The power of many

This weeks BCM112 lecture revolved around the transformation of the user between monologic and dialogic media. If you have been reading my previous blogs (as I hope you have been) you will be well aware of the shift from passive to active audiences, consumers to prosumers. Monologic media is ‘old’ meaning that messages are filtered through a gatekeeper (publisher, government, censor and the like) while dialogic media allows individual nodes to broadcast to the entire network directly by use of a weak or non-existent gatekeeper.

This shift in media technologies has no doubt evoked changes in the typical audience/consumer role but it makes me wonder; if there is no implicit filter and no cost of entry how is the quality of information being controlled. The answer: it isn’t. That’s not to say that every piece of information produced on the Internet is unreliable but it does raise the question of source credibility. The progression from the one-to-many method to the many-to-many method has created a surge of participation, which consequently has uncovered new types of users, paving the way for crowdsourced expertise such as Wikipedia to emerge.

But again can we really trust what we read? Examples of this are the Egyptian revolution of 2011 and #chinacoup.  Social networking sites including Facebook, twitter and YouTube contribute to empowering individuals most notably Wael Ghonim and Asmaa Mahfouz (in the case of the Egyptian revolution) by providing mobilisation, coordination, dissemination and civic engagement allowing viewers from across the globe to partake (however insignificantly) and ultimately sanction the voice of the individual.

However, social networking sites such as Weibo (the Chinese version of twitter) can have the opposite effect. As in the case of #chinacoup, out of control rumours (which continue to be speculated) lead to the government taking action, arresting over 2000 people and censoring/blocking all information about the rumours. Even today we still don’t know exactly what happened or even if anything happened. Does humanity deserve the right to complete freedom or do we need discipline and guidelines to keep ideologies and demeanour under control?

Confused? I know I am.

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