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.