Widespread Use Of Digital Media Media Essay

2611 words (10 pages) Essay in Media

5/12/16 Media Reference this

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This essay will critically asses the impact that widespread use of digital media has on broader culture and society. For me, this is questioning whether digital media, the technological revolution and the rise of the internet can be seen as a blessing or a curse on culture and society. According to Castells (2002) who writes avidly on this topic, new media technologies simultaneously reinforce relations of cultural capital, hierarchy and distinction, while enabling social movements to publicise campaigns and connect with distant others. Technology, the internet and the digital media has created unimaginable wealth yet also encouraged millions to work for nothing. Digital media Challenges authority yet allowed regimes to spy and censor as never before. The internet opens up new realms of knowledge and Al Gore (former vice president) states that it’s an empowering tool with more potential than any other tool developed by mankind. Digital media is very much a double edged sword and has both positive and negative aspects to it. This essay will explore these different aspects and look to given a definitive answers as to whether the digital media and the internet has overall had a good or bad impact on broader culture and society.

Positive impact on culture and society

There are a significant number of ways in which the use of digital media has facilitated democracy and pluralism in worldwide society and culture. Supporters of this view include the likes of Goodwin, Jenkins and Burrows. The inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, saw the internet as a tool that connected humanity. W ith 35 million people using the internet every day in the UK alone, he sees the internet as a platform for equal access to voice, opportunity and information, having originally been designed as a rebellion against hierarchy and authority.

Wikipedia is definitely a product of the digital media that has had a positive impact on culture and society. Every month 65 million people use this site, with the original idea being that instead of information being handed down by experts and the ‘elite above’, it instead slowly emerges from the masses from below. This is a good example of the democratisation of society and culture that the digital media brings, as Wikipedia allow people to shape knowledge together on one platform.

Twitter is a social media site that has had a strong positive effect on culture and society. This digital media platform can be used to campaign for fundamental freedoms in culture and society across the globe. For example Twitter was used to campaign for fundamental civil rights Kenya during the violence in the Kenyan election of 2008. Witnesses used Twitter to report the violence and corruption that the worlds media was not reporting accurately. Twitter represents a new form of democracy in society and culture, meaning that countries’ hierarchy in effect has flipped from vertical to horizontal. Another example can be found in Iran; when riots occurred the government banned world media from the area, however the public used Twitter to alert the world of what was occurring.

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Napster is a digital media site that advanced culture and society by undermining centuries of copyrighting and property. This site allowed music to be listened to for free, making it equally accessable and shared for free. This demonstrated digital media and the internets power to destroy established business models. While this site was completely illegal, the issue was that because the usage of this site became so widespread, lawsuits would have been needs for everyone between the ages of 18 and 30 at the time. As a result of Napster, 95% of all music exchange online in now unpaid for, showing how digital media has helped create added cultural equality and democracy over the last decade.

YouTube is another strong example of how the digital media and the internet has had a positive effect on the global culture and society. YouTube was first created in 2005, and is now viewed 1 billion times a day, with 1/5 of all content on the internet itself being created by amateurs. The attraction to this site is that it provides and platform for self-promotion and takes control away from the ‘middleman’ such as agents of publishers. These older hierarchies are still at large today, however their power is dwindling as they struggle to adapt to the digital media’s democratisation and equalization effect on society and culture.

Having first been created to protect the USA in the 1960’s to link information between the government, the armed forces and institutions of science and universities, the internet has now become a de-centralizing power to the state. The internet is now seen as a threat to the state, de-centralizing power in single nations by merging their individual economies into a global economy. The rise of the digital media and the internet is accelerating globalisation which in turn provides new developments in culture that cross historic and traditional borders. Old centres of power are crumbling, meaning a huge scramble to fill the vacuum left behind. An example of this can be seen in Wikileaks, which allows people to anomalously publish information on governments such as classified US army documents on Guatanamo Bay, which helps challenge censorship. Suppressing information has become increasingly difficult, with the digital media and the internet helping make traditional censored countries such as China become far more democratic. When one part of the internet becomes controlled and colonised, a new frontier will always spring up in its place elsewhere. This certainly shows how the digital media benefits society and culture in a broad sense globally.

Negative impact on culture and society

There are many negative aspects that the rise of the internet and digital media has brought to culture and society. The digital media can be seen as a source of control and homogenisation, with supporters of this view including the likes of Schiller and Virilio. Around 25% of the global population has access to the internet, which can be seen to show another form of control by the MEDC’s over LEDC’s. It is in human nature to have the desire for both profit and control. If you can control what people believe in you control what people have access to, hence the internet and the digital media is a powerful tool that can create this control if harnessed by the appropriate people in society.

The internet and digital media has allowed elite megabrands to gain power with no competition. The idealistic view (steming from 1970’s hippie culture) that the world wide web should be a creative space where all people can share information for free, which went against those who wanted use the web as a place to buy and sell, use the web as a market place. Some people, such as Bill Gates, saw the internet as the biggest business opportunity ever. In 1995 Microsoft launched Internet Explorer and ended up with more than 90% of the market globablly. This is just an example of how the world dominated by just a handful of mega brands. In Britain 1/3 of the population has Facebook, Ebay has 21 million visits a month while Amazon get 16 million visits per month. There is one search engine (Google), one marketplace (Ebay), one bookshop (Amazon), one cinema (YouTube) and one social network (Facebook) that matter. This means there is a new massive wealth and power in the hands of a tiny elite thanks to the internet. It is a huge historic anomolie in the fact that there are no competitors (Coke and Pepsi, Honda and Toyota)that would usually reflect a capitalist society. Hence this is a pure manifestation of way in which power works, landing itself to a very narrow oligarchy and elite in society.

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The digital media and the internet can be seen as a tool of control and oppression. Increasingly it mirrors hierarchy and inequalities with its originally idealistic beginnings fading over time. It is a powerful tool the state can use to access information and control the masses. An example of this is seen in China (one party state) that has 250 million of it population currently using the internet. Technology has helped drive China’s economic growth and the government is now worried about their communist culture and society due to the rise of digital media and the internet. The government has employed 30,000 people to police the web full-time in China, developing a firewall around the country preventing many western media sites from entering and influencing public opinion. Their surveillance of social network sites is essential to their state control, hence the government has hired bloggers 300, 000 people to post communist support on digital media sites and blogs.

The digital media can be seen to be narrowing identity. The internet can link and connect extremists, which has given them new tools of terrorism. Al Qaeda try to implement control through fear via the internet through hatefull messages and shocking images. This is very difficult to prevent as there is no central control centre of base on the internet. Digital media removes national borders and therefore these extremists have a virtual reality nation to spread their message.

The internet and digital media can be see as eroding the concept of privacy. Private information is now exploited for highly targeted advertising and profit. For example Google gathers billions of search terms that help them sell highly targeted advertising. It’s turned human curiosity into a goldmine, as Google now makes $200 per second for this scheme. Internet cookies now track our interests and website history. This can even Facebook, a company that increasingly uses technology to recognise pictures and send targeted adverts. Today, after purchasing an item, you are constantly emailed with updates. This is a manifestation of the attempt by big businesses and coorperations to colonise the online marketplace . It homogenises consumers with messages such as ‘people who bought this also bought this’. Almost without realising it, our search history is stored on a database of the companies that give us access to internet. It’s suprising how much all the searches can be pieced together, and give a picture of who may have made these searchs. Hence this potentially could be used against individuals, as blackmail in the future. While this is an extreme view, this is a distinct possibility, and means corporations such as Google and Facebook have a huge amount of power they could utilize in the future.

Analysis

The positive aspects of digital media and the internet currently and always will outweigh the negatives aspects of digital media and the internet. It is irrational for anyone to claim that we were better off in an era of information poverty and un-empowered masses. One would rather have information overload than information poverty in society and culture. The internet is a true digital and electronic frontier where everyone is on his or her own; all manuscripts are accepted for publication, they remain in virtual print forever, and no one can tell writers what to do.

The rise of the internet and digital media has empowered the masses and given everyone a platform on which to speak to the world. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean all of the internet users will have something informed or valid to broadcast to across the world wide web. But such vast human empowerment is worth celebrating, despite its occasional downsides. Abundance in information is better than the old analog world of fewer choices and fewer voices.

However, criticisms can be made against the internet and the digital media, as there are some very legitimate concerns regarding how the passing of the old order might leave society absent of some important cultural and order aspects. For example, one need not endorse bailouts for a dying newspaper industry to nonetheless worry about the important public service provided by investigative journalists: Who will take up those efforts if large media institutions go under because of digital disintermediation?

The skeptics are also certainly correct that each of us should think about how to better balance new technologies and assimilate them into our lives and the lives of our families and communities. For example, children need to learn new “digital literacy” and “cyber-citizenship” skills to be savvy users of the world wide web.

Conclusion

This essay has critically assessed the impact that widespread use of digital media has on broader culture and society. For me, this was questioning whether digital media, the technological revolution and the rise of the internet can be seen as a blessing or a curse on culture and society. According to Castells (2002) who wrote a lot on this topic, new media technologies simultaneously reinforced relations of cultural capital, hierarchy and distinction, while enabling social movements to publicise campaigns and connect with distant others. Technology, the internet and the digital media has created unimaginable wealth yet also encouraged millions to work for nothing. Digital media Challenges authority yet allowed regimes to spy and censor as never before. The internet opens up new realms of knowledge and Al Gore (former vice president) states that it’s an empowering tool with more potential than any other tool developed by mankind. Digital media is very much a double edged sword and has both positive and negative aspects to it. This essay explored these different aspects and can now give a definitive answer as to whether digital media and the internet has overall had a good or bad impact on broader culture and society.

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Overall, the internet and the digital media is a positive phenomenon for humanity, society and culture. There are a significant number of ways in which the use of digital media has facilitated democracy and pluralism in worldwide society and culture. Strong examples in the physical form of digital media sites on the internet can be used to show this. Firstly Wikipedia is definitely a product of the digital media that has had a positive impact on culture and society. Secondly Twitter is a social media site that has had a strong positive effect on culture and society. Thirdly Napster is a digital media site that advanced culture and society by undermining centuries of copyrighting and property. YouTube is another strong example of how the digital media and the internet has had a positive effect on the global culture and society. These websites are contributing to rise of the digital media and the internet is accelerating globalisation which in turn provides new developments in culture that cross historic and traditional borders. The rise of the internet and digital media has empowered the masses and given everyone a platform on which to share information and dissolve old forms of hierarchy.

However, to a smaller extent, the internet and digital media has caused a negative affect on society and culture. The digital media can be seen as a source of control and homogenisation by MEDC’s over LEDC’s. The internet and digital media has allowed elite megabrands to gain power with no competition. Again, the digital media and the internet can be seen as a tool of control and oppression. Increasingly it mirrors hierarchy and inequalities with its originally idealistic beginnings fading over time. The digital media can be seen to be narrowing identity while the internet can also link and connect extremists, which has given them new tools of terrorism. Finally, the internet and digital media can be see as eroding the concept of privacy. Private information is now exploited for highly targeted advertising and profit.

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