The internet has changed the way society connects, communicates and channels information. Free speech and encouraging differing opinions to be expressed is an avenue that can enrich and empower the way individuals view issues and topics of the world. Of course this utopian view of the internet does have some minor problems. A balancing act on public forums is adamant. Are the public allowed to say whatever they want to whoever they want with no responsibility taken for their actions? Or are guidelines and regulations necessary to moderate the conversation? If so does this limit the capability of free speech?
The ethics and moderation of online conversation is an emerging issue in media and communication as the morals and discourses of face-to-face interaction are not seen behind the keyboard. This can lead to challenges such as bullying, trolling and a lack of civility. General Counsel for Twitter, Alex Macgillivray, believes the internet should remain a “unique place for civil conversation” and that Governments need to preserve the “wonderful engine of free expression that it is.” Many stakeholders such as social media activists are optimistic in their statements seen in The Guardian’s article about moderating the conversation online, agreeing it is not promoting violence and bullying. However this is not always the case, as some areas of cyberspace can provoke uncivilised conversation and a ‘cesspool’ of unwanted knowledge.
Fiona Martin (2012) argues there is perceived risks such as spamming, abuse and privacy issues if the internet is not moderated in some way. As unregulated speech increased Martin saw signs of a rise in trolling and the personal safety of users in a public forum was at a greater risk. In some circumstances, moderating the conversation can inhibit free speech and the flow of a debate, but if not monitored carefully it can also deter users from giving their opinion. Unregulated material can “discourage newbies” from using a forum. The narrative disclosure and dominative individuals, who use threatening phrases and words, can deter people from using the forum in a ‘chilling effect.’ Participation and democracy are values of conversation which online communication provides. Regulation of online forums begins with the responsibility taken by the individual and the assumed etiquette that should be followed. Lauren Northover
Halliday, J. 2012, “Free Speech Haven or Lawless Cesspool – Can the Internet be Civilised?” Battle for the Internet, The Guardian, UK.
Martin, F. 2012, “Vox Populi, Vox Dei: ABC Online and the Risks of Dialogic Interaction,” Histories of Public Service Broadcasters on the Web, Editors; Brugger, N. and Burns, M. New York, Peter Lang, pp. 177-192.
Accessible and Inclusive technology for all especially for individuals with disabilities seems to be a taboo subject in the media landscape. Professor Goggin is an expert in the field of digital communications and believes companies such as Apple are not tailoring their products to the disabled which is therefore excluding them from the digital realm. Although the IPhone included some petty features that could be useful for the disabled, it did have many problems such as no raised buttons or voice activated commands. “Disability still remains poorly understood by business actors and corporations” (p. 165). Goggin believes these new technologies are so advanced but yet simple measures to include disabled individuals are overlooked or are a “x compatible add-on and after thought” (p. 160). In today’s society, interaction relies heavily on social media and communicating through mobile phones. With no access to this, disabled peoples can be socially excluded due to not being able to access new technology.
Another technological aspect of everyday lives that overlooks disabled participants is the television. In Scott Nixon’s article titled ‘Australia still a prison for vision impaired TV viewers,’ Nixon highlights that blind and vision impaired individuals are “locked out” from TV entertainment because there is no audio description. Nixon explains some positive steps have been taken such as the ABC1 technical trial which involved audio description, but compared to the rest of the world there is still many programs and channels including Foxtel that need to include audio description for blind and hearing impaired viewers, so they too can be a part of and enjoy the entertainment television offers. This article relates to Goggin’s view of new media excluding disabled individuals as Goggin comments this type of technology reflects routinized social exclusion and “sees people with disabilities overlooked, omitted, neglected or not considered” (p.160).
Society, corporations and technology are highly advanced and everyday new technologies are being released that are more innovative and creative than the last. With a new and greater understanding of disabilities and the modern technologies created, a significant link and synergy should be implemented to allow disabled individuals to interact with technology and be a part of mobile phones, television entertainment and social media. At times these new technologies do the opposite and exclude people from the digital realm which should be combining media and people. Lauren Northover
Goggin, G. and C. Newell (2007), ‘The Business of Digital Disability,’ the Information Society: An International Journal, Volume 23, Issue 3, 159-168, UNSW, Sydney.
Nixon, S. (2013), ‘Australia still a Prison for Vision Impaired TV Viewers,’ Ramp Up: Disability, Discussion, Debate, ABC.
The successes of multiculturalism in some media channels are evident but the world still has a long battle ahead to minimise the domination of white bread media. An obvious point being made is that due to media’s social, cultural and political role a moral panic regarding ethnic minorities can be sparked that leads to community tensions and contributing to racism in Australia (Dreher, 2014). This can be a problem when tensions in the area already exist, for example the Cronulla riots in 2005 was inflamed by local media outlets especially radio host Allen Jones who “encouraged violence and brutality” (Dreher, 2014).
The Australian media landscape is indeed highly diverse, but subtle incidences of white domination can be seen in the media that often tend to go unnoticed unlike that of the Cronulla riots racism slurs. Often in television series and movies the cast is predominately white cast members. Think about magazines seen on the shelves of supermarkets. When was the last time an individual of colour was seen on the front cover of popular Australian magazines, let alone a spread on the inside? The fashion industry often goes unnoticed when thinking about white bread media, but perhaps are the biggest offenders of all. The fashion industry bluntly admits “black girls don’t sell.” Ruby Hamad’s recent article titled ‘Why the World still Favours White Models,’ details examples of white bread media occurring in the fashion industry. There is evidence of non-white models in fashion magazines but they are merely used as local peasants to the area, chauffers or “props.”
Media channels have been accused of using tokenism. Tokenism is a technique used to cover the media outlet to ensure it applies with anti-racism policies. When really an ethnic minority can only be seen once or used sparingly which does not fix the problem of diversity in the media and places an immense amount of pressure on that one individual representative. An example of this could be seen in the Victoria’s Secret modelling world. Black model Chanel Iman was let go after being told they “have already found one black girl, we don’t need you anymore.” This statement also included in Hamad’s article is largely tokenistic.
Although media outlets such as SBS and ABC Australia are largely multicultural and diverse, some forms of media such as the magazine and fashion industry still show signs of being white bread media. Lauren Northover
Dreher, T. (forthcoming 2014), ‘White Bread Media,’ in the media and communications in Australia, S. Cunningham and S. Turnbull, Allen and Unwin.
Hamad, R. 2013, ‘Why the World still Favours White Models,’ Daily Life, Australia.
An emerging issue in media and communications surrounds ‘feudalisation’ of the internet, referring to a centralized power structure where information is owned, censored and determined by the owners who in the public can view the information. A feudal network on the internet can be thought of as a ‘walled garden.’
Looking at the example of Facebook, the social networking site offers protection for its users as it tailors appropriate videos and content, also protecting your personal information from people who have not yet joined the walled garden. In return Facebook users join the network and upload their own information which then becomes the rightful property of the Facebook owners. In reality it seems to be an effective arrangement for both parties.
European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes, agrees with comments made by internet activist Tim Berners Lee that using walled gardens maintains a ‘rigid approach that can limit innovation’ on the internet. Kroes suggests an open web platform needs to be implemented and the ‘digital handcuffs’ need to be removed.
The internet is a platform that has enabled individuals in modern society to create their own opinions and voices. The age of produsers and citizen journalists is erupting and information is not tailored to one media outlet with one political agenda, but has transformed into a realm of endless information so the passive audience has become active. Walled gardens prohibit this kind of behaviour in a “retrograde” manner as the users are fed information that is censored and do not own the rights to their own creations that can now be blocked and changed by the walled gardens. Zittrain (2008) believes walled gardens are a centralized system that “tries to turn us into an audience again.” This statement is partly true as walled gardens have the ability to block and close the content we view and put the systems we use into lockdown. An open platform would be an alternative that is an endless realm of information open for interpretation and free from the owners’ agenda. Lauren Northover
The Guardian, 2012, Ami Sedghi, “Get rid of the ‘digital hand cuffs,’” Battle for the Internet, UK.
Zittrain, J. 2008, “Tethered Appliances, Software as Service and Perfect Enforcement, In the Future of Internet and how to stop it, Yale University Press, New Haven, pp. 101-126.
“Print newspapers are moving online or closing altogether. University presses are considering anything to stay in business.” Richard Miller explains the profound change surrounding University education over the past decade, as everything including scholarly books and journals are moving online. This has introduced many problems to scholars and students alike. To purchase a scholarly journal off the database Elseviers it will cost $31.50, and to purchase a journal off Wiley Blackwell the cost will increase to $42. This typically is more than the average University student can afford to pay and restricts learning and access to information.
Systems have emerged to combat this commercial capitalism surrounding educational resources. Some databases have introduced an open journal system. The Public Knowledge Project is striving to ensure the new generation of convergent online journals are free to access. This not only has positive implications for students and teachers but also scholars as the database provides a platform to launch their articles without forfeiting the rights to their research.
Open access extremists such as Aaron Swartz, aim to achieve equal access to all educational bodies. Swartz began the campaign against Internet Censorship Bills which has attracted millions of followers and is still active today. Agreeing with Millers argument, Eileen Schell believes Universities are becoming a business management model due to the rising costs of accessing journal articles which combines to an average 60% of the overall budget for University libraries. In the Edu-factory collective, Schell discusses Open Source Unionism. This is an effective idea as higher education workers can come together to use the new Internet age to its’ full potential. The overall aim of the Open Source Unionism movement is about academic freedom, scholarly integrity and the extension of affordable, accessible and quality education. Schemes such as this one are needed in society today to protect the rights of students and academics to access the knowledge and education needed to excel in their fields of research and to protect existing and new scholars journals from the capitalism surrounding Universities and research information. Lauren Northover
The digital age has emerged in the twentieth century which has dramatically changed the way audiences’ view and access information. Cameras, blogs, Twitter and the internet in general have introduced the thought of gaining information at the click of a button but also the ability to produce and create one’s own media agenda to the point where a citizen journalist could be anyone. Luke Goode, an advocate of citizen journalism and democracy defines citizen journalism as a web-based practice whereby ‘ordinary’ users participate in journalistic practices using video or mobile phones. So the question remains, is this good or bad for professional journalists?
Thorsten Quandt believes there are two types of journalists; segregationists who believe user generated contributions should be kept separate from their professional work and integrationist who embrace the citizen journalists and believe in co-creation.
In Australia, bloggers and journalists are kept separately and individual contributions to the media sphere are not recognised as journalistic sources. Therefore journalistic codes do not apply, such as source confidentiality. Fiona Martin, a Professor in Online and Convergent Media, believes this raises issues for participatory journalists as themselves or their sources are not protected under state law. An example of the repercussions of this could be the website WikiLeaks. Dangers arise regarding privacy issues and the source could be in danger if the story is tracked.
Citizen journalism can at times help professional journalists. It can provide information that journalists had not previously seen or reported. The story can also be spread worldwide in an instance which ultimately brings people together. Consumers can be more involved and have the option to in-depth news that isn’t subjected to a journalist’s political agenda. User generated content can assist professional journalists if the correct information is reported. As Quandt concludes, change is inevitable and due to the convergence of new media citizen journalism will continue to thrive and be another source of information. Lauren Northover
The introduction of convergent media in particular the internet, has provided many new age challenges regarding media regulation and policy. It has called for the reform of existing policies and the need for new rules and guidelines to be created. The internet is a large domain that includes many fabricated stories and explicit content. Compared to the television and newspaper media industries, the faceless online realm is becoming increasingly difficult to monitor and regulate. The question still remains of how and who should regulate the digital content and social media industries the community view.
A review of the censorship and classification laws has not been conducted since 1991, well before the convergence of media and the age of the internet occurred. Under section 51 of the current Australian media classification law, the Government can restrict the viewing of books, films and video-tapes. This is an example emphasising the laws and guidelines established in 1991 are not up to date with the technological world, as video-tapes and cassettes are now sometimes considered as fossils and everything can be downloaded on the internet with the click of a button which is why media reform and creating new policy is such a challenge.
Eight guiding principles have been introduced in the new Classification Scheme, one of these stating the regulatory framework needs to be responsive to technological change and adaptive to new platforms and services. The scheme acknowledges a shift in focus to the online content viewed and advises the public to judge what content they and their children should engage with. Terry Flew, a professor in Media and Communications, introduces on “The Conversation,” the challenges of keeping up with convergent media and the struggle to adapt new policies. Flew suggests the industry needs to play a greater role in classifying content, by also restricting access to some media content based on community standards. Co-regulatory reforms and educating the community to make informed choices about what media is acceptable are steps to ensuring cyber-safety. Lauren Northover