Posts Tagged ‘society’

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.

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Today we are in the middle a digital revolution, a technological shift which threatens the survival of many industries. In my latest post I have been discussing the possibilities to how industries can join the new online market and how they might adapt to a technological age. As of today many industries, especially the media industries seem to refuse to let go of their old business models. Personally I find myself thinking a bit like a technological determinist, we have to accept cultural and social changes which comes with new technologies, it makes no sense to resist. We have always invented new things that have changed our way of behavior and communication, very often to the better, so why not this time?

Power and control; probably the key words to why this revolution is met with so much resistance. Politics and news have walked hand-in-hand for a very long time, and both politicians and media owners have become very powerful through such cooperation. The Internet builds a foundation for a true democratic society, good for the consumer, but bad for authorities.

But let us look at the possibilities. I am not going to focus on the possibilities to maintain control, but the possibility to maintain business and revenue. The problem with industrial media is that it has always been centralized. The collection, production and distribution of news were built on a one-to-many model which gave these industries advantages through gatekeeping. They were able to filter and decide what was the news of the day, they had the power to judge what was important and what we were supposed to think. This screams propaganda, doesn’t it?

Today we are citizen journalists. We also decide what is the news of the day, judge what is important and influence what people should think. The Internet decentralized the news-market; it took the control out of the authorities’ hands. For democracy, this is a victory, but I still think that we need these media industries. We need them for quality control and distribution.

Many people can write a very convincing and important blog about a certain issue, but most people do not have the resources to check the accuracy of this information, I am sure many citizen journalists do, but to be honest, most of us do not. Most of us write and publish, without having researched the facts and background of the content.

With platforms like Twitter information can be aggregated into topics. When I post this blog to Twitter, no one will probably notice it, but if I use the hashtag #gatewatchers, it is a very different matter; my blog will end up in a very interesting search, which suddenly enhances the value of my blog-post.

What media-industries could do is to change their way of finding information. Instead of being told by editors: “Today we should be focusing on the U.S election”, journalists could use these aggregation-platforms to search for interesting and important news. Not only will we be a part of what the news is, but originally the news would be written by citizen journalists and the content would be made out of our opinions, not the editors. The role of the media industries would be quality control, to improve an already good piece of journalism as well as to distribute it to make sure it gets attention from the right people.

At least I would find the news much more trustworthy in the way that I know it is not just a piece of propaganda, it is something someone out there really cares about. In this way, I can see a very much improved public sphere.

I love media convergence! Suddenly we all became these nerdy civil journalists that were able to speak our minds to the world. To me this ongoing dynamic is great and I get to exploit it in many cool ways. I now have a smart-phone which allows me, not only to make phone calls, but to check my g+ account, send a tweet, capture a photo instead of a mental picture and even film it if I need to! Obviously that is just a few examples of what I can do, my point is that convergence has made my cell-phone become this multimedia platform compared to what it used to be 10 years ago.

I cannot remember the exact model of my first cell-phone. It was year -98 or -99 and the phone was very yellow, very heavy and very cool. With it, I was able to text and talk basically 🙂

With today’s cool new technologies, and of course with the Internet onboard, we become “prosumers” (Mitew 2012) instead of consumers, meaning that we are able to produce new content or modify already produced content: Rip, mix & burn (I did not say we were allowed). This used to be a privilege for only the wealthy industries given that the production used to be very expensive, that was also the time when I used to pay a heavy price to watch a good movie at the cinema. But the Internet changed this. It is now free for a person like me to produce content online as well as publishing it, this obviously also makes me able to watch content for free online – great huh? Not so great for the big conglomerates though. Scarcity is money for the industries. Ownership and control of content is the key in their business-model, so the concept of media convergence is not speaking to them as it does to me.

We should not underestimate these big industries. As the world become more convergent they see the need to protect their content through patenting and stricter copyright laws, and we are definitely witnessing this today; license agreements (EULA), patent-wars and user content being removed from the web due to copyright infringements.

Convergence is also challenging to old business models. Take the good old bookstore! Although we see a survivor here and there from time to time, this business is basically dead, replaced by Amazon’s kindle and online book outlets. The same happened to photo-shops which also moved online. The list of obsolete business models is only getting longer. That fact that I find media convergence to be great is a statement made by looking from my own perspective. Many people lose their jobs due to this dynamic, it is hard to adapt and modify a whole society into a technological era, but it is happening, and personally I think it is for the better. Our options are increasing, our knowledge is shared and to be honest, having things online just makes things easier and more convenient.

Reference:

Mitew, T 2012, Transglobal entertainment and media convergence, lecture, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 27 August.

Our society have always been controlled by authorities, there has always been someone in charge making sure we stand by the rules provided. These rules or this sort of society are being challenged today. When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 into space, the Americans panicked. The Soviets put the U.S. territory at their mercy by demonstrating that they were now able to bomb the Americans’ communication centre. Communications at that time were centralized, controlled via huge computers, distributed by IBM. In an effort to regain control, ARPAnet was invented by Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, and little did they know, I think, that this was to become an ideological shift. Suddenly communication was decentralized and control was given to every end user of this product. A society of control took on distributed control (Mitew 2012).

What I find interesting is that every time our society changes political implications follows. Recently I discovered that even the digital revolution came with a sense of rebellion; “cyberpunk”. I say a “sense of” because it is not really a fight against this new shift, but more fictional stories about the future and the technological evolution. What relates it to the word “punk”, or what reveals the rebellion part of these stories is that the governments are often the bad guys, portrayed as weak and vulnerable.

Virtual reality, separation of mind from body and artificial intelligence (Mitew 2012) are examples of themes in cyberpunk. Personally I have not yet read a cyberpunk book, but I have been recommended that “Neuromancer” by William Gibson is an interesting one. I figure that next time I need a break from criminal literature; I might give cyberpunk a try!

Reference:

Mitew, T 2012, The Network Society, Narratives of global communication, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 6 August.

18th century; interdependency, change and time-boundness

A young girl is sick and a doctor is needed. A familymember rides his horse into town to alert the doctor. It is normal to provide home-visits so the doctor grabs his bag and rides back to the patient’s home. The doctors’ education is limited and his knowledge of the little girls’ problem is vague.

He sends a friend to the next city with a message asking for advice about the little girls decease, but by the time his friend returns, the little girl is already dead.

The message which was brought back to the doctor was new and very relevant information to him. He had never heard of bacteria before, neither did he know the sicknesses which could come from it. This little piece of information changed very much of his earlier knowledge of medicine, and helped him advance in his carrier. For this, the community was grateful.

2012; interdependency, change, time-boundness and differentiation

A boy is rushed into hospital after collapsing at school. The doctor is well educated and specialized in heart-failure which the boy is immediately diagnosed with. While operating, the doctor discovers another complication which he has only seen a few times before. To be sure, he immediately consults with his colleague in a different hospital. Thanks to the short video-conference the doctor succeeds in saving the little boy’s life.

The connectedness today made it easier for the doctor to discuss and exchange information needed to help the boy. Information is dynamic and changes continuously. Only because of, in this case hospital-network, the information was effectively shared. With our technology today it is expected of a business to be up to date and to act effectively. Wrongdoings due to lack of information and communication will result in a judgmental community and often a fatal result for the organization.

Time in the 18th century and time today are two very different things. After the appearance of the Internet, time has gotten a new meaning and people in general have become more impatient. We are expected to interact in “real-time”. It depends what work you do, but in the case of our 2012-doctor it was important that he got his piece of information rapidly. If the young boy died because of slow communication between the two doctors, the doctor and the hospital would be roughly criticized.

Many good things come from the Internet and our networks today, but the competition is hard. The business position of the doctor from the 18th century was not in danger despite the loss of the girl, because there was no competition in his town. Today businesses need to come up with new innovations constantly, if not someone else will outsource them. It is essential to be different, to be the odd one out, only then will you be noticed globally.

We are surrounded by news 24 hours a day and it is impossible to pay attention to all of it. Most of us skim through the highlights and are informed of what goes on in the world, but seldom do we pay enough attention to each story to discover what happens to it in the media. I have, for the last three months, paid very much attention to the KONY2012 issue and how it has been presented in the media. Not only did I follow the issue but I reflected upon concepts related to the media; like manipulation, the public sphere and semiotics. This post is about what I discovered in relation to that.

The media is important to us, it is our public sphere, and it is where we share, receive and discuss information about the world and what concerns us. Unfortunately the media fails in many ways as a public sphere as information gets distorted in a swirl of bias, lies, facts and opinions. There are so many news broadcasters in the world today and they all filter the news to suit a specific audience. By tailoring the news according to their local audiences’ interests, many different views of one case are told to different people.

In the KONY2012 debate this was very clear. The western audiences have a certain interest in economy and power and so the western media reported on money, facts and the intentions of The Invisible Children. On the other hand, media broadcasters with a different target market, like Al Jazeera who wants to be “a voice of the voiceless”, talked about the Ugandan people, justice, empathy and real experiences. It took over a week before these important views were presented to us. My blogpost “Filtered News” goes more in depth on this.

Of course, social media is now also a big part of our public sphere, and here we have an opportunity for a more democratic sphere, but we also face the problem of a greater digital divide.

In addition to this, manipulation is a keyword within mainstream media. The Invisible Children, either if you think it was exploitive or genius, knew who they were targeting and that is why their video was so successful. Given that they planned to release the video online they knew their biggest audience would be teenagers, and this is why they made a video and not a streamed lecture. Other noticeable tactics were the simplifying of a complex issue, starring of young people and children as key-figures. Playing on emotions and empathy was a clear strategy of The Invisible Children.

While I am on the topic of manipulation I want to bring up George Gerbner and his cultivation theory. He argued that the media, in the long-term, lead people to believe the social reality portrayed by the media, also called “the mean world syndrome”. When Jason Russell had his public breakdown, mainstream media decorated their headlines with words like “public masturbation”, “running naked in streets” and “car wrecking” leading everyone to adopt this point of view, hashtages like #BONY2012 was all over Twitter short after. It goes to show how much influence the media can have on us.

Probably the most interesting part of the KONY issue for me was the relevance it had to semiotics. This is a complex concept, but basically it is about the reading of images and how we interpret them differently due to ideologies and experiences of the world. In KONY2012 there was an American organization which told the story of a long and complex issue in Africa to the whole world by the use of videos, pictures and text. Depending on where in the world we are from, we carry different histories and different experiences and therefore we view the world in different ways, our understanding of one story will be very diverse from others. While I saw The Invisible Children as a caring and thoughtful group who wanted to help, the Ugandan people reacted with disgust and felt the Americans were victimizing their race.

When we are dealing with global issues we should take notice of where other people come from and their history to gain a better understanding of their opinions. I think we often take for granted that everyone else should “see what we see”, we very often miss to see the reasons for other peoples actions because of this attitude.

Also other topics like moral panic and causes and effects are helpful when analysing new headlines. Our public sphere has become a complex space of ideas and information, and we must become active listeners to get the information right. News-reading changes with these concepts in mind, and can help us think before we act.