Stop Generalizing

I find it amazing that in the span of just a few decades, people who have long been on the receiving end of one-way mass communication are now able to become producers and transmitters themselves. In the article New Media Power: the Internet and Global Activism, author W. Lance Bennett explains the rise of the Internet and ICTs  as indicative of the notion of activism itself; that activism has changed and is now becoming a lifestyle choice.  This activism is seen through the production and transmission of information through individual citizens and groups.

Bennet also notes that the distinction between information producers and consumers will become very hard to draw. I think this is a very interesting notion because it also makes me wonder how can one recognizes more legitimate sources . The key, is that  one must reach a new level of media literacy. However, I worry that this level of literacy needed will not be met by most citizens. I am curious to see how activism continues to be affected in both positive and negative manners in the future. Will the new forms of media allow activists to continue to join together in greater force, or will it allow other to fight and prohibit this greater form of activism?

So many articles talk about the positive transformations that occurring using ICTs, but it is imperative that we do not generalize the effects. Yes, ICTs and this wave of citizen producers and transmitters can transform international politics, empower activists, civil society, and individuals and small communities, but there are also limitations. As author Cinzi Padovani notes in the article Citizens’ Communication and the 2009 G8 Summit in L’Aquilla Italy, one cannot and should not generalize about technology and how social movements are effective. I believe that ICTs will continue to be powerful instrument for some movements and not so much for others.  I believe that it all depends on the context and great emphasis needs to be known that one should generalize about the impacts of ICTs on movements.  This notion about generalization is also noted in the report Blogs and Bullets: New Media in Contentious Politics. The report notes that dictatorial regimes are not nearly as vulnerable as many scholars lay them out to be with the enhancement of new media as well as the fact that new media is not as powerful for citizens as many assume.

Along these lines, with this power of being able to be both producer and consumers from new ICTs ,comes great responsibility. As a global citizen one must take accountability and be trustworthy with what, and how, they communicate and transmit information. There is a level of trust that occurs with ICTs and especially new media for it to continue and prosper. It is very hard to project the long-term effects of the power of the new media and media information flows. I think this is demonstrated by the fact that articles on the subject matter already become outdated after a short period of when they were written.

I think that the Blogs and Bullet report states great recommendations for citizens in today climate. First, one should always be skeptical of claims about the power of new media as well as that one should acknowledge the good and bad effects of new media and the possible backlashes. However, they also note that one should not mistake information for influence. Just because the information is out there, does not mean it is getting spread or that people are taking action because of it.


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2 Responses to Stop Generalizing

  1. Agustin says:

    I am agree with you Liza that is not good idea to generalize about the fact that the rise of the Internet and ICTs necessarily will bring positive effects in relation with activism and more participation of the individuals in the public sphere domestically or internationally. As is mentioned in the document Blogs and Bullets: New Media in Contentious Politics “new media could make citizens more passive, by leading them to confuse online rhetoric with substantial political action , diverting their attention away from productive activities.”(p. 9). Or maybe the excess of information could overwhelm or misguided the reader if don’t have a certain level of “internet and new media literacy”.

    However, It is a huge advantage to have the option of being part of the debate in the Public Sphere without the necessity to pass through the screening of a given person in charge of the editorial line of a journal (or any other traditional media journal, magazine or newspaper) in order to place our opinion and make it available to others through an alternative on line journal, blog or one of the tools that the new media technology give us.

  2. You make several really great and salient points here and I very much agree with you. Often, scholars pundits and society in general quickly generalize and oversimplify new “phenomena” without exploring the multiple facets of the argument or without sufficient passage of time to experience or study how it plays out.

    Citizen activism and reporting has always been important in information transmission, and goes some way in (to borrow CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s catchphrase) in “keeping them honest.” Moreover, there are myriad stories particularly coming out of developing nations that will not make it onto mainstream media outlets, that media editors will simply not think worthy of viewer attention as the Chouliaraki article discussed. But it also raises a number of other issues. As they grow in stature, audience and credibility, it’s important for these independent media sources and community reporters have and develop the tools and skills needed.

    As you mentioned, media literacy if very important and this has not been achieved in populations of numerous countries. What are the implications populations that are not? Are they shut out to some degree? And what does that mean for excercising democracy, does it become a tool only/mainly for those who can afford to participate via ICTs? Castells is on point with his thoughts on network societies. It’s important to note however, that, yes, ICTs influence, but they don’t determine action or behavior.

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