Monday, 17 October 2016

Westminster Student Blog Series

We will be posting a series of blogs written by University of Westminster Postgraduate students. They are all based on their research of social media, and come with a YouTube video as well. We will be posting one a week for the next month, so keep your eyes peeled!

The Effects of Digital Media on Journalism and Politics

Zahra Hasan (@Zahra_Hasan), born in Dubai and now based in London has just completed an MA in Social Media, Culture and Society from the University of Westminster and has a BA in International Journalism and Media from Richmond University in London. She's interested in issues surrounding data privacy, new media consumption and fan engagement on social media, in particular. 
“Social media has changed the starting points for certain types of action,” says prominent media scholar and sociologist Nick Couldry, Professor of Media, Communications and Social Theory at the London School of Economics. His book “Media, Society, World” (Couldry, 2012), studies the ways in which society has been affected by the digital media revolution and the implications that this has. He applies social theory as well as practice theory into understanding how societies use media and how this has changed the very nature of behaviour and social organisation.

This video interviews both Professor Couldry and Professor Terry Kirby, Senior Lecturer and Director of the School of Journalism at Goldmiths University of London, and explores the impact that this shift to the digital has had on the fields of journalism, politics and political organisations in particular. The way in which the news is gathered, produced and consumed has changed from the era of print, now dwindling, to the current era of online journalism and news is now being increasingly consumed via mobile platforms. This can be both a good thing, in terms of a broader range of media outlets, as well as a dangerous thing; as the interviews remind us that it seems that audiences use social media and the Internet to turn to the sources they already had predisposed interests in.

So-called online protests, fuelled by social media, do indicate a shift in power from the status quo to the Gesellschaft – ordinary society coming together for a common goal (Tönnies, 1887). It remains to be seen, however, the outcomes and extent of this power shift. Furthermore, the impact that social media and web 2.0 play in social protests had initially been overstated, as Professor Couldry reminds us in this video; however, social media were a powerful tool in speeding up the organisation process especially in the digital era. This highlights the importance that social theory plays in today’s media environment and why “Media, Society, World” (2012) and similar books that combine social theory and the digital era are so crucial in understanding the nuances of digital media in society. It is important to study how journalism, the news and society’s interactions with politics have been impacted by social media and web 2.0. It is also interesting to attempt to predict the future of digital journalism and digital politics and to see how this affects political engagement and social and political mobilisation.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Westminster Student Blog Series

We will be posting a series of blogs written by University of Westminster Postgraduate students. They are all based on their research of social media, and come with a YouTube video as well. We will be posting one a week for the next month, so keep your eyes peeled!

Ethics & Democratising Facets of Digital Media

Oshin Mehta (@Osh88) is a marketing manager by profession and a Postgraduate Scholar at University of Westminster. She’s a tech enthusiast, who happily shares her exploration traversing the wilds of digital media.

The book “Media, Society, World” has attempted to highlight the implications of media rituals and its sway with respect to multiculturalism as well as the outburst of digital media. Digital media has allowed young people to frame their identities in a completely different way than the previous generation. However, media practice theory being the most conceptualized contribution of the book has raised important questions, such as: “What are people doing with media in context to how we act?” This issue is not solely confined to just social ‘identity’ but it also draws attention to the fact that everything is available to everyone online. This not only jeopardises the autonomy of young people when it comes to them exploring or making mistakes, in some cases it even promotes the gap between their online and offline identities. Conversely, it wouldn’t be right to exclude them from the digital space either as this is the space where we act.
As Danah Boyd recently stated in The World Economic Forum “the constant sense of connection is both empowering and utterly confusing.” This is why, there is an even bigger need now for ethical stances in digital media. Digital ethics in a broader sense deals with the impact of digital Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) on our societies and the environment at large. The conception of ethics in media did not transpire as strongly until a few years ago when issues of privacy, identity and exposure were brought up especially with regards to the digital youth. However, in the recent years there has been a prescriptive turn in the head of ethics. Scholars like Sherry Turkle and Jaron Lanier who were celebratory supporters of the internet have now stirred up ethical concerns about the quality of lives we are leading with media, where we have become objects to each other online. The main-hamper affair is that we are functioning in a world that is so deeply saturated with media including the media that we generate ourselves. Jaron Lanier who is one of the inventors of the virtual reality has highlighted a similar concern in his book ”You Are Not a Gadget” which focuses on the inferences of “cybernetic totalism”. The ethical predicament is that these media issues are very new to us and they demand a radical shift in thinking of what each of us does as an actor in this media space.

The book “Media, Society, World” has addressed another significant issue of voice in media ethics which is, with media cultures no longer being confined in territorial terms “How can we expect everyone to listen to everyone else?” The subject of democratising voice in media needs to be further explored in media studies and by media institutions as it is now intolerable to live in a society with the suppression of voice. Therefore, with the advancement of Web 2.0, the notion of media needs to be further analysed to interpret how it can rightly fit into the world we live in.

Couldry, N. (2012). Media, Society, World: Social Theory and Digital Media Practice. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Polity.
James, C. (2009). Young People, Ethics, and the New Digital Media: A Synthesis from the Good Play Project (The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning). Edition. The MIT Press.
Lanier, J. (2010). The Noosphere Is Just Another Name for Everyone’s Inner Troll. In: You Are Not a Gadget. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. p52.