Social Media – A Revolutionary Tool

The Arab Spring is a term expressing the revolutionary movements in 2010, which began in the Arab region. What made the Arab Spring so unique was the utilisation of social media to establish and promote uprising agendas, as these were the first collective movements in the Middle East since Internet and social media revolutions. A journal article by Richard Lindsey explores the significance of social media during the Arab Spring, allowing individuals to influence public opinion and gain international support through the global distribution of news. Lindsey assures that techniques and procedures via social media will affect future revolutionary tactics in globalised societies, however the degree to which is questionable.

Sharing mass amounts of uncensored and accurate information through social networking significantly prompted the rise in Arab Spring activists. Not only did they obtain supremacy to overthrow powerful dictatorship, but also Arab civilians were now conscious of underground communities whom they can connect with. This may have not been possible without the significant role social media played, “We use Facebook to schedule the protests… Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.” – Arab Spring activist from Egypt. Stories of shared grievances and hopelessness was overflowing over these networks. The use of digital storytelling through social media is what drew people into the streets to protest.

ArabSpring-Tweeter

Image source

A blog post on PolicyMic describes the use of social networks as assisting to remove the psychological barrier of fear for Arab civilians by connecting and sharing information. The consistent flow of news provided a sense of reassurance that they are not alone, and that there are others experiencing hardship, prejudice, and similar accounts of brutality. Professor of mass communications from Cairo, Hussein Amin, stated that social networks “for the first time provided activists with an opportunity to quickly disseminate information while bypassing government restrictions”. It is worthy to note that new social networking platforms were not the reason for the Arab Spring but function in serving future revolutions with regard to communication.

Advertisements

Below Property Line

Copyright is a big issue, especially since the rapid evolution of social media. Put simply, the most efficient way to avoid your intellectual property being appropriated online is to not upload it at all. While there are “safe” ways to share content, a lot of people just don’t do it. Typically, people don’t tend to feel they are doing something illegal if it is through their computer screen. There is no personal connection or affiliation with who you are “stealing” from. A couple of clicks and you are instantly breaching copyright laws. Piracy is a big one – while artists and large corporations missing out on millions from content they have created, there is little they can do to stop it. There is this general consensus of “if it’s on the internet it’s fair game” but really, it isn’t fair at all. You are legally responsible for all content you post or share online. Without crediting the original source or obtaining permission, you face the consequences.

Sharing someone else’s work online safely is when you only share from the original source. For instance, using the retweet button on Twitter. Sites such Facebook and Tumblr have “share” and “reblog” buttons for this purpose, but often users copy the content and post it without sharing directly from the source. This is a common example of somebody breaching copyright laws.

“A large, diverse society cannot survive without property; a large, diverse, and modern society cannot flourish without intellectual property.” – Lawrence Lessig

This quote from Lessig’s book Free Culture points out the importance of intellectual property. While copyright laws restrict the ways in which we can use previous creators’ work, it can stimulate individuals to generate new ideas. However, it is difficult to come up with something new. Most things we think of will have been done already in various ways. Subsequently, Lessig states that free cultures allow space for others to build upon, however with regard to increasing authorisations we are steering away from this. For example YouTube cases of people lip syncing/dancing to music, creating fandom etc are being sued for copyright infringement. It seems silly; as a lot of these cases include songs by popular artists that most people could identify without a reference. On the other hand, if the boundaries weren’t there I think prosumers would definitely take advantage of it even more than they do already.

“Networks are the Matrix”

The significance of living in a network society is that networks provide fundamental structure to our lives. Only recently has the media become an influential public space of our time, forming and shaping shared societal experiences. In light of this, Manuel Castells from this weeks reading stated that technology does not determine society, however some social structures could not have developed without it. Communication comes naturally to humans and now the logic, interests and conflicts of this network society globally dominate us. It is not always the message we are sending, but rather the medium through which it is processed. For example, a common frowned upon message to send through social media would be the “break up”. Often in high school girls/guys would be offended and shocked if they were broken up with through social media sites, however if it was a phone call it seemed to not have that much of a detrimental effect.

Charles Arthur in an article for The Guardian referred to networks as the ‘Matrix’.  The first thing that came to my mind when seeing the words ‘network’ and ‘matrix’ together was Google. Google seems to be the center of the Internet. It monitors you closely through every use, pushing ads and even channeling results based on your browsing history. By purely signing up to a gmail (Google Mail) account you now have a YouTube and Google+ account. Regardless if you are actively using these accounts, Google can still track your every move just by being signed in. But it doesn’t stop there; artist Erica Scourti made a video called “Life In Adwords”. Scourti emailed a daily diary to her Gmail account for a year, and then created a collaboration of herself listing the suggested adwords made by Google. So even in what you think is a personal online space, the content of her emails were identified and turned into ‘sale-able’ advertisements. As we use sites such as Facebook and Google as a networking tool it is doing the very same thing by extracting our personal information for its benefit.

Another example would be that you now have to pay Facebook for your posts to reach all of your Friends – it only shows them to those who you interact with most. However, large companies and corporations can pay Facebook to share your post with everyone if you are to mention them in a positive way. For instance “My coffee from Gloria Jeans today was amazing” instead of only going to a handful of your Facebook Friends, Gloria Jeans will pay to have your status reach the maximum audience possible.

References:

Arthur, C 2013, Google+ isn’t a social network; it’s The Matrix, The Guardian, viewed 04/08/2013, <http://www.theguardian.com/technology/blog/2013/jun/04/google-plus-the-matrix

Castells, M 2004, ‘Afterword: why networks matter’ in Network Logic: Who governs in an interconnected world?, pp. 221-224

Killalea, D 2013, Texting, Facebook are the worst ways to break up with someone,
news.com.au, viewed 04/08/2013, <http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/relationships/texting-facebook-are-the-worst-ways-to-break-up-with-someone/story-fnet09p2-1226669481242

Outcasting 2013, Life in Adwords / Erica Scourti, Outcasting, weblog post, 23 April, viewed 04/08/2013, <http://www.outcasting.org/2013/04/life-adwords-erica-scourti/

Street Violence – Reflection

An issue which I found to be significant in the media is violence, and in particular, street violence. All kinds of mediascapes contribute to street violence in one way or another. This includes the influence from certain television programs, films, music etc. Not only is violence represented throughout the media, but violent related behaviour as a result of drug and alcohol abuse is common, sending an important yet persuasive message to audiences. Images and music film clips especially tend to present violence semiotically, particularly through the use of gender ideologies; such as men being portrayed as mysterious and dangerous.

In relation to street violence some popular topics I found the media liked to exaggerate were schoolies, riots, protests and nightlife. When the media focuses on these issues they tend to  single out certain vicinities as well, often producing a poor reputation for that area. An example would be the Cronulla riots in 2005 where the media played a significant role by influencing locals on which side to take in an discriminating manner. The series of incidents known as the Cronulla riots have echoed throughout the town and surrounding areas to this day. Right-wing media groups had been accused of broadcasting political agendas via radio and print media, flaring tension between locals. The media used this sense of community to connect with locals on a personal level,  and even encouraged violent behaviour.

Ageism is also a factor, especially when the media talks about schoolies violence. The ideology of teenagers is highly pressured within the media. For example it is easy to represent a group of teens as ‘out of control’ rather than, say, a group of elderly people. Violence is an easy topic for the media to nudge on the emotions of readers. Language if often in a negative tone which can make the reader feel uncomfortable, concerned, and scared. The way information is presented is just as important as the content itself, as emphasis is placed on particular words and phrases, audiences are more likely to be convinced.

 Violence portrayed in the media through television, films, video games and music has been known to increase the likelihood of aggressive and violent behaviour. This material is harmful especially to the young, prompting immediate and long-term effects. Representations of violence in the media directly provides a child with  particular ideas and experiences which shape their attitudes and influence their behaviours. It is important to consider these mediums as elements in a controlled societal media among children especially. This is because certain characteristics, environments and media content can affect the degree of media violence.

Many people don’t actually realise how powerful the media is. It’s power derives from accessibility and the fact that it is all around us, everywhere we go. Following initial presentations of media violence, other forms of media are then used to perpetuate and emphasise outcomes. This is common within traditional news media such as TV broadcasting, radio, magazines, newspapers and other forms of print media. The media achieves this by blasting biased perspectives on violence related issues, in hopes to mould the minds of viewers to their own attitudes. Language, tone, lighting and sound all add to this effect of influential media.

BUT something I find to be more significant is that…

As violence is continuously targeted and now this new era of social media is evolving, now criticism of violence is also in the hands of the audience – of what is known as the outbreak of citizen journalism. There are new, different, instant types of distribution which are hard to keep up with, proving difficulty when trying to regulate user content. Within the public sphere, sites such as Facebook and YouTube are used to discuss and propel violent behaviour. Violence can often be fuelled or expanded by nasty comments, videos or images online through these platforms. Online video streaming has become an explosive medium, and YouTube has presented a dominance in this area. Whilst this user generated content may be used for research and entertainment, it has also been treated as as a medium for expression or documentation regarding violent behaviour. These videos uploaded by users which incorporate violence are often in public places such as schools, parks and just on the streets.

It’s issues like these which fuel moral panic about the media, as we are told to trust and believe what they say; however the outcome is not always favourable. As citizen journalists, the role of the media is ever-changing in a free and open public sphere. The representation of violence within the media is already being altered as a result of online prosumers.

Street Violence – Online Media

Violence can often be fuelled or expanded by nasty comments, videos or images online. This ‘cyber hate’ is typically used to discriminate, threat, and warn victims. Sites such as Facebook and YouTube have been known to propel violent behaviour.

Facebook, for example, has been proven as a powerful tool with relation to violent intimidation. In some cases it is used to organise a meeting time and place for violent behaviour. When this information is posted on networking sites such as Facebook, it is then able to be dispersed online within the public sphere. Subsequently, this causes more people to be involved in acts of violence.

In August 2010, an article posted by The Economist outlined an issue where  two teenagers were gunned down while riding a motorcycle in Columbia. Their names had appeared on a “hit list” which was posted on Facebook that included death threats and menacing messages. The victims were warned and told they  had three days to depart or else they would be in danger of these violent acts once again.

Online video streaming has become an explosive medium, and YouTube has presented a dominance in this area. Whilst it may be used for research and entertainment it has also been treated as as a medium for expression or documentation regarding violent behaviour. In 2006, the issue became so extensive that politicians in the U.K. sought to legislate against violence on YouTube, with U.K. ministers claiming that the videos “fuel random acts of violence.”

An example would be an incident which occurred  in April 2008 where six teenage girls in Florida beat up their peer whilst recording the attack with the intention of posting it on YouTube. Some news media responses blamed the incident on YouTube itself, however arguments were made that YouTube merely reflected violence. In this instance YouTube was used as a catalyst to the violence as the camera’s presence during the assault was purely for the footage to be uploaded for ‘popularity’. Online reactions included  YouTube videos uploaded by users commenting on the story, an example of citizen journalism. Other users posted amateur re-inactments of the video in an attempt for humorous exposure. Traditional news media such as newspapers and TV shows covered the story, most with a biased perspective using language such as “animalistic behaviour”.

Citizen Journalism

Media convergence has challenged the way journalism has been operating over the past few generations. Citizen journalism is when participants of information play an active role by gathering, analysing and distributing news. This is now integrated into our culture as society is changing the way we receive information by transferring from print media to digital media. Why? Because it’s convenient. Instant. Free. The best part about it all is – you can interact. We as consumers are becoming the producers through blogging, vlogging, and even social networking. Media platforms (i.e. YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter, WordPress, SoundCloud, Vimeo) allow us to contribute to collective intelligence in the comfort of our own homes, if desired.

I like to receive my news online because it’s usually from people which I know personally. There is no thorough editing process for the information presented to the public. One click and boom. It’s there, online for EVERYONE to see, at any time. I feel information online can be more reliable because you can discover more about an issue by commenting on the source, and there is usually multiple web pages where the story will overlap, OR alternatively you may know the source personally. For example there was a car crash near my house a few months ago. Because many of my Facebook friends live in my area, or pass through here on a daily basis, I knew about this crash within minutes after it had occurred, before I had even gotten out of bed that morning, and before any news station journalist had written or even knew about it. I read details about the car and passengers on various status updates from people who had driven past, or knew the people in the accident. This is where citizen journalism differs from traditional journalists – reading about incidents online from locals you somehow have a connection to – whether it’s someone you knew from school, a colleague, a friend, a friend of a friend… you get my drift. Traditional journalists are struggling to keep up, and I am interested to see what citizen journalism can do in the future.