smallest number of public media domains worldwide (using mainly European and US domains for mass media presentations). On the other hand, those BiH citizens who keep track of the media tend to rely strongly on the Net.

Online editions of newspapers and magazines in BiH are uploaded before their print versions hit kiosks, so Internet users are the first ones to learn the hottest news. Besides, it is a prudent choice. Online editions offer free content, so users only pay for phone bills and Internet fees. They do not have to pay for every newspaper or magazine if they need just a titbit of information from them. The downside to online editions in BiH (as everywhere) is their incompleteness in comparison with print versions.

Almost all magazines and daily newspapers have their websites or at least e-mail addresses where users can post questions, comments, demands, etc.

Not all websites are of the same quality. Financially sound editions can afford good web designers and sufficient web space. The site of the independent magazine Dani, Sarajevo (http://www.bhdani.com) is one of the best in BiH, covering most of the print version. Their archive is also good and easily accessible.

The weekly magazine Slobodna Bosna, Sarajevo (http://www.slobodna-bosna.ba) has a lower quality website, updated long after the print edition. The archive is rather slow and the online/offline ratio is not particularly inviting.

Web enthusiasts would not fail to mention the creative web-design of the weekly magazine Start, Sarajevo (http://www.startbih.info) as well as Nezavisne novine from Banja Luka.

Online editions of broadcasting media do not make financial sense for BiH users. Few people would want to follow radio or TV programs on the Internet at the price of KM 0.6 per hour unless radio or TV signals are unavailable. [13] Regardless of the economic situation, the most visited site in BiH is http://www.rtv.ba.

It is interesting to note that the press agencies in BiH have their (well visited) web sites. [14]

No BiH site is dedicated to regularly updating the information from the country and the world and providing links to all major newspapers and magazines. Such a site could offer visitors access to all information from the region, a ‘mouse-click’ away from the site of their interest. [15]


Online Media

The online media play a vital role against the general media background in BiH.

Radio stations have numerous online editions. These include:

http://www.isv.co.ba – Internet-only, advocating preventive anti-drug action;

http://www.bosnanetradio.com – the first Bosnian Internet Radio;

• Internet Radio BLICNET (http://www.blic.net) – all news provided by the SRNA news agency.

A special place in the world of online media in BiH belongs to MEDIA ONLINE magazine, published by the Media Plan Institute. The magazine discusses media issues in South-East Europe in English, Bosnian and French, in PDF and HTML format. It has many links and a well-organized searchable archive of texts classified by subject and source. Communication with the editors is easy.


PC magazines

PC magazines are becoming a necessary tool for those who want to keep abreast of the newest developments in the world of computers. And indeed, PC magazines are becoming more than the latest trend in the press. They are published monthly and read thoroughly by would-be computer geeks.

The first BiH PC Magazine INFO hit the market in 1999, organized and presented in the manner of the world’s best PC magazines. It costs KM 10 and is issued monthly, but its rich content can cover the needs of its audience. In addition to INFO, foreign PC magazines also have their audience in BiH, especially those from neighbouring countries, mostly Croatian PC magazines like PC chip, VIDI, BUG, PC Play, and Hacker.

Those publications are oriented towards both beginners and IT professionals, offering various tips on novelties in software, hardware or the Internet.

Since information technologies in Bosnia and Herzegovina are rather underdeveloped (the sector seems dedicated to selling hardware and browsing the Internet; ‘made in Bosnia’ software is rare and hailed as a miracle), INFO tries to present domestic multimedia products. One of them is the three-language software (Bosnian-English-German) developed for the needs of the Chamber of Commerce in Sarajevo. This multimedia product covers all economic issues in the Canton of Sarajevo.

Unlike INFO, Croatian magazines PC chip and VIDI have more specialized profiles which make them more attractive for prospective buyers, covering more programming tutorials, Windows tips & tricks, data protection programs, games that do not need 3D cards, web design, etc. These two magazines offer more information for beginners, which might be the reason why they sell so well in BiH. The articles are usually short, comprehensible and well illustrated. [16]

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The Internet and Everyday Life in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Internet and Cultural and Educational Institutions

Bosnia and Herzegovina does not have a search engine covering all BiH sites; popular engines like yahoo and google operate in most major world languages, except, however, in Bosnian. It seems that our language is officially non-existent on the World Wide Web.

Another interesting observation is the lack of any official site of BiH. The best unofficial site is http://www.bosnet.org, containing a decent presentation of BiH culture. The section on BiH history has been under construction for quite some time, while the rest of the information has not been updated since 2000.

Thus unlike most countries, even developing ones, Bosnia and Herzegovina has no Internet venue to present its history, culture and tourism. Such an omission is doubtlessly due to the lack of a common Internet policy. [17]

Problems besieging BiH cultural institutions are reflected online as well. Most cultural institutions do not have a website. Finding one of those who do exist might take a few days since they are not organized together. There are no websites linking to similar BiH pages to create a unified BiH cultural space and offer users an easier access to information. One would think that the website of one Sarajevo theatre should contain links to other theatre sites throughout BiH, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Paradoxically, financially struggling cultural institutions in Sarajevo seem to have better websites than those who can actually afford good web design. [18]

The situation is similar when it comes to the online presentation of library potentials.

Library presentation on the Internet is increasingly common worldwide, allowing users to browse books or download them in PDF format. Unfortunately, the low technical standards of the equipment used in developing countries (BiH making no exception) restrict the appearance of such libraries in BiH. [19]

Our research showed that few libraries are presented on the Internet, and those who are presented are simply not linked. BiH online libraries owe their existence to the enthusiasm and goodwill of their authors rather than to their professional obligations. The online presentation of universities, however, seems to be a professional endeavour. Of the seven universities in BiH only Bihac University does not have an official web site. [20]

Of all BiH cities Sarajevo has the biggest number of cultural institutions presented on the web, while Tuzla and Zenica do not have official cultural institutions on the Internet at all. The graphic design of all sites was quite unimaginative. [21]

On the other hand, city service websites offer one of the most useful applications of the Internet in BiH. The Sarajevo site http://www.grad.sarajevo.ba provides a comprehensive guide to the city. It is a valuable tool for citizens who need day-to-day information about Sarajevo. As the official site of the capital the webpage is well-developed, with numerous links referring users to various aspects of social, economic and educational life in the city such as the history of Sarajevo, health institutions or cultural life, business information or tourist landmarks. The website is updated daily. Key links, such as information for tourists and citizens of Sarajevo, are located near the top of the page. [22]

Another good example is the site of Banja Luka http://www.banjalukaguide.com – readable, well designed and thorough.


Online Shopping

Unlike most of their counterparts around the world, BiH users still consider the Internet to be an elite medium. Yet as their number increases, their profane and everyday needs attract the attention of enterprising companies.

While in the developed world a computer and a credit card can get you whatever books, music, clothes, computer equipment, software or even art pieces you might need, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s restructured and complicated system of payment precludes online shopping for most citizens. The potential buyer can order products online, but he/she still has to go to the post office to pay upon delivery. The ubiquitous application of this principle (as system of electronic payment and credit card payment is not well developed) restricts the range of products to those which can be supplied in this manner. For the same reason, pay-per-content websites have few Bosnian customers.

During the abovementioned research we visited quite a few domestic search pages, yet found no offers for online shopping. There were advertisements, but the opportunity to buy stuff online was not mentioned at all. It was hard to get additional information about the offers, unless it referred to the two commodities dominating the BiH online market – CDs and books.

One of those sites was http://www.cdshop.co.ba from Banja Luka, offering more than 200 DVD movies, 15,000 songs in MP3 format, 300 programs and literature on CD (medical, foreign language literature, encyclopaedias, etc.) All BiH citizens can order these CDs. Those outside Banja Luka pay for post and package as well. Payment is made by postal invoice upon receiving the goods. The potential customer must provide his or her e-mail address, full name, phone number, address, city, city code and list of orders.

E-banking is still inexistent in Bosnia and Herzegovina as there is no legal regulation of electronic business and no mechanism of protecting transactions. As a result there are no conditions for online shopping. The only way to buy something is to find it on the Internet, check the price and, if tempted, go to the post office, pay for the product and wait for the mailman to bring it to your door!


BiH Politics between ‘Tradition’ and the Internet


Most political parties around the world put a special effort into creating the best possible websites: it is hard to win the minds of the electorate while ignoring the biggest market of information.

While many national parties, organizations and individuals, politicians and other public persons use Internet sites as an obligatory supplement to their promotional campaign and public relations, Bosnia and Herzegovina still hovers between ‘tradition’ and the Internet.

Presumably on the road to European integration, BiH should regard the connection between politics and the Internet as a very logical part of its development. Yet even the most persistent users will be unable to find the websites of all political parties; even some of the major ones seem to have overlooked this medium. Are Bosnian politicians still unaware of the benefits of the global network or shall we blame the omission on their environment? In any case, the situation is still very bad. A few feeble attempts at looking familiar with worldwide trends will just not do.

After a long and exhausting search on the Internet we managed to find only 3-4 official sites of BiH political parties. They were as a rule outdated, unimaginative and poorly designed. It wasn’t hard to conclude that this aspect of PR was seriously overlooked.

While search engines helped us find information on political events in Bosnia and Herzegovina, most of the political parties used their websites to reply to newspaper articles or blow their own trumpet. The site of SDA (The Party of Democratic Action) (http://www.sda.ba) is still under construction, but the available content is totally unsatisfactory for anyone. A leading political force, the Social-Democrat Party (http://www.sdp.ba), does not even have an official website. One can only find the sites of their local boards, for example the one in Bihac. The Liberal Party is presented online (http://www.lds.ba), as are some other small parties. But this is it.

Political parties in BiH will have to work hard to catch up with European and worldwide standards in this area. In a situation where media space is still clearly divided, the Internet offers the easiest and most efficient form of reintegration and unification. Political parties must stop viewing the Web as a threat to their power and deny citizens the right to information. As more and more Bosnian voters become Internet users, political processes will start changing and in the near future the Net will become a vital factor in BiH politics.

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The Role of the Internet in the Formation of the Public Sphere in BiH

The everyday experience of using the Internet in Bosnia and Herzegovina demonstrates the concrete role of the Web (in interaction with the classical mass media) in modelling public opinion in BiH.

Of course, it is still dubitable how much this public opinion can contribute to the democratization of society. There are fears that the character and the sheer quantity of information on the Internet can actually reduce our ability to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant and make us is absolutely atypical. Our main intention was to determine whether the Internet influenced the formation of a special kind of public consciousness in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as it did elsewhere, and what were the main differences between virtual public here and worldwide.

Having in mind that the public in BiH has only just begun to form (as a latent public), we can assume that its exponents will continue to use traditional media in addition to the new ones, especially the Internet with its discussion forums partially related to official channels of communication and even less official forms of primary and secondary social groups.

The Internet will probably play an ever greater role in the formation of the public in Bosnia and Herzegovina as the number of BiH Internet users continues to grow.

The genesis of this new form of the public (the Internet public) is most visible in discussion forums where a ‘critical mass’ of people discuss important issues, many of them quite ardently. This group of permanent and active participants often sets the theme in discussion forums. Perhaps we could regard those people as the leaders of the new (Internet) public in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The importance of forums in establishing public attitudes lies in the transition from a passive to an active stance, transforming users into active participants in their social environment.

Our research showed that Internet users in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially those participating of discussion forums, are often concerned about the issues tackled by journalists in the print media.

Since traditional forms of public in Bosnia and Herzegovina are developing simultaneously with the formation of the new (Internet) public, we have to ask ourselves which one will dominate (and influence) the other. Having in mind the dynamic development of new (Internet) public, we can assume that this new form will have a bigger influence on the development of traditional forms of public opinion in Bosnia and Herzegovina than vice versa. In this completely illogical process, which is only possible in the peculiar case of BiH, one can see the Internet atypically reversing the normal chronological order and influencing other forms of shaping the public which were supposed to precede it.

If existing social and economic conditions at this moment are a limiting factor for the growth of ‘traditional’ communication in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the development of new technologies can be the way ahead.

The research on Internet users in BiH confirms this hypothesis. Analysing the content of numerous articles in daily newspapers and related postings in discussion forums helped us distil the very process of forming public opinion since the initial informative function of traditional and new media leads to public discussion and creates attitudes which come together to shape what we call public opinion. [23]

We wanted to pinpoint the special conditions of interactive communication within the forums and to compare them with those in traditional mass media; to see to what extent the participants in those forums represented or shaped public opinion and to check if traditional communication, mass media and public theories are still valid on the Internet with its double information flow and the emerging leaders of public opinion.

Our analysis showed that the Internet does play a certain role in shaping the public in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but its effect is basically latent. The Internet society is mostly passive and cannot be called a public in the true sense of the word. Yet in some borderline situations posing a threat to the interests or value systems of the community this latent public wakes up and reacts. In some individual cases the Internet was able to shake popular opinion into active forms of expression.

The analysis of the forums showed that Internet communication in Bosnia and Herzegovina can draw public attention to many problems, stir up active discussions, open forgotten and often forbidden topics.

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Conclusion

Any ‘close study’ of Internet opportunities in Bosnia and Herzegovina must answer the basic questions related to the essence and experience of this form of communication (how does the new technology transform information; what are the characteristic features of its content and presentation; to what extent the Internet is a tool of mediation or real interaction, etc.).

The analysis of the new media public and its environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina can shed some light on the possible formation of a new (Internet) public in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Unlike traditional media, the Internet offers a lot of uncensored information, blurring the differences between communicators and recipients. Communication is predominantly interactive, allowing the participants to switch roles. This fosters new forms of public consciousness, which does not yet affect the offline world, but is still radically different in its establishment, structure and the inherent possibility of active reaction.

Providing new content, new forms of expression (web, mailing list, usenet, IRC, forums, chat) and the possibility of continuously changing information, the Internet creates conditions for the formation of a specific public in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Internet is a genuinely new phenomenon, unlike all traditional media, including liberal/democratic forms of communication. Drawing on our research into the uses of the Internet in everyday and political life in BiH, we can see that this sector is growing rapidly and Bosnia and Herzegovina is on its way to catching up with the rest of the online world.

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This article is part of:
Spassov, O. and Todorov H. (eds.) (2002), New Media in Southeast Europe. SOEMC, European University "Viadrina" (Frankfurt - Oder) and Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski"
 

Copyright © 2002 Südosteuropäisches Medienzentrum