What role does new media play in the political sphere?

barack-obama-twitter1203295b214c8c9394950a6306fb0efe83                        The communication landscape is becoming much more concentrated, complex and participatory. The ‘online population’ has an enhanced ability to take on collective action due to greater access to information and the ease of engaging in public speech (Shirky, 2011). In the political sphere new media has helped increase freedoms and has given tools to help coordinate publics to demand change. New media tools have been responsible for nearly all of the world’s political movements in the last decade (Shirky, 2011).

Now in the 2010’s new media has given a new wave of changes in the political sphere. This new wave is comprised of three ideas; Activism/Mobilisation, Transparency and Campaigning.

Activism and Mobilisation have been greatly facilitated by new media and networking sites as they has created tools to easily collect forces and mobilise crowds. According to Faris 2010 “Blogs themselves have long been posited as ‘the voice of the voiceless,’ a way to democratize public life and add the voices of ordinary people to those of the elites.” A great example of how social media has reinvented social activism was demonstrated in the spring of 2009 when ten thousand protesters took to the streets of Moldova to protest against their country’s Communist government. This act was named the Twitter Revolution as Twitter was the means of which the protesters had been brought together (Gladwell, 2010).

New media has also provided public with more ‘transparency.’ New technologies have provided means to reveal ‘truth,’ and to access and spread information more rapidly. I believe the best example of the online transparency movement is Wikileaks, founded by fellow Australian Julian Assange in 2007 his goal is to bring important news and information to the pubic and to defend freedom of speech and media publishing (Wikileaks, 2011).

The third idea is that new media has created new campaigning tools for politicians. Social media has created a new political dialogue, taking the power of political messaging away from solely the mass media and into the public discourse (Rutledge, 2013). Along with organising campaigns and spreading messages via social networks, new media has given politicians affordances to connect and interact directly with their public and disseminate information in real-time, often cutting traditional media as mediators. Politicians such as Kevin Rudd and Barrack Obama have used social media as a tool to create a personable image of themselves to the public. One of the major success factors of Obama’s victory in 2008 was how his campaign utilised social media, “converting everyday people into engaged and empowered volunteers, donors and advocates through social networks, e-mail advocacy, text messaging and online video” (Aaker, 2014).

The question is, are these new media tools actually enhancing democracy? As these new media tools are responsible for recent political movements many of the world’s dictatorial governments and an increasingly alarming number of democratic governments are trying to limit access to them (Shirky, 2011). Also is it ethical that this new wave of political marketing through social media is obtaining access to data from followers to target them specifically or as a use for surveillance into everything we do?

References:

Aaker, Jennifer. 2014. “Obama and the power of social media and technology” Accessed April 18, 2014. http://www.europeanbusinessreview.com/?p=1627

Faris, David. 2010. “(Amplified) Voices for the Voiceless” Accessed April 18, 2014. http://www.arabmediasociety.com/?article=750

Gladwell, Malcolm. 2010. “Small Change: Why the Revolution will not be Tweeted.” The New Yorker, October 4. Accessed April 18, 2014. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/10/04/101004fa_fact_gladwell?currentPage=all

Rutledge, Pamela. 2013. “How Obama Won the Social Media Battle in the 2012 Presidential Campaign.” The Media Psychology Blog, January 25. Accessed April 18, 2014. http://mprcenter.org/blog/2013/01/how-obama-won-the-social-media-battle-in-the-2012-presidential-campaign/

Shirky, Clay. 2011. “The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, the Public Sphere, and Political Change.”In Foreign Affairs 90:1. Accessed April18, 2014. http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/67038/clay-shirky/the-political-power-of-social-media

Wikileaks. 2011. “About: What is Wkileaks?” Accessed April 18, 2014. https://wikileaks.org/About.html

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