Reflection: Take Two

The issue of ‘after-birth’ abortion has caused a media frenzy when it first appeared in a journal article presented by two bioethicists from Oxford, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, supporting the issue. The issue soon became a commonly debated topic in many media types including, TV programs, print media, social media, and user-generated media, being presented in terms of concepts such as the public sphere, semiotics, media regulation and moral panic.

The primary function of official print and TV media is to present current world issues to the general public in a manner in which the wider audience can easily understand and engage with. For this reason stories visually presented are generally short and concise, only including the facts and opinions that the station deems significant. The focus of TV programs on the issue of post-birth abortion is the socio-moral values of society and the debate between right and wrong. The coverage on Russia Today concentrates on the mistaken advice given to a woman in England who was going to give birth to a child with Down syndrome. The news station highlights the doctors’ recommendation to abort the baby, as it would be “a struggle not worth living.” The news station follows the story of the mother and child, chastising professional medical personnel on their recommended medical advice, highlighting the morality of abortion and the right to life in modern society.

Print media has also heavily debated the issue, focusing on the opinions of academics and medical personnel in order to accentuate the prominence of the moral and social underpinnings of society, most notably the article in the Journal of Medical Ethics that evoked an intense response after stating that foetuses and newborns “do not have the same moral status as actual persons” and “the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant”. This remark prompted responses including Stuart Cowie, from the LIFE charity retorting “The idea that respectable academics at prestigious universities would argue for the killing of newborn babies seems monstrous,” and also reassurance from the British Medical Journal saying “Many people will and have disagreed with these arguments. However, the goal of the Journal of Medical Ethics is not to present the Truth or promote some one moral view. It is to present well-reasoned argument based on widely accepted premises.”

The moral debate that is presented in TV and print media has taken on the role as a moral panic by causing humanity to question and challenge societal values and interests, by exploring the undertones of abortion and ‘after-birth’ abortion. The hypersensitive debate of ProLife vs. ProChoice incorporates religious undertones that often colour stories presented in TV and print media with strong views and opinions supported by God and the Bible. The discussion between the opposing positions revolves around the validity and definition of human life and whether newborns can be categorized as persons. The Kirby Lang Institute for Christian Ethics (KLICE) outlines the “Judeo-Christian belief that all humans are “created in the image of God” and later by the Enlightenment humanist doctrine of “inalienable natural rights””, while The Radiant Cross bluntly state “Killing a baby is killing a baby, no matter when it’s done.” Though many religiously affiliated online articles relate back to Giubilini and Minerva’s article, the authors of the controversial article justify the moral (not legal) permissibility of infanticide on the ground that “while newborns are “human” they cannot be deemed “persons” unless they meet what is a profoundly contestable definition of “personhood”, namely the capacity to “attribute to their own existence some…basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to them”.”

The issue of after-birth abortion has also caused a whirlwind of responses in social and user-generated media. Social media refers to a vast array of content made available through the use of modern communication technologies. The primary function of social and user-generated content is to attempt to equalize official media sources with the knowledge and opinions of the general public to establish a balanced representation of media issues.

Platforms including online blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Podcasts have all played a major role in facilitating the general public in voicing their opinions and concerns about after-birth abortion and distributing them worldwide via the public sphere. The public sphere allows everyday civilians to discuss and debate topics and issues in a free, anonymous environment, encouraging freedom of speech and expression.

Pages have emerged on Facebook including “Abolish Human Abortion” and “We can end abortion” that present abortion and by extension after-birth abortion as a threat to humanity and the social order of society. Twitter topics in the form of hash tags (#abortion, #ProLife, and #personhood) have been created to collectively argue against after-birth abortions and rally support amongst the online community. Twitter accounts most notable @SohlUSA and @ProLifeBlogs have also been produced dedicated to raising awareness of this issue.

User-generated media such as YouTube videos have surfaced from across the globe in the form of News programs (including Russia Today and GGN) and personal beliefs that can be accessed, liked and commented on by anyone, anywhere, anytime, giving the general public a powerful, collective voice. Anonymous comments on blogs, videos and Facebook pages paint abortion as “one’s rights over one’s own body. As such it becomes ridiculous to argue for infanticide as the woman is no longer exercising her rights over her own body”, and that “Abortion allows someone complete control over their body and whether they remain pregnant or not. Once the child is born that does not apply.” On the article published in Journal of Medical Ethics one user commented, “The Authors of this paper have done us all a favour. They have stirred up our emmotions [sic] significantly to warrant people having to rethink their stance on abortion”, suggesting that the general public is not as anti-abortion as official media sources would like us to believe.

The issue of after-birth abortion is presented throughout different platforms of media in a variety of lights, depending on a variety of factors. The knowledge of the individual of group, their age, religious and political affiliations, exposure to the issue either directly or indirectly, and reasons for presenting the issue can all cloud the representations of the issue in TV and print media and social/user-generated media, labelling it as either the right to life or the right to choice.

Reflection

The three blog posts I have chosen to be incorporated into my reflective post are Misogyny Online, The Net Knows More Than You Do, and Nerds, What Can’t They Do?! These three best reflect my personal understanding and perspective of convergent media practices. Throughout the subject and my time as a blogger, I have come to appreciate the many differing media platforms and the advantages and limitations of each. Blogging has taught me control over my language and the need for concise writing while tweeting has allowed me to participate on a global scale; finding, following, collecting and sharing information with my peers and others on a broader scale.

I chose these blog posts specifically because I feel it is my best effort at presenting my analysis of the lectures and readings due to the fact that they were the ideas that I most affiliated with and found most enjoyable. The notion of misogyny still playing a large role in the lives on women online today, shocked and appalled me, propelling me to take quiet a strong opinion on the matter. Ordinarily I am not an extreme feminist, however, when it comes to equality in the 21st century my views are rigid and unyielding which I feel was why I identified with the lecture and what caused me to take extra time and effort into the blog.

As a member of the technology generation I am quite intrigued by the notion of citizen journalism and social networking sites. Almost ingrained into my daily life Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WordPress and a multitude of other platforms exist purely by the people for the people. This empowering idea that has guided humanity into the modern era, captured my interest and spurred me to dig deeper into the issue and carefully craft my language as to present my understanding of a collective media eloquently and effectively.

The image of nerds, over the past few decades, has shifted dramatically to the point where they are now respected even idolised members of society. Representations of the quintessential nerd can be found in a variety of media platforms; TV shows, movies, games, books, online, and most notably celebrities labelling themselves as nerds.  The fact that ‘nerds’ are exploding across all aspects of life makes them a significant part of society; one that is so familiar to the younger generations. Being part of this ‘nerd reformation,’ I myself enjoy the ‘coolness’ of nerds being recognised and accepted, which required my utmost attention in the ideas and perspective depicted in the blog.

Misogyny online

Women constitute a minority in the community of the World Wide Web and although human equality has been a major issue throughout history, women are still subject to discrimination and misogyny online. The introduction of the Internet has heavily impacted the standing of women in society by creating and increasing communication, community, cooperation, and relationships as well as opportunities. The progression of women online (according to Dale Spender) from 1997 to 2012 has been profound however limitations still exist. Lack of representation, harassment, and risk assessment were the primary restrictions facing women in 1997, and even though online media including blogs, twitter, publishing, and active participation online has eliminated some obstructions, the substantial gender gap (only one in ten people online are women) along with ‘brogrammer’ ideas have promoted misogyny online.

This is not to say that both men and women alike are not fighting back, but due to the disproportionate influence of the genders online it becomes a much harder job to get the issue noticed. Some attempts to highlight abuse and threats received by women online are blogs (Shakesville), the ABC website, and the trending topic #mencallmethings which encompass bloggers, columnists, journalists, and other well known figures reposting the sexual and violence threats they have received in a ‘name and shame campaign.’

Although this issue did not begin and is not restricted to online media the effect of anonymous misogyny means that it is difficult if not impossible to monitor and prevent such forms of abuse. Trolling has also greatly impacted the way people (especially minorities) interact online. The ‘chilling effect’, generated by the intentional provoking of an intense reaction, has polarized prolific debates and caused users to less inclined to participate creating anonymity in the online community.

The Net Knows More Than You Do

The idea of citizen journalism comes as part of a broader ecosphere. Along with digital creatives, social media, and mainstream media the purpose fueling the constant fluctuation in technologies and media platform is the desire to generate new opportunities to create, to socialize, to explore and share, and to participate as citizens our culture.

Henry Jenkins classifies citizen journalism or civic media as the use of any technology for the purpose of increasing civic engagement and public participation. It enables the exchange of meaningful information, fostering social connectivity, constructing critical perspectives, insuring transparency and accountability, or strengthening citizen agency.

Citizen journalism also encompasses many types of convergence, including local and global. The local forms of media convergence comprise of technological convergence, which is the move to digitalisation and media delivery platforms, economic convergence, which allows media conglomerates to seek leverage content and profits through platform synergies, and social convergence, which enables individual multitasking and multichannel reception. Then there is international media convergence; cultural convergence giving the people the tools to achieve, innovate, appropriate, and recirculate content, and global convergence encouraging the cultural hybridity of world music, world cinema, and other transcultural movements.

With the introduction of hundreds of social networking sites online including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook the general public are connected in an entirely new way increasing the flow, speed, and extent of information. The elements of civic media are about social interaction, curation, protest, entertainment, marketing that are becoming more and more popular as the number one source of news. Although journalism is still relevant, it has needed to adapt to the changing platforms in order to stay alive in the modern, social community.

The combination of Blogs, participatory culture, and citizen journalism can have a heavy impact and major influence on news reports and mainstream media in the case of Trent Lott. Citizen journalism has the power to take an inappropriate comment and whirlwind it into a major scandal resulting in the former Untied State Senator resigning and becoming a Washington-based lobbyist. That is the power of the people at work.