Blog Essay Class 7

This week was primarily about the impact of the internet on journalism and media; more specifically, whether the Internet and social media have changed advocacy and/or propaganda efforts.

In comparing today’s media filters to those proposed by Chomsky and Herman, Rampton notes that today media ownership is much different.  Instead of media being controlled by a handful of companies, essentially anyone is able to start a blog or website, as the entry price is quite low.  However, Gladwell notes in his widely read report Small Change, that while it may be easier for people to express themselves, it is actually harder for that expression to have any impact.  This makes sense as with more sources, the audience is more dispersed.   However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that no one can have an impact.  In his note to Gladwell, Cheyfitz writes that “a change in who can publish to the world is a big change in the political landscape — a challenge to the existing order.” We aren’t just hearing or reading what the five Media Giants want us to.  Today we have access to information from a variety of sources – several of which may not be as heavily filtered.

A few other differences in the media include the filters of Flak and Advertising.  In the past flak (negative responses to media) were a deterrent to media output.  However, as Rampton writes, today, it is often a way to draw in viewers and can lead to an increase in popularity.  Additionally, while advertising has always been a bit of a nuisance, the increased use on blogs and internet sites has led some major sites such as Wikipedia to go without advertising revenue.

I think internet has certainly changed our social interactions, even on a societal level.  I was largely unfamiliar with the role media had in President Obama’s election, prior to reading Castells’ account (in Media and Society, 2010).  Castells noted seven factors, including viral video campaigns and partnering with the co-founder of Facebook, which were distinctly a different approach to garnering votes.  Thinking back, I do recall numerous Facebook advertisements.  He had a specific target audience and he adjusted his strategies in order to get the information to them.

Rampton writes that information in US media distorts reality.  I found this particularly true in his description of the reporting that occurred regarding the Iraq War.  Not only did the media not actively provide information, but they also actively ignored third party accounts, such as that of the research done by Johns Hopkins.  While a few weeks ago we discussed how reality TV can distort our perceptions about how Americans act (wild and crazy is how it’s often portrayed), this is a much more important and serious example of how the media can influence how we think and see the world.

The final thing I’d like to touch on is the use of social media for activism.  There was a bit of back and forth within the readings this week about whether social media increases our ability to advocate a cause.  As Gladwell wrote, “liking” a Facebook page about Darfur is nowhere equivalent to the sit-ins that occurred in the 1960s.  In today’s society we are comfortable with just being informed about a situation – no real action is necessary.  In Shirky’s response to Gladwell, he noted the use of social media tools (texting, email, photo sharing, social networking, etc.) does not have a single outcome.  Both positive and negative outcomes are possible, and likely.  Interestingly, there was recently an iMarch on immigration.  Regarding the non-exclusivity of the march, one of the organizers commented “It’s 2013 and the way we communicate is broader and different than it was a generation ago, and we want to be able to maximize all the ways we can to push Congress.”  In conjunction with using the hashtag iMarch, this was the largest political thunderclap yet, reaching over 45 million users.  This is a prime example of how social media can be used in politics.  As is noted within the article as well as some of the readings, this is new territory, and it will be interesting to see what impact it can truly have.

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3 thoughts on “Blog Essay Class 7

  1. Thanks for the link to iMarch. What I think will always be the difference between an online and offline protest, though, is the inconvenience factor.

    The difference between leaving your job to go march or protest for a cause you believe in somthing has a more powerful effect than tweeting or posting in between phone calls while on the job as none of your coworkers realize you’re doing it.

    And there is a huge difference between the actual act of bundling up on a cold winter’s day and physically marching alongside of others chanting your concerns and beliefs for change or recognition and doing it all online from a comfortable place.

    Does an activity such as iMarch constitute an assembly if it isn’t face to face?

    We learned that social media does play a role in assembly but can’t replace it.

  2. Discussion Question: To what extent do you agree with Gladwell’s comparison of today’s media activism to the sit ins?

  3. It’s an exciting time for politically active individuals because there are so many venues now where they can express their views and participate in a larger discussion. As you mentioned, though, it is still difficult to get your voice heard in any kind of meaningful way among so many other voices trying to be heard. I think that in order for any expression to have impact the expression needs to be consistent and sustained for a period of time. With so many sources of information it becomes difficult to know which ones are worth listening to. Thus, if a media outsider wants to have any impact they have to create a space and brand their views over a longer period of time so that they become recognizable to individuals as well as to search engines and other entry points for media consumption on the Web.

    In considering changes to the media filters, I agree that flak has changed somewhat from a source of interference to one of confirmation. Messages have become so polarized that if one source is pointing out flaws with another, then dedicated audiences see that as an attempt to discredit their in-groups views. This in turn gets interpreted as propaganda by consumers who are simply looking for confirmation of their views. If the government accuses Fox News of bias, then Fox’s supporters see that as confirmation that the government is attempting to control the media.

    I agree with Gladwell that there is a lot more lazy activism as a result of social media, which I’m sure results in a lot of deactivation of individuals who feel that they’ve contributed by “liking” a protest page. However, I don’t think that those type of people would have ever gotten involved in the first place. I feel that there must be more awareness being created that is (hopefully) resulting in the activation of more individuals who are willing to participate in activist initiatives in more physical, meaningful ways. If nothing else, the ability for groups and organizations to distribute information and coordinate events has certainly been strengthened by social media. Looking at movements like Occupy Wall Street that have been able to sustain their numbers and spread into multiple locations, I feel that social media has definitely played a part in keeping them active and involving people who would have otherwise stayed home.

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