Posts Tagged ‘Government power’

“Globalization is the process of interaction and integration among the people, companies and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology” (Globalization 101, 2014).

Globalization is all of that, and such a definition makes it sound very good but many would argue that there are downsides to globalization too.  Is this process an ongoing blending of cultures (hybridization) or is it advocating ‘sameness’ (homogenization)? Is every person, company and government included in this process; given its share of the deal, or are we witnessing modern-day imperialism?

Katrin Voltmer argues in ‘Comparing media systems in new democracies: East meets South meets West‘ that because different parts/nations of the world come from different cultures and different types of long lasting governing methods their transition into democracy and their handling of democratization is a product of their past experiences. She divides them into three different backgrounds; transition from communist oligarchy in Eastern Europe, military dictatorship in Latin-America and one-party dictatorships in East-Asia and Africa (she clearly separates these two) and explains how these previous cultural and power-asserting histories shape their take on democracy today.

This reading made me think how much people (like me) from liberal democracies expect the rest of the world to understand and govern democracy (or their countries) the same way as we do. When we speak of Asian countries we rarely show knowledge of their values that root in Confucian tradition and emphasizes social harmony, deference to authorities and discipline; we simply expect them to just ‘be like us’. And we seem to think that privatization leads to liberalization, but never do we stop to think that ownership can lead to monopoly, like in many Latin American countries where the media organizations have been dominated by wealthy politicians. This creates a class differentiation in these countries and leaves globalization just for the ‘elite’ and the ones that can afford to participate. Not to mention how we speak of a ‘global village’. We say that everyone is connected even though we know that there is a shortage of resources in many areas of e.g. Africa. I was actually just informed that in Burma only one if 5000 people has internet access, and that it means 15 years in jail to own a modem without permission (Khorana, 2014).

Such examples, I think, demonstrates how we think of globalization as well. It is thought of as a product of ‘the west’. We love for our culture to spread around the world, but are slightly reluctant to welcome another culture over our own borders. Homogenization might therefore be a threatening part of the process of globalization.

References:

Khorana, S 2014, ‘Globalisation and the Media’, Lecture, BCM310, University of Wollongong, 12th May

2014, What is globalization/Globalization 101, The State University of New York – The Levin Institute, viewed 13 May 2014, http://www.globalization101.org/what-is-globalization/

 

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The Arab Spring was revolutionary in one way or another. The question being debated is; what role did social media play in the revolution? Social media is relatively new to us, and therefore I think that none of us are educated or experienced enough to know what it will come to mean to us yet. We have no history or similar technology to compare it with, and so we are not in the position to give any scientific or academic views on the matter. We are “guinea-pigs”, creating history and experience for the next generation’s academics.

When looking at it from this perspective, social media’s role in the Arab Spring becomes impossible to define just yet. It feels like jumping to conclusions without having the evidence. It becomes a discussion between cyber-utopians and those critical to the power of the Internet.

The Internet has come to be our new public sphere. It is a space in which everyone is welcome to participate, and so it may facilitate a perfect place for political debate. During the Arab Spring I believe that social media became a major hub for exactly that. People who had been suppressed for a long time finally found a way to communicate with each other as well as across borders. There is no doubt that social media made is possible for peripheries to make a central (Mitew 2012).

I think we need to ask another question; what would have happened if social media networks did not exist? Would we then have witnessed the Arab Spring? I think that if the Tunisians were not able to share videos, tweets, pictures and blogs in real time, it would not have spread to Egypt, Algeria and other North African countries in the same way, at least not in the same pace. The communication between and within the different countries became a trigger for the different protests. The anger and desperation have been present for a long time, but I think communication through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube sparked cooperation, comfort, support and information. Social media networks presented to them a new possibility and potential to be heard.

So I believe that social media played a big part in the Arab Spring. Why else would the Egyptian government censor the Internet? Individuals like Wael Ghonim and Asmaa Mahfouz exploited the potential of social media at its best. Using it as a tool for information sharing they managed to create awareness of the situation worldwide.

The Internet is indeed a political space, but we have still much to learn about its potential. The Arab Spring leaves us one experience richer for further knowledge.

 

Reference:

Mitew, T 2012, #mena #arabspring, the social network revolutions, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 8 October.

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“The Arab Revolution / الثورة العربية” is a group established on the website Flickr and is one amongst many different groups. The Arab Spring started in 2010-2011 and became a revolutionary time of protests and demonstrations in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Yemen and more. Although the Arab Spring in itself is an interesting issue, something else rose under this revolution which will have my attention today; Social Media and citizen Journalism.

It is not many years ago since news was received in a “one-way-manner” from mainstream media, to us. At that time we were consumers. Passive consumers relying on the information given to us. The problem with this sort of information is that is has gatekeepers. Publishers, mainstream media and Governments censor the information they provide so that it “fit” in their way of portraying the world.

Social media and citizen journalism has been around for quite a while, but under the Arab Spring it showed the world what kind of power it has. Citizens of the Arab world took use of social media to share their meanings and stories regarding the revolution. They arranged meetings by communicating time and places via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. They told their stories by blogging and gave the world an honest and brutal view over what they were up against. In response to this the Egyptian government actually shut down the internet to put a stop to it, but was met with even more resistance when Google and Twitter arranged for a service enabling Egyptians to tweet via their phones. One by one we have seen the regimes fall apart, defeated by their citizens.

What does this tell us? Information is no longer given to us, but it is a shared dialog between everyone who wants to participate. We are no longer consumers but prosumers (Mitew 2012). The Internet has given us free access to an immediate flow of information and there are no filters or gatekeepers to “frame” the stories. I am thinking that if mainstream media is on its way out and the Governments no longer can rely on controlling the media, maybe democracy finally will be 100%. It sounds good, but is it all just positive? The credibility of the stories can be doubtful and it is hard to know if the stories can be trusted or not.

I find it hard to see the best solution. I think it is a relief that we have found a way to challenge our gatekeepers, but I am not convinced we can “be our own bosses”. We need to find a way where we all can participate and have a say, a way where we (the prosumers), the industries and the Governments all have power to influence.

References:

Mitew, T 2012, User empowerment, access and participation, lecture, BCM112, Convergent Media Practices, University of Wollongong, delivered 26 March.