This week’s readings were centered on regime change and media; whether how the media has influenced regime change or as in the case of the text by Williams and Carpini, proposed media regime change. And not just media, but communication.
As Darnton details in his historical account of the media in 18th century Paris, “communication systems have always shaped events”. Whereas in Paris people used scandalous books, songs and gossip to communicate and spread messages about the King, flash forward and today we have social media. In his closing lines Darnton wrote “media knit themselves together in a communication system so powerful it proved decisive in collapse of regime”. Is this not similar to what happened in Tunisia and Egypt?
In the research roundup regarding the Arab Spring and the Internet, one source noted that 60% of the social media active in Egypt and Tunisia share views about politics online. A majority of the research accounts proclaimed social media as an influential piece of the regime changes that occurred. However, not all agree, as one referred to the internet as a “rusty bullet” and claimed that traditional media sources were equally if not more important, noting that the Iranian regime used the very social network people were using to recruit and unite, against those individuals. While Facebook was often a primary source for updates, according to a source within the Twitter, politics and the public research roundup, Twitter is increasingly being used to shape political debates. Interestingly, the conversations on Twitter usually result from larger trends. It appears to be a source for more opinionated feedback than other social media venues. Either way, Facebook and Twitter are major news sources for youth, as nearly as many get information from friends and family through those sources as from newspapers or magazines. Considering this, it’s really no surprise that social media is able to unite people. There’s a sense of irony in all of this – increased social media use (which often occurs in isolation) is leading to people wanting to work together. Perhaps because we spend so much time tuned into our gadgets, we are looking for a way to connect.
Darnton noted that when gossip or songs were spread throughout Paris, it wasn’t simply a transmission of information. People sat and talked and discussed the information. They grew the culture. They created what Darnton called collective consciousness. I don’t know that social media quite does this. While Twitter and Facebook are designed for two way communication streams, dialogue and discussion doesn’t often occur, and when it does, it’s usually not equivalent to a face-to-face conversation.
Williams and Carpini suggest four qualities moving forward into a new media regime: transparency, pluralism, verisimilitude, and practice. Transparency is knowing the source. Who owns the company producing the message? Are there alterior motives? Sites like Churnalism are certainly helpful in this aspect. Pluralism refers to diverse media. It is important for the media to offer diverse points of view in order to provide a more accurate perspective. I was unfamiliar with Blogrunner – great site for various news sources! Something that has been a bit of a new challenge for journalists (though it has led to more jobs, apparently!) is following up on accuracy of messages. This is related to the quality of verisimilitude, the idea that sources take responsibility for the truth claims they make. While viewers find audience videos to be more intimate and authentic, journalists can’t simply grab something from YouTube and air it. They have to confirm the accuracy and then get permission to use the sources, two things that take time and manpower. The final quality for a new media regime is practice. Not only in the preparation sense, but also in actually doing.
DQ: How do you foresee a new media regime taking over? Would you propose additional qualities to those suggested by Williams and Carpini?