Posts Tagged ‘public sphere’

Someone once made me aware that Bosnian refugees that came to Australia (1992-1995) were received with open arms and true compassion. This is not the case for refugees coming today from e.g. Afghanistan, Burma, Iraq or Bhutan and I cannot help but speculate in the reason for this. The only thought I can come up with is “cultural differences”, or even better “expected cultural differences”. I am not going to elaborate on that, but perhaps there are some countries that appears more similar to us than others and that we find it less threatening to invite them to our own countries. I write “expected cultural differences” because most of the time refugees come from countries far away and we do not know much about them. The little we know often stem from the media and therefore it can be said that we are dependent on the media for information about refugees.

ABC’s “Media Watch” revealed in an episode how Seven’s “Today Tonight” depicted a very uninformative, untrue, wrong and deceitful portrayal of refugees in Australia. Although everyone is not watching Today Tonight it shows that mainstream media has the power to influence our perception of refugees with lies, and this strengthens the argument that we need a more diasporic media. Alongside the mainstream media there need to be a more ‘sustainable media capital that allows for the possibility for self-representation’ (Salazar 2012).

Diasporic media can help ‘socialize migrant communities into their new environments’ and teach the host country about their cultures, background and stories in a less intimidating way (Khorana 2014) – and without the lies. It gives immigrants and refugees a chance to create their own self-image and to represent their identities without signs and codes imposed by others (Rodrigues 2001 in Salazar 2012).

Reference:

Khorana, S 2014, ‘Diasporic Media’, Lecture, BCM310, University of Wollongong, 19 May.

Rodrigues, C 2001 ‘Fissures in the Mediascape: An International Study of Citizens’ in Salazar, JF 2012, ‘Digital stories and emerging citizens’ media practices by migrant youth in Western Sydney’, Journal of Community, Citizen’s & Third Sector Media & Communication, no. 7, pp.65-84, http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/ehost/detail?sid=29db6760-d6fc-4a72-9d83-4476b8796ecb%40sessionmgr114&vid=1&hid=113&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=ufh&AN=79551905

Salazar, J.F 2012, ‘Digital stories and emerging citizens’ media practices by migrant youth in Western Sydney’, Journal of Community, Citizen’s & Third Sector Media & Communication, no. 7, pp.65-84, http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/ehost/detail?sid=29db6760-d6fc-4a72-9d83-4476b8796ecb%40sessionmgr114&vid=1&hid=113&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=ufh&AN=79551905

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Stereotyping has existed for a long time, and a lot of the generalizing that occurs today has its origin in historical events like wars or colonialism. Such events often spark insulting and trivializing images of the other and a use of propaganda which promote feelings of hate (Khorana, 2014), and these images, or stereotypes are very hard to get rid of. In old Western movies it was the Mexicans and/or the Native Americans that were depicted as villains and savages and in modern Hollywood we are introduced to Arab and Muslim terrorists (Khorana, 2014). As the media contributes to these stereotypes they communicate a negative and false representation of other cultures.

Interestingly though, after the war on terror, propaganda has become less effective and the acts of warfare has become more transparent in the media and therefore it has become increasingly important to communicate ‘positive’ representations of our enemies so that we appear as ‘good-doers’ in the midst of our wars (Alsultany, 2013).

Evelyn Alsultany (2013) therefore talks about a new type of race representation in the US after 9/11 which blends negative and positive traits of an ethnic group; she calls it “simplified complex representations“. It challenges traditional stereotypes but also justifies discrimination by contributing to a multicultural ‘illusion’. For example; TV-shows and films have incorporated patriotic Arab or Muslim Americans into their plots who assist the Government in fighting terrorism to counteract stereotyping, in TV-dramas they are often victimized to create empathy, sometimes we are led to believe that they are the leading terrorists but later it is revealed that it was someone else (‘flipping the enemy’), and in news media we are often first given a disclaimer (“these are not Islamic practices”) before we are told about the brutality of Islam.

Alsultany (2013) argues that such representation “do the ideological work of justifying discriminatory policies” because simultaneously as the Arab or Muslim American is e.g. victimized, the storyline often also express that it is unavoidable due to the national security crisis, and in the news media diversity and complexity is loosely mentioned but the majority of evidence supports the negative outlooks of the ethnic group.

References:

Khorana, S 2014, ‘Race and Representation’, lecture, , BCM310, University of Wollongong, 05 May.

Alsultany, E 2013, ‘Arabs and Muslims in the Media after 9/11: Representational Strategies for a “Postrace” Era’, Project Muse, vol. 65, no. 1

The public sphere used to be defined as a place (often a coffee-shop) for men to sit down and rationally discuss the daily issues of concern; a place where each man would be heard and taken into account. This is a picture of democracy as it once was. But as time has passed our view of the world and our interpretation of what is common sense has changed too. Back then, men where the only thinkable characters to participate in politics, a woman with an opinion were considered ‘unladylike’ and unheard-off.

Today we find ourselves in an era where politics is everywhere and everyone is politics. We have passed the days when men where the only participants and we are now about to pass the days when the traditional press are the only ones with a legitimate right to voice and decide ‘what was the news today’. Propaganda (politicians) and selective news (traditional journalists) are being accompanied with an abundance of information coming from many different public spheres and it changes the ecosystem of the media. The 4th estate is not our one public sphere. There is a public sphere in reality shows, the school-yard, in the hospital’s waiting-room, online and everywhere our day-to-day concerns take place. These concerns are the politics of the public.

While journalists report their views of events, popular culture and now also the public produce content based on their interpretation of these events, and as Berkowitz says, all these ‘opinion’ mix and together they influence the audiences mind and play a role in shaping how the world works (2009).

Many would suggest that this enhances democracy as the public’s opinion becomes more evident, but when public opinion is infused by both traditional journalism and popular culture, we struggle to separate them. Teneboim-Weinblatt (2009) says that the countless different media-texts that we are exposed to are being utilized in various ways to “construct political meaning and identities” and this builds a new challenge in our media-ecosystem.

References:

Berkowitz, D 2009, ‘Journalism in the broader mediascape’, Journalism, vol. 10, no. 290, pp.290-292.

Teneboim-Weinblatt, K 2009, ‘”Where Is Jack Bauer When You Need Him?” The Uses of Television Drama in Mediated Political Discourse’, Political Communication, vol. 26, no. 4, pp.367-387.

The ongoing battle between Google and Apple is more important to us than I think most of us realize. “Apple is suing Samsung for copyright infringement”; so what? Is it really our problem? I think that if we gave it some thought, we would see that this battle is not just about copyrights and market-share, this is a fight that will determine the future of the mobile-web.

The very architecture of the Internet enables a free flow of information without any central hub, every node is equal, and no one is there to decide what we can and cannot do. It is decentralized, and very democratic in its philosophy. With this in mind, I want to go back to Apple and Android (Google) and look at their different ideologies.

The beautiful design of the IPhone, as well as it being very easy to manage has made it a worldwide sensation. Having an IPhone has almost become some sort of trend; a fashion that everyone has become very fond of. One of the many arguments that are used to complement the IPhone is exactly that of it being easy to handle, but this pleasure comes with a price: Centralized computing. Unlike Androids, Apple let’s no one explore and play with their hardware or software, the applications on an IPhone has been approved by Apple, some call this a “walled garden”, others call it a sterile disney-fied walled garden surrounded by sharp-toothed lawyers.

Apples’ vision is to be able to control the user, the content, and the platform being used. Although the company offers to the public a brilliant piece of technology, this product grants the Apple company extreme powers. I think the ideology of Apple is one incongruent with the Internet. Instead of being decentralized it is centralized, instead of allowing, it denies, and instead of keeping every node equal, it constructs a hierarchy.

I am personally very happy with my Android, but sometimes I find that things do not work on my phone because it has only been adapted to the IPhone or the IPad. To me, this is a sign of one company’s control and powerful deals made with other companies sharing its’ ideology. I also find Apple’s patent-raid to be a terrifying example of how one company can kill innovation by limiting creativity.

Google’s Android may invite a few viruses from time to time, and in some cases people find it harder to manage, but I value their philosophy enough to learn. Android vision is participation, collective intelligence, and distributed control to all users. As an open source technology it can be liberally extended to incorporate new cutting edge technologies as they emerge. [It will] evolve as the developer community works together to build innovative mobile applications. The way I see it, Android is maintaining the very architecture of the Internet, encouraging creativity and innovation.

So the future of the mobile-web is important to us. We all enjoy the Internet, we all react when we hear of bills like SOPA, PIPA or CISPA which threatens our online freedom, so maybe we should start reacting a little stronger towards Apple and their IPhones as well.

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.

In a true democratic society the public should be able to make correct and informed decisions about what their views of the world are. To make these informed decisions the public is dependent on a true and transparent public sphere where ideas and information can be discussed and debated, and for a long time this has been the role of the mass media. The Internet which has grown to be an alternative public sphere, proves to be even more transparent and has in many occasions put the “4th estate” in a bad light; it has come to our knowledge that many of these news organizations have strong ties to Governmental members and are for that reason being edited to suit their needs and wants. One example is embedded journalists during warfare, which are only exposed to the “good” side of the army, and only given stories that justifies their reason for invading a country such as e.g. Iraq. Another example is news organizations like “Fox News” which suffers from gatekeeping through its’ biased owner Rupert Murdoch.

So who reveales these truths? What makes the Internet more transparent? One obvious reason is that every one of us (which are able to connect to it) can participate and share, but an even more significant part has come to be websites such as WikiLeaks. The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, is a man with many titles; editor, activist, publisher and journalist, but he is also a hacker-activist, which evokes questions of ethics. Assange has, one can say, specialized in revealing Governmental and military top secret information to the public which have in many cases weakened the ground on which authorities walk on. One of the releases he is most known for is the “collateral murder” video which depicts U.S soldiers killing a number of people, including two journalists and two children.

Hackers have different missions and the activity can be used with both good and bad intentions, but no matter the reason it is still an illegal activity. But when hacking comes to show us that we are victims of propaganda and being manufactured to give our consent to warfare, it is hard to say that it is wrong. This is why I find Assange’s motives especially hard to judge. How can we make our informed decisions when we are clearly being kept in the dark?

So in a way I lean towards supporting Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, but when that is said, other questions come lurking; is one man in the position to judge what we should and should not know?  WikiLeaks has also come to publish documents which potentially can threaten the lives of individuals or even put the national security as risk, so clearly some information is kept from us for security reasons. Who is Assange to decide whether or not this should be published? In a way that is our exchange deal with our Governments; we trust them with a good portion secrecy in exchange for a promise that they will protect us and our nations.

Should hacktivism be an approved form of political protest? This is a question that I came across this week and I am going to leave it here for you to reflect on. This reading also provides a thorough analysis of WikiLeaks and the controversy around Julian Assange if you are looking for more information.